Things are looking ump

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Managers had better bring their best logic and argumentative skills if they want to discuss a call with umpire Dan Bellino.

For this time the arbiter is actually an arbiter.

Bellino, who worked first base last night as the Blue Jays hosted the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre, has a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

“Actually, it’s The John Marshall Law School, they’re sticky about that,” Bellino said sitting in the umpire’s room at the Rogers Centre.

“Aha,” we thought aloud, “has Mike Port of Major League Baseball assigned Bellino to Cowboy Joe West’s crew to keep West out of trouble?”

“Naw,” West said, “Rob Drake is on vacation.”

Bellino worked for the law firm of Morici, Figlioli and Associates and served as an aide for a federal judge Charles P. Kocoras in the Northern district of Illinois earning $35,000 US.

“If I’d stayed with the judge for a few years it would have led to a lucrative career,” Bellino said.

In 2003, Bellino attended Harry Wendelstedt’s umpiring school in Daytona Beach, Fla., finding umpiring as a fluke. The phone rang in his dorm for his missing roommate who was supposed to ump a high school game in Chicago. Bellino, a basketball referee at the time, agreed to fill in for the $50.

After attending ump school with 150 others — 25 were offered jobs — he made his decision: He wanted to be a umpire, not a lawyer.

“My father told me: ‘As long as you finish law school you can do anything,’ ” Bellino said. “Katie, now my wife, well ... she was a little surprised. I knew basketball better, but once I was exposed to baseball I liked it’s structure better.”

He gave up the $35,000-a-year job to earn $1,800 a month in the three-month class-A New York-Penn League in 2003.

When minor league umpires went on strike in 2005, Bellino returned home and passed the bar exam.

This season he’s earning $2,900 a month in his fourth year of triple-A and guesses he has worked 50 games since 2009, earning a pro-rated “daily rate” of a first-year staffer, roughly $492 per day.

Bellino met West years ago in Daytona when both were instructing at Wendelstedt’s school.

West did not need legal representation all the time, but he has been the centre of attention twice after being fined for complaining about the pace of the game when the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox.

Sounds like he told the truth.

Then, in Chicago, he ejected White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for arguing a balk call on lefty Mark Buerhle. On a second balk call, he tossed Buerhle for tossing his glove. West was not fined despite reports to the contrary.

The other side of the singing ump is his tribute to Ernie Harwell on YouTube (ernie_harwell sung by Joe West) put together by Bill Slayback and Fred Rodgers, containing classic pictures of Harwell’s days with the Brooklyn Dodgers and his Tigers days which will bring a tear to Detroit Tiger fans. Oklahoma’s Mike McClure and West wrote the lyrics.

“Ernie was into music, wrote music,” West said. “We sent the lyrics to him in the spring and he loved them, but he never saw the video.”

West met Harwell in the late 1980s when Harwell came in to say hello to ump Mark Hirschbeck.

“I say: ‘Mark’s out back, I’ll get him,’ ” West remembers. “Out comes Mark, Ernie says: ‘I’m a friend of your brother John, I’m here to do ESPN radio.’ But Mark doesn’t know who Ernie is.

“Mark says: ‘Ernie, let me introduce you to Hall of Fame umpire Al Barlick,’ who was in the room. I said: ‘Mark, let me introduce you to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell.’ ”

bob.elliott@sunmedia.ca


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