From umpiring to art, high school athletes find ways to stay busy in the summer

Players use summer months to hone their skills both on and off the field

  • Digital Harbor students Eric, Eli and Ellis Winston spend their summer umpiring baseball games for the Severn Athletic Club.
Digital Harbor students Eric, Eli and Ellis Winston spend their… (Baltimore Sun photo by Joe…)
July 05, 2011|By Katherine Dunn and Glenn Graham, The Baltimore Sun

The summer may present a break from action for area high school and college teams. But their athletes and coaches haven't struggled to find ways to spend their time.

We've asked local high school and college players and coaches about their plans, and over the next four days we'll run their answers.

Today, a look at what nine high school athletes are up to this summer.

Eric, Eli and Ellis Winston, Digital Harbor, baseball

When Severn Athletic Club officials need a three-man umpiring crew this summer, they only need to make one phone call — to the Winston brothers.

Eric, Eli and Ellis grew up playing baseball and will spend their summer break from Digital Harbor calling games at the club where they learned the game.

Umpiring has become a family affair for the Winstons. In addition to Eric, 17; Eli, 16; and Ellis, 15; their father Emmett Winston also umpires, and their oldest brother, Emmett Jr., 24, started umping this spring.

“It’s about the love of the game,” said Eric, who will be a senior this fall. “It’s totally different from playing, and it makes you appreciate it more. You understand why [umpires] take so much stuff off the players and the crowds.”

Eli and Ellis have additional reasons for joining Eric on the diamond.

“Interacting with the younger kids,” Eli said. “I like giving back to the kids who looked up to you when you were there.”

Ellis is bit more practical. “Basically, money in my pocket,” he said with a grin.

The brothers started playing baseball when they were 5 or 6. They all took umpiring classes — Eric and Eli in the spring of 2010 and Ellis this spring — and now call as many as three games during the week and up to six in a weekend tournament.

They don’t often end up on the same crew, but they like working together.

“It’s fun out there when you know the other umpires,” said Eli, a junior. “It’s better when you have someone you get along with. You know their signals.”

Eli said the toughest part of umpiring is taking criticism from coaches and parents. Ellis has only umpired for a few months, but his family said he’s the one most likely to throw someone out of a game.

Still, Ellis, a sophomore, said the behavior of players and coaches who “like to run their mouth a lot” has made him think about his own actions as a player.

“When I had to call a strike three on a kid and he got mad because he thought it was a ball, he turned around and wanted to say something,” Ellis said. “That reminded me of when I was younger. I was always thinking, ‘That wasn’t a strike’ and I wanted to say something.”

Their biggest challenge may have been umpiring a 9-10 age-group game with a team coached by their dad.

“It was different,” Eric said, “because you don’t want to see your dad’s team lose. Everyone thought we would be prejudiced against them. Most of the time, he didn’t want us to umpire his games because of that. Most of the time, he wouldn’t say nothing like he normally would to an umpire.”

Their father, a longtime coach who has Eric and Eli on his Baltimore Panthers 18-and-under club team this summer, sees the benefits of having the boys face the adversity that comes with umpiring.

“What I really like is they’re learning about decision making,” Emmett Winston said. “The umpire behind the plate, he’s making 200 decisions. Some of the decisions are routine decisions. Others are much more complicated, and most of the decisions that they make, one team’s going to be happy and the other team’s coach is going to be upset. But they learn how to make their decisions and stick by their decisions and not let coaches or fans or players affect their decisions.”

Eric said that fans have to remember that everyone on the field is trying to do his job.

“Everybody’s trying to be fair,” he said, “and when somebody’s yelling at you the whole game and you have parents yelling at you, it makes it hard to do your job. That’s when umpires start making bad calls. That’s when they start going the other way for a different team and you start playing against the team and the umpire. It’s a different perspective from both ends of the stick.”

Parker Jones, Bel Air, lacrosse

Come summertime, Parker Jones just may be the hardest working lacrosse player in Bel Air.

Jones, a two-year starting midfielder who will be a junior in the fall, works at the Merryland Horse Farm five days a week and sometimes on the weekends.

Taking care of race horses, his day starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. He feeds them, saddles them for afternoon rides with jockeys and then cleans them up — also making sure the stables are clean.

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