LONG BEACH, Calif. -- As a member of the Major League umpiring staff since 1999, and a professional umpire for 10 years leading up to that, Ted Barrett knows the struggles and hardships young umpires go through working their way up through the ranks. The long hours, the low salaries, traveling to numerous small towns around the country month after month, hoping and wondering if they will ever make it to the show, and knowing only a very small percentage make it there, can make it a tough road. It's a journey that takes not only a great passion for the game, but also a determination to stick with it year after year. Barrett, 41, who is serving as an instructor in Major League Baseball's Umpire Camps this week, loves both the game and umpiring. He saw an opportunity to encourage his fellow umpires along the way.
In addition to his umpiring career, Barrett also is an associate pastor for Rock Point Church, in Gilbert, Ariz., which is attended by about 1,700 people. During the Umpire Camps this week, Barrett held a chapel service Tuesday evening for those who were interested in attending. "I love umpiring and I love teaching," he said. "I love being around other umpires. So this was a time I could hang out with some of my peers and also hang out with the Minor League guys and maybe encourage them. I love situations where I can teach umpiring and share God's word, if possible." He co-founded a professional umpire ministry about four years ago named "Calling for Christ" with Triple-A umpire Rob Drake. Through this ministry, a retreat is held each year for umpires in Falls Creek, Okla., in early December, where they study the Bible, go fishing and have an opportunity to hang out with fellow umpires away from the field. "Umpiring is a very tough profession. Guys fall into a lot of things on the road and we just want to be able to provide people with an opportunity to hear God's word," Barrett said. "Also, we want [umpires] who are Christians to feel like they can come into this job and keep their faith and be open about it. Ultimately, we just want to encourage each other as umpires and as believers." The ministry is something that Barrett and Drake started on their own, independent of the league. "It's self-funded; we don't want MLB to get tied to it so no one could ever come back on [the league] if they had a problem with what we're doing," he said. "But also, we don't want any ties to them where an umpire might feel like they can't be open or honest with us, for fear of repercussion from their employer. So we try to stay separate, although we do have their support." During the offseason, he has more oppportunities to work closely with his church in Arizona. He said the head pastor there, Bill Bush, has been supportive and accommodating to him as he comes and goes throughout the year. Barrett is not a paid member of the church staff. "When I'm home, the church allows me to plug into different areas of ministry, sometimes I'll preach in the big service, sometimes I'll preach to the older people," he said. "Sometimes I get to work with the youth -- the high school, the junior high -- so I'm kind of learning about the ministry and all aspects of it." Barrett said during the winter the last couple of years he has been studying with Trinity Theological Seminary, which is in Newburgh, Ind. He has his Master's degree in Biblical Studies and currently is pursuing his Doctorate in Theology via online courses. "I do it while I'm on the road and while I'm at home. I can do everything online," he said. "I actually haven't even been to the campus, but I plan to." Taking the courses online allows Barrett to spend the offseason in Arizona with his family -- his wife of almost 18 years, Tina, who was his high school sweetheart, and their three children, 15-year-old Andrew, 14-year-old Amanda and 11-year-old Adam. "During the season my focus is umpiring, but also, I feel like God's called me to the ministry," Barrett said. "As I get around to different cities, I try to visit with different pastors, try to encourage them and try to minister to people I come into contact with." Ministry is something Barrett would like to pursue full-time after his umpiring career is over. In the meantime, he is learning as much as he can while completing his degrees. "My heart is for the Minor League guys, I would really like to go around ministering to the Minor League umpires," he said. "Going from ballpark to ballpark, spending time with them and encouraging them. But also, helping them with their umpiring." Barrett said he would like this to be a self-supported ministry, just he and his wife traveling around to help umpires wherever they can. "We just kind of picture ourselves going around in a motor home and traveling the world, but also realize that might not be God's plan," he said. "So I'm just staying open to whatever He wants me to do."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.