Want to know what Major League Baseball umpires think of all these expanded replay challenges and plays at the plate after putting the new rules to the test?
Ask them yourself.
Bidding is underway in the sixth annual UMPS CARE Charities auction at MLB.com/UmpsCare, and among the more than 200 ticket packages, autographed sports memorabilia and one-of-a-kind VIP experiences that raise money for a variety of important causes, the numerous Lunch with an Ump encounters seem like a coup for fans right about now.
Consider this item description:
"Enjoy lunch for you and a guest in the city of your choice with a Major League Baseball umpire and receive two tickets to a game later that evening to complete a perfect day of baseball. This package includes lunch for two with an MLB umpire and two tickets to a mutually agreeable MLB game. You and a guest will meet with an umpire for some great food and great conversation. Ask anything you've ever wondered about the boys in blue. Umpires have an up-close view of the game; share that with them over a fun time at lunch and then watch that night's game with a brand-new perspective. Best of all, you pick the city (MLB cities only), for your experience. Be sure to ask about their visits to children's hospitals and their hosting of kids waiting for adoption at Major League Baseball games."
There you have it. There are "Lunch with an Ump" experiences tied to specific MLB ballparks, there are several 2015 Spring Training "meat and eat" experiences with umps, and you can even bid on two spots in the UMPS CARE Charities Golf Classic next January in Phoenix. Chris Guccione, who made one of the season's first reviewed calls (upheld) on April 1 as a first-base ump for a game between the Giants and D-backs, is going on a hunting expedition with some lucky bidder. There are opportunities galore to just hang out with these same folks who are interpreting the new 2014 MLB rules.
The auction opened Friday morning and closes at 10 p.m. ET on May 11.
Some of the other items up for bid include a signed Albert Pujols Cardinals game worn cleat; a Mariano Rivera signed baseball; a bat signed by 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen; a ball signed by Angels star Mike Trout; opportunities to watch batting practice from the field at many MLB ballparks or have a meet and greet with a player; luxury hotel stays with game tickets; and more than 50 suites or ticket blocks from Minor League clubs for fans to see some of baseball's rising stars up close.
There are signed jerseys, bats, baseballs and gloves from stars of yesterday and today as well, including Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Hamilton, Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Felix Hernandez, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Tim Hudson, Clayton Kershaw, Tony La Russa, Don Mattingly, Vin Scully, Alfonso Soriano, Joe Torre, Bob Uecker, Chase Utley, David Wright and many more.
"The online auction is one of the biggest fundraising initiatives for UMPS CARE Charities and has grown tremendously since we started this in 2009," said Gary Darling, MLB umpire and president of the board for UMPS CARE Charities. "The auction has something for everyone, from autographed memorabilia to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so we encourage fans to tell all of their friends and family to check out the available items on MLB.com and bid generously to help support a great cause."
Signed items from other athletes and celebrities outside of baseball also are available. Examples include actor Kevin Costner, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, former Packers wide receiver Donald Driver and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
All proceeds from the online auction support UMPS CARE Charities youth programs to provide MLB experiences for children awaiting adoption, Build-A-Bear Workshop experiences for hospitalized children coping with serious illnesses, college scholarships for deserving young adults who were adopted as children, and financial assistance for families in need. UMPS CARE Charities is the official charity of MLB umpires.
UMPS CARE Charities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit established by MLB umps to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America's youth and families in need. Through its youth-based programs, professional baseball umpires enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness by providing memorable baseball experiences, supporting pediatric medical care, and raising awareness for foster care children waiting to be adopted. UMPS CARE Charities provides benefactors with "Major League" support by remaining true to its established creed, "Helping People is an Easy Call."
Umpire Dan Iassogna, who worked the American League Championship Series last fall, said recently that "originally our goal was just to help ex-Major League and retired Major League umpires who had fallen on some financial troubles. And then from there it progressed: 'We're doing pretty well with this auction, let's see how many other people we can help.'"
For more information go to UmpsCare.com.