Stars & Strikes – Learn about our campaign to salute the service of participants from the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy

(L to R) MLB Umpire Chris Segal, Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy Participant and Army Veteran Jeremy Caldwell and MLB Umpire Brennan Miller at the MiLB Annual Spring Training Bowling Tournament in Florida

As a young boy in rural Colorado, Jeremy Caldwell developed a strong bond with his grandfather. Jeremy grew up emulating everything his grandfather, Glen Perkins Sr., did – mainly wrestling and woodworking. Glen went to Colorado State on a wrestling scholarship, and Jeremy had every intention in following in his gym shoes to the mat on the college stage.

Jeremy received an offer to wrestle in college but when his grandfather became ill and was placed on a liver transplant list, he decided to stay home to help care for him. Once his grandfather began to recover, Jeremy enlisted in the U.S. Army, working as a medic. He traveled to different bases across the country and was deployed to Iraq.

On Thanksgiving Day 2005, when Jeremy was just 22, he was severely injured during a mortar explosion. He broke his back in three places and suffered a concussion. He stood at 6-foot-2 before the injuries, and his spine was compressed so much that he now measures at 5-10 ½.

Nearly four years later, he was medically discharged. All the while, he battled PTSD, depression and as a result, he attempted suicide three times. His grandfather was placed in hospice care, and they talked about his grandfather’s other passion – umpiring.

“He loved being an umpire,” Jeremy said. “I googled umpire training and found the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy.”

Everything sounded great, except:

  • The academy was going to start in two weeks
  • He weighed nearly 500 pounds
  • He was still battling depression and PTSD

Against all odds, Jeremy decided to go to the academy. And that decision has been life changing.

“When I first got there, it was rough,” he admitted. “I could do the drills but I had to sit down a lot. But it pulled me out of being a couch potato and I gained a brotherhood.”

Since umpiring, Jeremy has lost roughly 155 pounds. He was invited to attend an umpiring clinic run by retired Major League Baseball Umpire Dale Scott in California five weeks after the WWUA. These days, you can find him on the field working Dixie youth games, high school and baseball academy games in Florida.

Sadly, his grandfather, who had umpired Little League and high school games in the 1960s, never got to see his grandson work behind the plate. He passed away shortly after Jeremy finished the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy program.

“The WWUA and baseball changed my whole life,” Jeremy said. “I have gone to all of these in-patient treatments for my mental health, and they all helped immensely, but baseball really turned my life around.”

 

I can’t really describe what it means to me to meet guys like (MLB Umpires) Chris (Segal), Brennan (Miller) and Will (Little).  For these guys to take time out for the little guy – not that there’s anything little about me – is truly amazing. It’s like having a big league player come down to Little League and give hitting tips.

- Jeremy Caldwell, U.S. Army Veteran and Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy Participant After Meeting MLB Umpires Through UMPS CARE Charities

What also has made an impact on Jeremy is having the support of UMPS CARE Charities and the Major League Baseball Umpires. UMPS CARE has been partnering with the WWUA, sending 55 veterans who participated in the WWUA and their families – 241 guests in all – to Major League ballparks over the past two years.

This season, UMPS CARE is once again saluting the service of these servicemen and servicewomen by inviting them to games with opportunities to meet the MLB Umpires, go on the field before a game and enjoy snacks. Our partners at the Arby’s Foundation are generously donating meals to every one of our guests from the WWUA between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Jeremy will be among those participants in the WWUA to attend a game this year. He had hoped to be among the WWUA members to attend the Wendelstedt Umpiring School in January – 11 members from WWUA did get the opportunity to be in Florida – but injuries sidelined him. He hopes to go in 2024. UMPS CARE Charities connected the WWUA with Hunter Wendelstedt and helped the veterans train with the pros.

Through UMPS CARE, Jeremy was able to meet MLB Umpire Laz Diaz, who volunteered his time on Veteran’s Day to spend helping out at a Wounded Warrior Umpire clinic in Florida. Laz served in the U.S. Marine Reserves and has a special place in his heart for veterans.

During Spring Training, UMPS CARE invited three Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy participants to speak at the Minor League Baseball charity bowling tournaments in Florida and Arizona:

  • Jeremy attended the tournament in Bradenton, Florida, and met MLB Umpires Chris Segal, Brennan Miller and Will Little.
  • John Crosser, an Army veteran who underwent a below-knee leg amputation as a result of injuries from an IED in 2007, was our guest in Jupiter, Florida
  • Patrick MacDonald shared his story of joining WWUA following a devasting fall that left him with a broken back.

“I can’t really describe what it means to me to meet guys like Chris, Brennan and Will,” Jeremy said. “For these guys to take time out for the little guy – not that there’s anything little about me – is truly amazing. It’s like having a big league player come down to Little League and give hitting tips.”

Learn more about the UMPS CARE Charities Stars & Strikes Campaign and how we support veterans training to become umpires through the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy

Jeremy Caldwell, an Army Veteran, with MLB Umpire Laz Diaz, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps

Jeremy working games having trained with the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy

HUGE THANKS TO THE ARBY’S FOUNDATION FOR ITS CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR UMPS CARE CHARITIES!

Did you know that the Arby’s Foundation is providing 200 meals for veterans participating in our Stars & Strikes Campaign? UMPS CARE Charities is inviting participants from the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy to be VIP guests at ball games from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July. Thanks to the Arby’s Foundation, each guest will receive a meal!

Learn more about the Arby’s Foundation

SHOUT OUT TO UMP-ATTIRE.COM FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR OUR STARS & STRIKES CAMPAIGN 

Ump-Attire.com, a longtime supporter of UMPS CARE Charities, has been instrumental in connecting us with the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy and for making our programs for veterans truly VIP experiences. Ump-Attire.com has provided uniforms for veterans over the years. We cannot wait to share the exclusive Stars & Strikes caps that will go on sale next month and are super excited to showcase the Challenge Coins we have co-branded for participants from the WWUA program! Thank you , Jim Kirk, and the entire Ump-Attire.com crew for all you do for UMPS CARE Charities!

Check out Ump-Attire.com!