A man who was sitting at a conference room table inside the Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick had “#15” on his sleeve and a Major League Baseball logo on the left breast of his navy blue windbreaker.
“Who’s that man?” Jim Morrison was asked. Morrison, a Warwick native and a director with the new Rhode Island Umpires Association, replied quickly.
“That’s Ed Hickox, a veteran Major League Umpire who had the All-Star Game in Phoenix this year,” Morrison said.
The next question was obvious. What was he doing in Rhode Island?
Hickox, who is one of only 68 full-time MLB umpires, came here last weekend from his home in Port Orange, Fla., to help his friend and former AAA umpiring buddy Rob Healey – and the new Rhode Island Umpire Association – put on a three-day clinic that included seminars, on-field training and actual game evaluations.
But Hickox, who did his fist MLB game in 1998, wasn’t the only MLB ump to lecture and participate in the special hands-on clinic last weekend.
“Anytime I can help Rob Healey I’m going to do it,” said Todd Tichenor, another MLB umpire from Kansas City, Kan. Tichenor did 68 games this season and threw out former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen at Yankee Stadium.
“Rob is a great guy,” Tichenor said. “He’s a great friend … a great umpire. He’s very, very knowledgeable about the game and umpiring. I’ll do anything to help his organization succeed.”
Likewise, Chris Conroy came to last weekend’s event from his North Adam, Mass., home, eager to help.
“I worked Triple-A games with Rob, now we’re here to help his association succeed,” Conroy said.
Healey grew up in Cranston and now lives in Warwick. He serves as the RIUA’s head instructor. Healey, Morrison and Paul Giarusso, a Johnston resident who has long been one of this state’s top umpires, founded the RIUA.
The visiting MLB umps added another wrinkle to the association’s first clinic.
“They were excellent all weekend,” Morrison said. “We were really, really honored to have then here for our first clinic and the respect they have for Rob. Their visit will really help our organization.”
The new RIAU, which provides umpires for a variety of baseball games and leagues from pre-teen to college and beyond, also has a membership that includes such baseball notables as former Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Juan Arias.
“We even have some members from Massachusetts,” said Morrison, who along with Giarusso serves as a director. “A lot of baseball people around here are excited about what we’re doing – and the direction we’re going in. We have even gained tremendous support from URI head coach Jim Foster. He’s also impressed with what we’re doing.”
Any person who wants further information concerning the new RIUA or who would like to become a member should write to Healey at firstname.lastname@example.org.