In the career of every MLB player, the time has come to hang up the spikes. The same goes for the referees, although their departure towards sunset is not nearly (if ever) publicized as the retirement of the players.
Next are those who imitate MLB referees. For a span of 11 years, the seats behind the home plate at Rogers Center had regular fans – until last Wednesday, when two familiar faces showed up at work.
Eagle Eye viewers may have noticed two particular fans in the left corner of their screen, dressed in full MLB referee uniforms, calling out the game as if they were on the pitch.
The âreal bogus referees,â as they like to be called, are Tim Williams and Joe Farrell. These are the same two fans who gained ground in 2009 and 2010 as they regularly called games at the Rogers Center.
Williams and Farrell retired their act after the 2010 Blue Jays season, but brought it back for a âone night onlyâ resurgence in a Mets-Giants game at Citi Field during the 2015 season.
Then, six years later, when the Blue Jays were back in Toronto in the middle of a playoff race, they were like, âWhy not again? And pulled out the full refereeing gear and got back to work in their usual places, in the action seats just behind home plate at Rogers Center.
A look at the referee impersonators at work today during the Blue Jays game. (Video via Sportsnet / MLB) pic.twitter.com/g7bSe5TBy6
– Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) September 16, 2021
âI would say the global pandemic has been extremely difficult for everyone with the prolonged lockdowns in Canada and the lack of baseball in the city until very recently,â Williams told Daily Hive.
“It was a very positive experience to be back at the stadium and especially since we are potentially playing the playoffs with arguably the most exciting and dynamic team in baseball.”
It took little conviction for Williams for Farrell to put on the black umpire’s gear, complete with a face mask, and sit in his usual perch behind home plate and make his signature gestures and hit calls from a few rows back. of action.
âHe said, ‘What would you think if we came out of retirement for a game?’ And my answer was the same as I gave him the first time before the first game we’ve ever played, âsaid Farrell.
âSo let me clear it up. You want me to dress like a referee, sit behind the plate, drink a bunch of beers, and go on strike calls all day. I said, âI’m in it. “
An addition to their repertoire this year included a special piece of equipment; instant replay headsets. Yes, they even brought giant headsets to the game in case of a replay, but that never happened during the game.
âWe were very disappointed to have had a game there on Wednesday without a replay call,â said Farrell. “It would have been a new addition, and if they had filmed us with those, it would have been really entertaining for people.”
The uniforms are as authentic as it gets, featuring the MLB emblem, ball bag, and even the logo of the FTX cryptocurrency, which recently placed patches on referee uniforms after the All-Star break.
Friends say the act is a lot of fun and the response over the years has been mostly positive. The difference this time is that the seats were much more sparse in 2009 and 2010, as the Blue Jays averaged just 23,000 fans per home game in 2009 and 20,000 in 2010.
With plenty of empty seats in the stadium, Williams and Farrell stood out a lot more. But with a level close to capacity 100 in Wednesday’s game against the Rays, the duo weren’t quite as successful as they were over a decade ago.
But fans in the stadium and watching TV noticed the duo were back to their old ways, calling strikes, ringing batters, and even mimicking returning baseballs to the pitcher after a ball. is out of the game.
Interestingly enough, the pair have a great relationship with the MLB umpire squad, and they often used to meet umpires for dinner whenever they were in town.
Williams and Farrell are involved with the MLB umpires charity Umps Care and Williams’ wife Caroline is a councilor on the association’s board of directors.
In 2008 and 2009, the fake umps took a four day road trip and raised $ 8,000 for Umps Care through their efforts. Going forward, once travel restrictions open, the couple would love to embark on another fundraising tour in the future, while performing in their referee’s full gear in MLB stadiums.
Williams and Farrell were happy to return to their familiar roles, but they don’t expect to return to refereeing this season. What if the Blue Jays made the playoffs this year? Farrell has said he would never show up to the referees stadium in a Blue Jays playoff game because he wouldn’t want to interfere with the action on the pitch.
But for an innocent game Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Center, the pair of referees are out of retirement. However, Farrell hasn’t completely ruled out a return to action. As long as they have the equipment, there’s always a chance they’ll be back in uniform someday on the road.
âIt wouldn’t surprise me if every once in a while, until we were both probably dead, we would go out and do a game and have fun,â Farrell said.