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At Coors Field, A Youth Umpire Finds A Happy Ending To An Ugly Affair

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4min 21sec
Courtesy of Colorado Rockies
Josh Cordova, 13, gets pre-game instructions from umpire Cory Blaser before theRockies-Dodgers game at Coors Field on Sunday, June 30, 2019. Cordova was the umpire at a youth game last month in Lakewood that ended in a brawl among parents and coaches.

In what should have been an entirely unremarkable evening in the life of a 13-year-old, Josh Cordova umpired a baseball game on Friday. And that's exactly what it was, a tableau played out on dusty fields all over Colorado and across the country -- a pair of youth teams playing in a local championship game.

But that's not why Josh, his parents Jennifer and Josh, and brothers Jordan and Jacob, found themselves at Coors Field on Sunday, hobnobbing in the umpires' room and getting pointers from the men who would call that afternoon's game between the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers.

No, they were there because of what happened the last time Josh took the field before Friday -- that was June 15, when Josh, umpiring a game featuring teams of 7-year-olds, found himself in the middle of an ugly episode. After issuing a warning to a fan for using profanity, Josh -- and ultimately viewers around the world -- saw a brawl break out on the field at Westlake Elementary School in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

"It was just scary; not just for me -- it had to be scary for the 7-year-olds who were out there playing," said Josh, a slightly built youngster who admittedly struggles on occasion to make sure his umpiring equipment fits properly. "And I didn't want them to think that that was what baseball is. I want them to grow up loving the game just like I do."

Baseball is indeed a big part of the lives of the Cordova family. Josh, Jordan and Jacob all play, and Dad has coached youth teams for 10 years. So it wasn't surprising that, in their car after leaving a game Josh and Jennifer received a phone call from the younger Josh.

"He said 'Mom, Dad, hurry up and get here, everybody's fighting and I can't stop them,'" Jennifer said. "I thought it was just an argument -- but when you got to the field and you saw all the chaos..."

In the aftermath 12 people were cited for disorderly conduct. But Chris Guccione, who umpired as a kid growing up in Salida, Colorado, before moving on to become one for Major League Baseball, was more concerned about how one of his own was doing.

Youth umpire Josh Cordova, 13, poses with the crew, Colorado Rockies' manager Bud Black and Los Angeles Dodgers' Dave Roberts before a game Sunday, June 30, 2019, at Coors Field. Cordova was a guest of umpire -- and Colorado native Chris Guccione. Courtesy of Colorado Rockies

"My heart is here; I played and umped on the side, just like Josh is doing," Guccione said shortly before the start of Sunday's game. "When I heard, I was shocked and saddened and I just wanted to reach out to him.

"I just happened to switch assignments, but it was a perfect opportunity; when I realized I'd be here, I had to meet him and tell him how proud I am of him."

Via his group's charity, UMPS CARE, Guccione arranged for the Cordovas to get tickets for the game. In their meeting before the contest, Guccione and the other crew members gave Josh a swag bag full of goodies, including an official umpires' shirt ("I'm definitely wearing this the next time I ump a game," Josh beamed) and a new chest protector to replace the one that's been worn out from overuse.

Shortly after the singing of the National Anthem, Josh joined the crew on the field as managers Bud Black and Dave Roberts exchanged the lineups for the day, drawing a loud ovation from the crowd. The group then posed for pictures. 

Black, the Rockies' manager, marveled at the story, while lamenting that the situation happened at all.

"From what I see and hear, it's a lot tougher now," said Black, who also umpired as a youth. "The parents, some of the coaches ...it's rough. But it's pretty simple -- get better -- they all need to get better.

"A 7-year-old game? And a 13-year-old umpire? And 40-year-old parents? I don't get it."