On the field, professional umpire Ted Barrett just wrapped up calling his fifth career World Series. But off the field is where he answers his calling: ministering to fellow umpires through an organization he founded, Calling for Christ.
Barrett’s umpiring career includes a number of significant accomplishments. He is the only umpire to have been on the field for three perfect games (and behind the plate for two of those), worked the longest World Series game in history, and has been involved in twelve divisional series, among other accolades. In spite of this, he has continually modeled a servant lifestyle in an ultra-competitive world.
His credibility and trust with fellow umpires have led to a one-of-a-kind ministry that is changing the lives of minor and major league umpires. Barrett aims “to serve professional baseball umpires on and off the field…to reach, teach, and disciple professional umpires with Jesus.”
Barrett says that being an umpire can be an isolating job with a demanding schedule and nearly impossible expectations. Calling for Christ meets a need for many of these umpires by organizing weekly calls and regional meetups where umpires pray together and process life through their unique lens. In most cases, these umpires have no chance of getting to a regular weekend church service, and the fellowship Calling for Christ provides is a lifeline.
Barrett’s passion has grown since his first full-time season in 1999. He commenting on what he observed once being immersed in the MLB: “How can I put this delicately?’ he said. “It was a devil’s playground. It was a dark, dark time.” He has observed his colleagues receiving death threats for making bad calls. He has seen families end in divorce due to the difficulties of the profession. He’s watched peers fall into destructive habits. Yet, through it all, Calling for Christ has been present to provide hope through the gospel message.
Ted Barrett recognizes that his career is in its twilight at the age of 56. Though his experience is nearly unmatched, he continues to lean on his faith to do the job well. “To stand out there in front of 50,000 people and call balls and strikes as you’re getting picked apart on TV, to me, it’s impossible to do this job well, so I rely on God to do it for me….Prepare the best you can, and then go out and do the best you can, and let God take care of the rest,” he said.
Barrett is the only known professional umpire who is an ordained minister, providing him a unique place in baseball culture. He is also one of a select number of umpires in the sport with advanced degrees. He earned a degree in kinesiology in 1988, but went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in theology, with an emphasis in pastoral ministry, from Trinity College and Seminary.