For the Upton family, officiating is a way of life.
Clair Upton was entrenched in the world of calling baseball games and refereeing basketball games. His son, Randy, started working as an umpire when he was about 15 and this year marked his 25th season as a college baseball official, working games on the West Coast. So, it was only logical that he started toting his son, Dax, around umpire locker rooms when Dax was still in diapers. Now 31, Dax is in his 10th season officiating, and his fourth year in college baseball. Together, they run Out West Officials, an apparel outlet for sports officials.
Being around sports was just a given.
What they have discovered, however, is a much larger officiating community and a greater purpose through their profession. That is why Randy and Dax, together with Brandon Riley, decided to create The Official-ly Fore Kids Foundation and hold a golf tournament to gather those dedicated to officiating that would donate proceeds to charity. Brandon has worked baseball at varying levels for nearly 20 years and recently hired as a Division I college baseball umpire for the 2022 season. We are humbled and honored that they selected UMPS CARE Charities as a beneficiary for their inaugural event.
“We feel the need to give back and be a positive voice for officials,” Dax Upton said. “The umpires are usually seen as the bad guys, and half the fans are angry with you at every game. Here’s a chance for us to make a call that’s always right.”
The goal, Randy added, is to attract as many officials as possible in Utah and surrounding states, and have the event (and the profession) “catch fire.”
For Randy, giving back is personal. Back in 2005, he was diagnosed with Lymphoma.
“I found out right at the end of the season that I had a lump in my neck, and we were told it was Stage IV lymphoma,” Randy said. “I knew what this entailed, and so I sat my four kids down on the bed and talked to them. It puts life in perspective. During a biopsy, by the grace of God, it was discovered to be thyroid cancer.
“It’s bad enough having cancer as an adult. Kids definitely don’t deserve it. That’s why we want to help.”
Randy recovered from cancer, but in 2017, he found himself battling more health issues. This time, while working a game at the University of Nevada at Reno, he had to leave with an infection in his foot. He had a blood clot and was in a rehabilitation center for four weeks with no use of his left leg.
“I came back in 2018 after a lot of rehab and a dedication to getting back on the field.” Randy said. “Sometimes it takes something like that (medical issues) to remember how lucky we are as umpires. We are doing something in our life that many people would love to do. It taught me to cherish each time I was able to walk on the field and be part of the game and to never take it for granted.”
“But umpires are people, too,” he added. “We all have hard things in our lives regardless of what we do for a living.”
The golf tournament is a way to showcase the softer side of officials. The event featured a day on the links, lunch and a fantastic raffle featuring sports memorabilia, Red Sox tickets, stays at a vacation resort, a suite for a night at the Utah Grizzlies, tickets to the Salt Lake Bees (AAA club in Salt Lake City) games, rounds of golf at local golf courses, among many other items. The tournament will also provide tuition for a couple of umpires to attend an umpire camp to give back to the improvement of umpires in Utah.