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Area umps chime in on blown call

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga lost his chance at baseball immortality with a play already cemented in baseball history.

One out away from a perfect game — 27 batters up, 27 batters retired — against the Cleveland Indians, Galarraga induced a ground ball from No. 9 hitter Jason Donald to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. He threw to Galarraga covering first for what appeared to be the last out in the first perfect game in Tigers history.

The only problem was first base umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe.

However, Josh Kunze, a local umpire for about 10 years, said there’s a lot players and umpires can learn from how the situation was handled.

While many would argue Galarraga had the right to be angered after the missed call that cost him history, he was composed and finished the game.

Not only did Joyce admit he missed the call, he also called Galarraga with an emotional apology.

Kunze said that was the part players, coaches and umpires should take note of.

“Some things are bigger than baseball,” he said.

Mike Raso, an area umpire of more than 15 years, said he could see how Joyce called Donald safe because it appeared like Galarraga bobbled the ball. However, he said Joyce needed to be conscious of the significance of the moment.

“I feel bad for the umpire more than anything because of the magnitude of that call,”he said.

“I don’t think he realized the magnitude of the call until afterward,” he added.

Missed calls aren’t uncommon in baseball, largely because the game relies on human eye of the umpires to make the calls.

However, Joyce’s call will be remembered because of timing, said local umpire of 10 years Josh Kunze.

“All umpires are going to make bad calls,” he said.

“Man, it’s a tough job,” he said.

When he first saw the play at full speed, Raso said he saw that Galarraga appeared to bobble the ball, which led him to question if the runner was safe. However, he said he was clearly out when viewing the replay.

“I’ve made my mistakes as an umpire, too, but you have to call them as you see them,” he added.

Despite the fact that mistakes will happen, Kunze said he appreciates how the human element is a part of baseball. If the major leagues were to start using instant replay in more circumstances, Kunze said he hopes it’d be limited. The human element, he said, adds a uniqueness to the game because no two umpires will call a strike zone exactly the same.

“You have to accept they’re not perfect,” he said.

However, Raso doesn’t support instant replay because he said it would take the human element out of the game.

Kunze has a unique perspective on the incident because he is both an umpire of about 10 years, and a player for the Austin Blue Sox. In a situation where a call was missed in such a high profile situation, Kunze said he feels for both Joyce and Galarraga. Though he’s not a pitcher, Kunze said he realizes how important perfect games and no hitters are in baseball.

Kunze said calling a major league game and a high school game are vastly different. With the top baseball players in the world competing, major league calls will commonly be determined by inches. That’s not always the case in high school and college baseball. Because of the differences in quality, Kunze said calls in amateur baseball are often more clear cut that could be made from the stands.

At the same time, Raso noted there are only two umpires, which can make it difficult to make certain calls. For example, he said tag plays at second base can often be difficult, but umpires have to call the play as they saw it.

And, Austin umpires usually aren’t able to replay their calls from televised games, Raso noted.

“If I could go back and look at my calls, I’d see some mistakes,” Raso said.

Umpires in a town like Austin tend to stay under the radar more than big league umpires. Kunze said people rarely even know umpires’ names.