Meet Umpire Santa – aka youth baseball umpire and Army veteran DeWayne Corbitt
Over Veterans’ Day weekend, DeWayne Corbitt walked across a baseball field during an umpire clinic in Florida to introduce himself to Major League Baseball Umpire Laz Diaz.
“I’m DeWayne,” he said.
Laz shook his head and said, “No, bro. I have already been told, you’re Santa.”
Sure, the large gray beard was a giveaway but “Umpire Santa” has become increasingly more recognized in the umpire community as that man from the North Pole. And he takes umpiring and being Santa with equal drive and responsibility.
Umpire Santa spent 17 years as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army (1998-2015) and was deployed to Afghanistan. His last unit was the 101st Airborne Division, before he medically retired. Following his career in the service, he decided on a lark to grow beard. It grew, and he was about to shave it off when his granddaughter, who was 3 at the time, said, “No Papa Santa.”
To Dwayne, Santa always conjured up thoughts of the old men in the neighborhood. But how could he tell his granddaughter no?
Shortly afterward, he posted a pic on social media and his buddies started calling him Santa.
Suffice it to say, it stuck.
Two years later, the beard remains. He has even gone to Santa School – yes, this is a real thing –the Northern Lights Santa Academy in Atlanta. He also has a Santa agent – also a real thing. He has learned tips on everything from how to be the perfect St. Nick to kids with challenges such as autism to pulling out special tricks such as having a red Rudolph nose light in his glove. Santa School even included some basic sign language lessons.
“I just learned tricks to make everything a little more magical,” he said.
Part of his holiday plans include participating in a holiday parade and visiting children who are undergoing medical treatment at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. He will be at the hospital on Christmas Eve.
UMPS CARE even surprised Santa and provided 25 Build-A-Bear® stuffed toys for him to bring to kids for the holiday, in addition to UMPS CARE baseball-themed activity books!
“I always tell the folks in the hospital to tell me about the really serious cases in advance,” he said. “They don’t need to see Santa cry.”
Being Santa is a great gig. Who doesn’t love Santa?
But in his other life, this Santa is also an umpire. And, well, it’s pretty well documented that umpires don’t often run in the same circles of magic and hero worship.
“It really is different,” he said. “As Santa you want to be everything to these kids. As an umpire, you got to call strikes and call them out.”
He’s also posted a photo of him checking his watch before a game and reminds players, coaches and parents, “Don’t let the white beard fool you. I’m going to be fair.”
This Umpire Santa has been officiating youth baseball games in South Carolina, and while he can’t always be the good guy, he does do his best to reward acts of kindness and good sportsmanship.
“I keep special cards in my pocket that say, ‘You have been caught being good,’ ” he said. “I can’t give them out during a ballgame because I don’t want to show favoritism.”
But he keeps mental notes. Once a young player hit a foul ball near the first base line. The first baseman caught the ball, but ran into the fence. The batter ran over to make sure the first baseman was OK. After the game, Santa handed him a card as a reward for his good deed.
“You would’ve thought I handed him a million dollars,” DeWayne said.
There are times, however, when this Umpire Santa has experienced a little magic himself. One of those times was when he attended the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy event in Florida and got to spend time with Laz Diaz, a longtime MLB Umpire who also served in the U.S. Marine Reserves.
Laz is one of the many MLB Umpires who has participated in events with the WWUA through its partnership with UMPS CARE Charities. This past season, between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, UMPS CARE sent 30 veterans from the WWUA and their family members to games at 17 Major League ballparks to salute their service. DeWayne and his family got a chance to go to an Atlanta Braves game along with other WWUA friends and family.
For this Santa, Christmas came a little early this year. Spending time with Laz was better than any gift he might have under his tree next week.
“I was starstruck,” DeWayne said. “Here I am doing something I love, umpiring, and I am being coached by Laz, one of the best in the business. And we just talked … and it was awesome.”
Even Santa needs a dose of holiday magic, too. On behalf of all of us at UMPS CARE Charities, we are glad we could give this Santa an early gift.
MLB Umpire Laz Diaz, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, took time out over Veteran’s Day weekend to meet with members of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy. UMPS CARE Charities has been supporting the WWUA and their efforts to train wounded veterans to work as umpires.
Umpire Santa attended an Atlanta Braves game over the Fourth of July holiday as part of UMPS CARE Charities salute to the service of wounded warriors now working as umpires. He is part of an organization called Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy and works youth baseball games in South Carolina.
Umpire Santa during his days serving this country in the U.S. Army.