The 6’11” Jon Rauch towered over the man in blue, shouting expletives in front of a crowd of screaming fans at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Rauch had just been ejected, and as the umpire looked back up at the disgruntled pitcher, a group of coaches came to restrain Rauch and get on with their ballgame against the Phillies.
It’s all in a day’s work for Alfonso Marquez.
“Fonzie,” as Marquez is known, has umpired in the Major Leagues since 1999, and has umpired in two World Series* (2006, 2011), as well as the Division Series and League Championship Series on multiple occasions. After 13 1/2 years of umpiring in the big leagues, here’s what Fonz had to say about his career and the day in the life of an umpire.
Photo: Keith Allison, Flickr Creative Commons
Matt Layman: Walk me through your story about how you got to where you are now.
Alfonso Marquez: Well I got interested in umpiring when I was playing little league. I was 12. I hit an inside the park home run. In rounding the bases, I missed second base. So, I’m in the dugout, and they appeal to the umpire. There was just one umpire working, and he called me out. And what got me interested in it was that I couldn’t believe that just one umpire behind the plate was able to see that.
It just so happened that after the game, we’re walking through the parking lot, and there he is […] and he’s there taking his protector off, so I just had to ask him, “How did you see that I missed second base?” And he said, “Well we train for that, that’s what we look for,” and all that, so we get to talking some more – this was back in Fullerton, California. And then I asked, “How much do you get paid?” He told me the answer, and we started putting some numbers together […] and I said, “That’d be a cool summer job.” So he said “I’ll tell you what: talk to your dad, I’ll take you to the meetings, and we’ll go from there.” The association was called Quality Officials, so I talked to my dad, he took me to the meetings, and that’s how I got started in umpiring.
At the age of 17, I lost interest in it a little bit, got away from it for about a year, and then I actually kind of missed it, so, I went back to umpiring, and after high school I started doing a little bit of high school, a little bit of division III, and guys kept saying, “You should go to umpiring school.” […]
At the time, there was three umpiring schools: The Harry Wendelstedt, the Joe Brinkman (and it was actually Brinkman/Froemming Umpiring School), and Jim Evans Academy of Umpiring. So they brought brochures, I called all three of them, and Brinkman/Froemming actually wrote back a letter saying
“Hey, thanks for contacting us, Joe Brinkman will be in Anaheim on [this date]. If you’d like, we can set it up, you can meet him for lunch.”
I was like, “No way, I get to meet a Major League Baseball umpire?” By now, I’m 18, and sure enough, I meet him in Anaheim, and I couldn’t believe it. I had lunch in the Hyatt in Anaheim, which is where we still stay to this day. […] And at the time, I didn’t have the resources, so I told him “Well I don’t really have the money together yet,” and he said “I’ll tell you what, if you really want to go, you’ve got to cut your hair,” ‘cause I had hair down to here [points to shoulders], he says “And if you show up with the money – you don’t even have to send in your down payment – if you show up, you’re welcome in to the school.” So I did, and this was 1993.
So I show up to the school. My third day at school, and this was my first time out of the house, I didn’t know anybody, barely had enough money to pay for the program, and the meal money… So I didn’t really have any money, no transportation… I went to the wrong field group, and so the instructors were making fun of me like “Oh, you don’t know your alphabetical order?”, this and that, so I very seriously thought about leaving and going home. I thought “What am I doing here? What a mistake.”
Well, then I met one guy, Scott Nelson, who actually worked in the minor leagues for a very long time but got released. We became really good buddies, he got a car, and he kept saying “Come on, let’s go off campus, let’s go eat.” I was like, “I don’t have any money,” he was like “Ahh, don’t worry about it, come on.” So he’d take me to Denny’s, we would study.
So, long story longer, I was picked out of the school. And the process is, back then, the three schools, they would take the top 10% of every class. We had about a hundred-or-so students, and they take the top 10% of every school, group them all together, and they send you to another course, which back then, it was PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpiring Corporation). And out of there, say there were 20 [open] jobs, they would pick the top 20. And then you’re placed in Minor League Baseball. So I was one of the lucky ones to go into professional baseball, I turned 20 that year I think. So in ’93 I was in rookie ball, ’94 I was in low-A […] so I was lucky enough to pretty much work a year in every level and I was getting promoted every year, […] and after 1997 I got assigned Arizona Fall League […], and in 1998 I got Major League Spring Training. So when you get to AAA, you get assigned Major League Spring Training. From there, if they like you, you start going up and down [between AAA and MLB] to cover for guys. And then if they like you there, and there’s a spot, you get hired. So, I was hired in 1999, so, 15 1/2 years later, I’m still around.
In 1998, with the expansion of Major League Baseball, with the Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays, do you think that increased your chances of getting on the Major League roster?
A.M.: It did, and also, I don’t know if you heard, but in 1999 there was a mass-resignation of Major League umpires. It was their strategy, a very failed strategy, to get them to negotiate a contract. Times back then were a little bit harder as far as negotiating with the league. So, they figured if they had a mass-resignation, they would get a contract negotiated as well. But, it backfired, and Major League Baseball said, “Okay.” So, guys started rescinding their resignation, so MLB said, “Okay we’re going to accept this guy, this guy, this guy,” and it basically really gave them a chance to get rid of who they wanted to get rid of. So, that opened up 19 spots. 20 to 22 guys got hired that year.
So walk me through a day – let’s say there’s a game tonight. Is there an intense preparation that goes in to a game?
