PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Ask anyone from any of the 15 plus states participating in the Grand Slam World Series of Baseball at Frank Brown Park, and they'll probably tell you the same thing...even the umpires!
"Oh man, it's absolutely awesome. It's a treat for us," umpire Donald Menefee said."
Love it! Grand Slam puts on a great tournament each year down here," fellow umpire Justin Shorter agreed.
Teams stay for one week. Umpires stay all month. Just like the kids, this is a highlight of their year.
"It gives us something to do, allows the season to extend for us," Menefee said. "Most umpires love baseball first and foremost, so it gives us an extension to come out and finish up the season on a good note by the beach."
500 teams play in this tournament. None of their games could be played without the boys in blue.
"Our umpires is one thing we take a lot of pride in. We bring them from all over the southeast," Grand Slam CEO Larry Thompson said. "We really want to make sure that our umpires are very good because they are the lifeblood of the tournament. If you don't have good umpires, you're going to have unhappy teams. If you have unhappy teams, they're not coming back."
Not everyone is happy all the time, but umpires understand how to take snide remarks in stride.
"They're parents," Menefee added. "You've got to remember as an umpire that you're dealing with the two most important things in somebody's life: Their money and their kid."
For the most part though, teams and umpires are happy to return every summer.
"I've been coming here for about ten years now," he continued. "It's good family. Th umpires, the tournament directors, we all work pretty much hand in hand and see some of the same faces."
Each umpire calls 15 to 20 games each week for three weeks. That workload this time of year is a godsend.
"This is my full time job being an umpire," Shorter said. "For guys that have full time jobs away from here, this is a part time job and the extra money they can make on the side is definitely helpful. I can't make in one day in a high school game what i can make here doing a tournament."
For play, or pay, there's one more thing the grand slam participants can agree on: they all love baseball.