Kolin Kline is a juggler extraordinaire as he juggles his work as a Runner at the National Western Complex with his career as a Triple A baseball umpire.
As a young athlete, Kolin was headed toward playing college baseball until he broke his forearm in volleyball class when he was a high school senior. He never pitched in a game again nor played competitive baseball. The Arvada (a suburb of Denver) native was able to continue to umpire recreational baseball leagues, a job he started when he was 15. He was repeatedly told that he was a good umpire, and he should think about becoming a pro. And he did.
Kolin is a graduate of the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. This professional school consists of 270 clock hours of supervised classroom and field training. Fourteen written exams are administered covering Official Baseball Rules and National Association Interpretations. Other written testing is administered covering mechanics, positioning and umpiring philosophies. Most students spend 50-60 hours during the five-week school completing homework assignments and outside projects. Kline began his umpiring career in 2007. He joined the Double A Southern League three years later.
Last year, he was selected to be the home plate umpire for SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which features the top Minor League prospects competing in a nine-inning contest as part of Taco Bell Major League All-Star Sunday. The managers for the teams were retired major league players George Brett and Bernie Williams. When asked what it’s like to make calls against major league stars that may be managing or playing at a lower level, Kolin said “You’re there to do a job, they’re all players. It doesn’t matter who’s on the field.”
For 2013, Kolin will be umpiring in the Pacific League, which includes AAA baseball teams in Omaha, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Fresno and Reno. There are 30 umpires assigned to this league. He will be part of a three-man crew that travels together throughout the western United States. He laughingly said this relationship was like another marriage. While he’s on the road, Kolin uses his cell phone continually, either texting or talking to friends and family back home. He said, “I cannot imagine life without one.”
Kolin shared that when he’s on the road, he tries to see the sights in the various cities. A highlight in previous years was watching the Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, practice while in Pensacola. When Kolin was little, he dreamed of becoming a pilot.
Kolin has been married to his wife, Lena, for three years. (And no, they didn’t get married at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies, but they thought about it until they discovered how expensive it was to rent the facility.) She’s a mental health counselor. Interestingly she didn’t understand the intricacies of baseball until she married Kolin as she was a volleyball player in high school. During the baseball season, she travels about once a month to one of the cities where Kolin is working. Lena has become one of Kolin’s best critics, asking him why he did this or telling him he forgot to do that. Kolin laughingly said at least she doesn’t holler, “Have you checked your cell phone? You got a missed call,” like other fans do. He did share that umpires mess up a lot more than people notice. Kolin added he likes being behind home plate, but it’s stressful as well as hard on the knees. When asked if he tweets or posts about the games he umpires, Kolin said he is paid not to have an opinion outside the locker room.
His family still lives in the Denver area. Kolin is the oldest of four children, and his younger sisters and brothers are all athletic, too. He said his dad is proud of him, but jealous of him because he wishes that he would have had this opportunity as a kid.
Some of favorite childhood memories involve baseball, such as attending Colorado Rockies games as well as having his dad defend him against an abusive manager when he was umpiring a recreational game. While Kolin’s fond of peanuts, flat beer and cold hot dogs, he prefers to eat steak and potatoes.
When Kolin is not juggling his work schedule, he likes to spend time with his family. He also has interests outside of baseball. He frequently plays ice and roller hockey. Kolin enjoys listing to all types of music, with the exception of contemporary country songs, he prefers the old twangy ones. A love of history is evident as Kolin said he will read anything that’s historically accurate, and one of his favorite TV shows is Boardwalk Empire, a television series based on a book about a historical criminal kingpin. Kolin shared that he likes to think and looking back at history excites him. Kolin’s favorite movie is Star Wars, which is an interesting choice as he wasn’t even born when the first Star Wars movie debuted in May 1977. Kolin calls himself a Star Wars nerd and revealed he still has a tub full of action figures and vehicles.
Kolin learned about the job at the National Western because the site’s GM Darrin Mauser was the coach of his younger sister’s softball team. In 2013, he will have worked his fourth Stock Show. Kolin likes this job because it allows him the flexibility to continue his dream of becoming a major league umpire. His current baseball work schedule is mid-March through mid-September. “My whole life is my work. Fortunately it’s fun,” he said.