Long ago, Kerwin Danley turned his disappointment into a new passion. Now, the veteran umpire wants to turn it into inspiration. "Maybe someone will see my name and where I came from and think, 'If he can do it, I can, too.' So for me, it's almost like giving back," Danley said of his selection to the inaugural faculty of the Major League Baseball Umpires Camp. "If you just come to this camp, it can change your life. And, who knows? You might find out there are other avenues of getting into baseball besides playing."
Danley did, more than 20 years ago, after his promising playing career hit the rocks. A first team All-America at San Diego State, where he was a teammate of Tony Gwynn, Danley couldn't get in the front door to the Major Leagues. So he tried the side door of umpiring, and following a steady 13-year climb up the ladder, reached the bigs in 1998. His chosen professional life will come full circle following this season, when the product of Los Angeles' once-rich inner-city sandlots joins 14 other Major League arbiters as instructors at the first two sessions of the MLBUC. During the Nov. 5-12 and Nov. 12-19 sessions, Danley and his colleagues will be the voices -- and eyes and ears -- of experience to umpiring hopefuls absorbing the comprehensive program at MLB's Compton Youth Baseball Academy. Experience? The 15 umpires will bring a total of 194 seasons of it, headlined by Derryl Cousins (27 years as a big-league umpire), Randy Marsh (24), Larry Young (21 1/2) and Tim Tschida (20). Danley, himself a nine-season veteran at 44, is unique among them because he'll be making a homecoming of sorts. Now residing in Arizona, the graduate of Los Angeles' famed Dorsey High School embraces an opportunity to connect with his roots. "I'm from that area," Danley said. "I grew up in South Central (LA). These camps are great not only for umpiring, but for baseball in general, as we try to revive it in the inner cities. It definitely isn't what it was 20 years ago, when I was a little kid; parents don't always put kids in baseball, as they did then. "We can do so many great things at that [Compton] facility. It's great for the city, the neighborhood." The non-profit MLBUC aims to refine the skills of men and women already involved in umpiring, while offering a Square One to people intrigued by the possibility of becoming involved with it. "Best decision of my life," Danley said of his grudging entry into the world of balls, strikes and outs. When his playing days ended, "I moped around like everyone else. I didn't really want to be an umpire. "But, you know what?" he asked himself at the time. "How else can you stay in baseball?" "Now I'm not sad for not making it [as a player]." Danley easily relates to the emphasis being placed on the MLBUC as the first extensive umpiring classroom of its kind located in the West. Once he decided to give umpiring a go, Danley had to pack his bags, gather his savings and trek to the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School -- now one of two Florida-based schools, along with the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, affiliated as consultants with the MLBUC. "The distance was a big factor for people who might've been interested in going to one of those schools," Danley says. "If you've got a family, you can't take a chance on giving up a salary for five weeks. This location makes the idea more accessible to a lot of people." An avid golfer who will have to delay his normal offseason tee times a couple of weeks for his participation in the MLBUC sessions, Danley's contagious personality is sure to rub off on the charter pupils. He certainly can enthuse about umpiring sincerely, and without regrets. "You know, as an umpire, I've come across a lot of players I either played with or against ... guys I grew up with in the inner city," Danley said. "And they're proud of me like I'm proud of them."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.