Most 10-year-olds who are into baseball might list Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw or Jose Altuve as the guys they idolize most out there on the diamond. Not Vincent Stio. His heroes are the umpires, the men who would rather remain in the shadows.
Stio, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, doesn’t show up to games wearing a mitt with hopes of catching a foul ball. Instead, he wears a mask — if he decides to emulate the home plate umpire — calls the games and studies the craft from the stands.
He’s been doing it for two to three years, according to his father, and thanks to Double-A umpire Brock Ballou taking notice, he’s gotten an up-close-and-personal taste of the job.
“I’m working the plate, and first or second inning, I had called a strike, and out of my peripheral, I just saw this young kid, and he had an umpire mask on,” Ballou told ESPN. “He was calling strike with me. I started wiping off the plate, and I noticed he was doing the same thing. I’ve never seen that before.”
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 22, 2018
After the game, Ballou introduced himself to Stio and they became fast friends. In fact, other umpires around the country have also become close with Stio over the years, and they’ll even send him birthday cards and Christmas presents.
“He’s gotten so much confidence from it because he’s gotten attention from all these umpires that he looks up to, and they’re all like his big brothers, the way they look out for him and care about him,” Stio’s mother told ESPN.
Although still many years away from working a game at the professional level, Stio attends umpire clinics and keeps a close eye on MLB.com, where he tracks player/manager ejections and the results of replay reviews. Then he’ll go back and watch those questionable calls to further develop his eye for calling the game.
While umpires usually take heat from players, managers and fans, a large group of them have to be applauded for taking this budding ump under their wing.