Joliet's World Series Umpire: 'It's An Exciting Feeling'

·5 min read

JOLIET, IL — Joliet is known as the City of Champions and starting Tuesday night, Joliet's Mark Carlson will be umpiring the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. For Carlson, a Joliet West High School graduate, this marks his second World Series.

The best out of seven series is shown on Fox at 7:09 p.m. Carlson will start Game 1 of the series as the right field umpire. For Game 2: he's on the left field line. For Game 3: third base. For Game 4: second base. For Game 5, Carlson will be at first base. For Game 6, he's off. If there is a decisive Game 7, Carlson will be wearing the mask calling balls and strikes behind home plate.

"It's an exciting feeling to be chosen to work a World Series event," Carlson told Joliet Patch's editor during Tuesday's phone interview from the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

"It's a great feeling," Carlson added.

To umpire in Major League Baseball is an incredible accomplishment. To work in the World Series is even more of a feat.

Carlson said there are only 76 umpires in Major League Baseball. Growing up around Joliet, Carlson said he umpired baseball and refereed basketball and football games as a way to make money.

In Joliet, Carlson played high school baseball and later went to Parkland College, where he was a catcher. However, Carlson said it was longtime Joliet-area umpire Gene Hug who encouraged Carlson to become an umpire.

While umpiring high school and summer league play across Will County, Carlson said he worked closely with Dan Mihelich, Mike Tezak, Larry Lindholm and Pat Paul. He also umpired several games with Guy Stewart, Perry Jones and Mark Hall.

In 1993, he followed in the footsteps of one of his fellow Joliet umpires, Pat McGinnis, and went to the Joe Brinkman and Bruce Froemming’s umpire school in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

Carlson excelled in umpire school and got selected to umpire in the Pioneer League, which is rookie ball for minor league baseball players. He persevered. After six-and-a-half seasons in minor league ball, Carlson earned his big promotion to Major League Baseball in 1999.

Nowadays, Carlson's regarded as one of the best of the best in his profession, as evidenced by his second selection to umpire the prestigious World Series.

Carlson also got to umpire the 2015 World Series games between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. In 2019, Carlson was the keynote speaker in Joliet at the annual Will County Old Timers Association banquet.

Carlson continues to maintain strong ties to Joliet. He said that he, his wife, Marie, and daughters Grace and Audrey still live in the area.

"Joliet's been a great part of my life," Carlson told Joliet Patch Tuesday. "I went to Joliet schools throughout my childhood."

Patch asked Carlson if starting the World Series umpiring along the right field line will make for a less stressful assignment in the first game between the Rays and Dodgers.

"You might have no calls in right field (or you could have several)," Carlson explained. "You could have fair or foul, home runs, fan interference, this will be the first time (this season) that I'll have fans."

Carlson said it was his understanding there might be around 11,500 fans in the stands to watch the World Series games, adhering to social distancing guidelines for Texas, which is where the games are being played as the players and coaches remain together under a bubble to minimize exposure to the coronavirus.

Is umpiring in the World Series more difficult than regular season games?

"It's all part of the job, obviously, it's a high-profile event and you don't want to make mistakes," Carlson told Patch.

"It's constantly having to be focused on the field especially in today's game with (video) replay and the strike zone you're evaluated with the box on TV," Carlson said.

What makes a top-notch umpire?

"It's hard work, you have to have dedication to the profession, timing and luck," Carlson said.

While working the World Series over the next two weeks is a tremendous honor, Carlson said the assignment also is bittersweet.

Tuesday marked one year since Major League umpire Eric Cooper died at 52.

Major League Baseball is urging fans to honor Cooper's memory by supporting the college scholarship program of UMPS CARE, under the #Coop56Challenge.

"He was a good friend of mine and colleague," Carlson said. "I enjoyed working with him."

Lastly, Carlson wanted to thank his family — his wife, Marie, his daughters Grace and Audrey —for their amazing support during this shortened 60-game regular season due to the pandemic.

Because of the coronavirus, Carlson was mostly relegated to baseball games on the East Coast and central divisions this summer. Ordinarily, in a full 162-game regular season, Carlson said he is flying commercially across the country and working games in all the stadiums.

"They've been very supportive," Carlson said. "The sacrifices they made throughout the season ... were a challenge."

Manager Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers argues with home plate umpire Mark Carlson in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Sept. 28, 2019 in Denver. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Manager Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers argues with home plate umpire Mark Carlson in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Sept. 28, 2019 in Denver. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on the Joliet Patch