Chris Conroy enjoying first full season as MLB umpire so far
BOSTON -- Chris Conroy has been a Major League Baseball umpire since 2010 and a full-time umpire since last June. For him, the start of the season never gets old.
"Opening Day is always special. I remember that last year was my first one in Houston, and by that point, I had worked some games," said Conroy. "Opening Day, there's always extra nerves. I don't think it matters if you have one year or 20."
Conroy, 39, is in his first full season as a full-time big league umpire. He began the climb to the majors in 2000 by working in the New York-Penn League. Conroy was officially hired as a full-timer on June 14, 2013, replacing Paul Runge on Gary Darling's crew.
Jerry Meals is the crew chief with Darling on the disabled list. Conroy, Meals, Paul Emmel and Jordan Baker make up the crew that wrapped up working the Red Sox-Texas Rangers series in Boston on Wednesday.
"It was cool. It was a little different, but it was still the butterflies were going and the nerves, I was trying to get them to calm down and do your job," the Williamstown native said before Wednesday's game, in the umpires' room at Fenway Park. "It was special for sure."
Conroy may be a Williamstown native, but he is now a Doylestown, Pa., resident. Conroy, wife Becky and twin daughters Maeve and Meiris, moved to the Philadelphia suburb. They are closer to her family, and being in the Philadelphia area has made it a little easier for him to get around the majors by air.
The crew opened the season in Detroit for the Tigers-Royals series, on what Conroy described as a really nice April afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, however, a game was postponed by inclement weather.
While it was not a first major league opener for Conroy -- he worked last year as a fill-in umpire -- it was the first time he got to do so as a full-timer. He said the feeling was a little bit different.
"Maybe a little more relaxed," he said, "knowing that I'm on staff. When you're an up-and-down guy, you're always fighting for your life every day. I don't mean that to say that being full-time, you take the foot off the gas. It's just different knowing that I'm here. It is a little bit different mindset."
Meals, the crew chief, is in his 17th season as a major league umpire, and he said it was just as nerve-wracking.
"The day is fun, no matter what," said Meals. "There's electricity in the air. As an umpire, you're just excited to be out there. You want the game to fly by and enjoy it and just get the season going.
"The first one I was definitely excited. I spent 15 years in the minors getting to the big leagues."
Meals' arrival in the bigs wasn't the same as Conroy's. Conroy got his job mid-season. Meals was hired just before the start of the 1998 season.
"I started getting games in ‘92, and I was hired full time in ‘98, so I had experience of being up and down," Meals said. "The idea of not having to have it over your head that you were going to go back to the minor leagues was great. You were in the big leagues now and were here to stay."
Conroy's crew has already had a couple of instant replay challenges, including one in the opener.
"We did three days in February. We came through New York and had three days of training," he said. "We went to the site, did some mock replay things to get familiar with the room, the headsets, the technicians and the replay angles. They rolled it out a few times in spring training and everybody got a handful of games to get used to the process."
Major League Baseball runs the replay system from its New York headquarters. In addition to the technicians on hand, each MLB umpiring crew will spend time in New York as the replay arbiters.
"We're there next week, actually," Conroy said. "We have an off-day [Thursday], go to Baltimore for the weekend and then we have our replay week.
"Every crew is going to get a minimum of two weeks and the majority will get a third."
Conroy's crew had a couple of calls overturned during the Detroit-Kansas City series. He said that as far as replay is concerned, so far, so good.
"For our experience with it," he said, "it's been pretty seamless so far."
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