Sunday September 30, 2012

How often do you read in a story about a no-hitter that either the pitcher, some hitters or the manager didn't realize there was a no-hitter going? That kind of thing happens to umpires, too.

"I didn't even notice it until the seventh inning. I just happened to look up at the scoreboard and saw the zero -- and I was like, oh, he has a no-hitter going," said Williamstown native and North Adams resident Chris Conroy.

If you saw any of the highlights from Friday's no-hitter by Cincinnati's Homer Bailey, Conroy was the guy in blue at first base.

This is Conroy's second season of doing big league games, and it was his first Major League no-hitter. He had a no-no back at the start of his career in the New York-Penn League.

It was one of seven no-hitters and/or perfect games this year. Most this year have had at least one stellar defensive play or one close call. There was none of that at PNC Park on Friday night.

"We talked about it afterward. He just really threw the ball well," Conroy said when we spoke late Friday night. "There weren't any controversial plays. There weren't a lot of close pitches. Everything was pretty wide open the whole night."

We all know the rules when it comes to no-hitters. If you're a broadcaster, you don't mention it. If you're throwing the no-hitter, you don't talk about it. If you're a manager, coach or teammate, you certainly don't say anything to the pitcher. In fact, we usually see the pitcher sitting by his lonesome in the dugout.


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He's wearing his jacket and usually has a towel draped around his neck.

Do umpires talk about a no-hitter between innings?

"That kind of stuff, we don't really talk about ever," said Conroy. "We don't talk about things that much between innings anyway. Occasionally, we'll get together to talk about something on the field. Nothing in relation to this guy has a no-hitter or this guy has a perfect game. That stuff never comes up.

"It's not really because of any superstition. It's just not the way we operate out there."

Bailey was pretty darn close to perfect on Friday night. He struck out 10 Pirates, walked one and one other Buc reached on an error by Scott Rolen. It doesn't get much better than that for a pitcher.

It also doesn't get much better for an umpire, and Conroy said he understands just how fortunate he was to be on the field Friday night.

"The plate guy, Ed Hickox, said ‘Congratulations on your first one.' I said ‘What are you congratulating me for? I didn't do anything.' " Conroy said with a laugh. "When you think about it, while there seem to be more no-hitters lately, you are some small part of history out there."

This game put an exclamation point on Conroy's 2012 season. He has worked 127 games as part of the crew with acting crew chief Angel Hernandez and Ed Hickox. Conroy has been a fill-in with this crew all season. Ed Rapuano, the regular crew chief, had shoulder surgery in the spring and hasn't been able to umpire since. Conroy will work in Pittsburgh until Sunday and then come home to Berkshire County.

Despite having 127 games of big league experience this season, Conroy is still considered a Triple-A umpire. Maybe next year, that will change.

"It's been an awesome year in every possible way," Conroy said. "It's gone better than I could have even hoped for. The feedback has been good, and we'll see what happens."