Sunday June 16, 2013

The call that Chris Conroy has wanted for more than 14 years has finally come.

Conroy, 38, has been hired as a full-time umpire by Major League Baseball. The Mount Greylock Regional High School and Siena College graduate got a call last Monday, and was officially appointed after passing a physical on Friday. He is the first Berkshire County native to become a big-league umpire.

"Really, I don't remember a whole lot of the phone call and what was said after [getting the word]. I managed to hold it together until I got off the phone with them, and then I just cried uncontrollably for 10 minutes," Conroy said from his home in North Adams. "After about 14 years of wanting something so bad, it came flooding out. It was awesome."

Berkshire County has been home to major league players from Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro to Mark Belanger, Jeff Reardon, Tom Grieve and Turk Wendell. But Conroy is the first county native to get the call to be an umpire in Major League Baseball.

Conroy replaces veteran umpire Brian Runge, whose 14-year career was cut short this year because of ongoing knee problems. Runge, whose grandfather Ed and father Paul were also umpires, was the first third-generation umpire in MLB history.

"The perfect scenario would be someone would retire and you would slide in that way," said Conroy. "It's the nature of the job sometimes. Injuries pop up. Certainly, I feel badly for Brian and his family. At the same time, we're very delighted here."

Going into the season, Conroy had worked 267 games as a call-up umpire since making his big league debut on Sept. 29, 2010. He had 129 games in 2012, and was on track to have a similar number of games this year.

Conroy had just finished working a series in Washington, D.C., and was home for an off-day with wife Becky and 3-year old twins Maeve and Meiris, when he got the call from Director of Major League Umpires Randy Marsh, Director of Umpire Development Rich Rieker and Director of Umpire Administration Matt McKendry.

After working the Mets-Cardinals series in New York, Conroy flew to Phoenix on Thursday for a physical, and when he passed, became the latest member of the umpiring staff.

Conroy joins what MLB has designated Crew M, with Gary Darling as the crew chief and Jerry Meals and Paul Emmel as the other umpires. Conroy replaces Bruce Dreckman, who is moved to another team. Conroy will join his crew in Cincinnati on Monday.

Darling is in his 27th year as an umpire, while Meals is in his 16th and Emmel is in his 15th.

"Those guys have been together for a few years now," said Conroy. "I have worked with them and know them all pretty well. For a young guy, just starting out, to go to that crew -- it's a great crew to be with."

The newest MLB umpire has, much like the players who perform at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, worked his way up through the minor leagues.

He made his debut in 2000 umpiring in the New York-Penn League. One of his first games that year involved the Pittsfield Mets at Wahconah Park.

Since then, Conroy has umpired in the South Atlantic, Carolina, Eastern, Pacific Coast and International leagues. He has also worked the Arizona Fall League.

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @howardherman.