Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy offers Veterans a Career Behind the Plate! In January of 2014, Marine Major Gregory Wilson found himself at an umpire camp in Idaho. There, purely by chance, he met former Marine, Jimmy Craig, and with the words “Semper Fi, Devil Dog” and the help of Dan Weikle, DII National Umpire Coordinator, an idea was born. That idea, now a reality, is The Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy.
The Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy trains American heroes to become baseball umpires. The first camp, held in June of 2014, trained 14 veterans in Denver, Colorado. During camp, the men learn the fundamentals of umpiring: from calling balls and strikes, to the mechanics of positioning, and of course, the rules of the game. At the end of camp, these Marines can umpire anywhere baseball is played. More importantly, the graduates of the program leave with new career opportunities and support for their transition to civilian life.
“This experience and opportunity is critical to our transitioning Marines,” said Jimmy Craig. “But more importantly, it gives our battle tested leaders a transition back into civilian life and a purpose. It gives them a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of belonging to something important. Most of these students are multiple Purple Heart recipients, and have some form of PTSD and in many cases TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). It’s very difficult for me as a Marine myself to put a price tag on a feeling of belonging, giving back and self-worth, so to me this camp is the perfect environment, introducing a career that embraces the same sort of brotherhood these men experienced as a Marine.”
None of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy instructors are paid. It's a young program, and while so far, financial support comes from the Semper Fi Fund, and limited sponsor and individual donations, these organizations don't cover all the costs involved with the program “Our vision is for any Wounded Warrior to access our camps at no cost. After all, they’ve given literally everything they have to us, it’s time for us to give back to them.” said Craig. The average cost per Marine to complete the program is almost $3,000. The organization’s goal is to make it possible for 40 Marines to attend every camp.