Harold Moya, Jr. is behind the plate. It’s spring training 2013 for the umpire in the Pecos Baseball League. Moya, 46, peers over the catcher’s shoulder. The pitcher releases the ball and Moya flinches. Sharp pain shoots through his right knee. It happens again and again as the game progresses.
“The pain in my knees turned out to be arthritis,” Moya says. “As much as I wanted to continue umpiring, I just couldn’t do it anymore. After completing the 2012 season, I was one year and done. My career as a professional umpire was over.”
“I’m haunted by baseball,” he says. “After retiring from the umpire game, I couldn’t get baseball out of my mind. To appease the baseball gods I decided to write a book about umpiring.”
BLUE, A Professional Umpire Strikes Back!, recently came to fruition as an e-book available on Amazon.com. It’s a hard-hitting look into the everyday life of umpires, players and fans.
“The truth is that everyone in independent professional baseball is there to prove what he can do and hoping for one last season in the sun,” Moya says. “Everyone is chasing the dream.”
They definitely aren’t chasing the dollar. Pecos League players, Moya says, are the lowest paid players in professional baseball. They earn $54 a week. “My umpiring contract was for $1,500 a month,” he says. “There were no food or gas allowances. The good thing was that I lost money as an umpire and I had a good tax write off.”
Before being cut down by arthritis, Moya, a Santa Fe denizen, had dreams of moving up the umpire ladder, and although he knew that making it to the majors so late in life was unlikely, he desired to be a professional umpire — even if it meant becoming a baseball gypsy. He aimed to work summer ball in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Pain ended his quest, but it didn’t kill his sense of humor.
“I played baseball for 30 years, ‘till my legs gave out and I couldn’t run anymore. Naturally, when my eyesight failed me, I became an umpire,” he writes.
Asked why he added: A Professional Umpire Strikes Back to the book’s title, he says, “Hecklers can sometimes be loud and obnoxious. The book is my way of striking back at rude fans, which, by the way, are a minority.”
These days you can find Moya, now 47, rehabbing in a Ft. Marcy Tai-Chi class. He’s contemplating another baseball book; this time maybe fiction.
Umpiring, although not professional, is still on his agenda. “I’m going to be selective and umpire some high school games this spring,” he said. “I’ll maybe do 26 games, which compared to the 78 games I worked in the Pecos League will be easy for me. I hope.”