A.M.: Well, most of us – well, I should speak for myself – I really do the same thing every day, I have a routine. I’m not a morning guy, so I like to sleep in. By ‘sleep-in,’ I’m talking, you know, 11 [o’clock A.M.]. I get up, have lunch. If it’s my plate day, I don’t like to eat too heavy. Because of my back, I normally work out at around 2, 2:30. So, I get a workout, go home and shower, and then go to the park. Normally, if the game is at 7:00, I’m normally at the park at around 5:30. I stretch, do all that stuff, then work the game. After the game, I normally go back to the room, or sometimes the guys want to go out and hang out for a little bit, but I like to go back, I like to smoke cigars. So, I’ll find an area around the hotel where I can smoke cigars and read, and then I’ll go to bed and do it all over again the next day.
Are there certain stadiums throughout baseball where you notice a differentiation or maybe a difficulty in how you have to umpire a game? For example, in Oakland, with a lot of foul territory?
A.M.: Every stadium has it’s, you know – especially the older ones, if you start talking about like Fenway […] If you ever get the chance to go to Fenway, go. It’s hard to explain what the ballpark is. When you tell somebody about a ballpark, in your mind you probably picture something like [Petco Park, Coors Field], you probably picture them that way. Fenway is completely different. You’d have to experience it to see how different it is. Wrigley’s the same way. Every ballpark is different, especially the newer ones, but to answer your question, yes. Any time we get to a new park, we go over the ground rules. In every clubhouse, there’s pictures of problem areas, or places where fans can reach over the wall. So we go over that kind of thing, because every park is different.
Do you notice a difference between the National League and the American League, especially if you’re at the plate and there’s a lot of substitutions in the National League?
A.M.: Yes. The one difference is the designated hitter. Because of that, in the National League, you have a lot of substitutions for the pitcher, but not only that, you have a lot of double switches. […] So, that, you really have to be careful for. And in the American League, you have the DH, the thing you really have to be careful of is when the guy hitting DH comes in to play defense, which eliminates the DH. That’s what you really have to be careful of.
What are the differences between each position as an umpire?
A.M.: They’re each very different and very difficult in their own way. People often ask, “What’s the hardest base to work?” For me, personally, it’s third base. People think it’s the plate because you’re crouching and you’re calling every pitch. The reason third base is the hardest is because at third base, you might go 10 games and have one call, or you might go one game and have 10 calls. You just never know. It’s just the way it is. Where at first base, you’re going to have a lot of calls, so it’s easier for you to stay in the flow, stay in it. Second base, not as many, but you’re still going to be in the flow, plus on fly balls you’re going to have to go [make calls] in the outfield.
Third base, a lot of people will say “What are you working tonight?” “Oh, I got third base,” “Ahh, you got an off-day today!” …No. If you start treating it that way, that’s when you start getting in trouble. You don’t want to start dozing off, start day-dreaming. You have to stay in it. Mentally, it’s pretty draining. You got to stay in every pitch.
Have you ever worked the outfield in a postseason game?
A.M.: I have. Those are tough because – if you get lucky enough to work the postseason, that’s the only time you work them. You don’t get to practice. You work them, for example, […] out of 15 years in the big leagues, 13 series I’ve been out on one of those lines. Balls off the bat seem really different. Our tendency, say at third or first, our tendency is to go out. But when you’re working the line, you still want to go out. But sometimes, what you should do is turn around and take a step back, because the further out you go, if you have a really close fair/foul […] you don’t want to be to close or you won’t get a good look at it.
You said you didn’t have much preparation for those outfield umpiring games – do you spend a certain amount of time that day reviewing your responsibilities in that position?
A.M.: Yeah, we carry a manual. But more than reading about it, we ask the veteran guys that have worked out there a lot. Because, like, for an outfield ball, you have to worry about the outfielder coming at you, or the third baseman coming in to the third base line. So you just ask them, “Hey, if the ball’s hit here, what do you do?” Because everything is new when you’re out there.
Do you spend a certain amount of time, even just during the regular season, reviewing rules or plays that are particularly rare and not seen very often?
A.M.: Yeah, and as a matter of fact, on our crew this year, we would discuss a specific rule before every game. And when you get around umpires and you start discussing rules, they can get pretty heated because once you start going in to it, you get different opinions from different guys. But yeah, every day we would bring up a rule or a what-if. Keep in mind that on every play, there’s always the what-ifs. […] But that’s our way to kind of stay in it. Also, the league sends out a rules questionnaire once a month.
Do you have to get a particular score on that?
A.M.: No. Their idea behind it is to get you discussing it, because it’s not in the collective bargaining agreement that we have to get a good score on it.
You talked a little bit about the postseason, but you umpired in the 2006 and 2011 World Series. Which one of those WS’ stood out to you more and why?
A.M.: Not one stood out, they each stood out for different reasons. 2006 stood out because it was my first one. I was nervous, more so when you have the plate. You’re the one game in town. Usually during the season, there are 15 games. [In the World Series,] that’s it, you’re the one game. All the cameras are on you, you want to just come out of there and do a good job. So the first one was memorable because it was my first one but also it was the Kenny Rogers pine tar incident.
My second one was memorable because I actually got to experience more of it because I wasn’t as nervous, I know what to expect. And when I was behind the plate, [Albert] Pujols hit three homeruns that day. So at the time you don’t realize what’s going on, but when you step back after it all happens and you start seeing the news and all that, you think, “Oh that was pretty special.” Also, [there was] the big comeback by St. Louis in game 6. […] Once it’s all over and you go back to the hotel and you start seeing the highlights, it’s like, “Woah, I was just part of that game.” So it’s pretty cool once you step back and look at it. But they were both memorable for different reasons.
On that note, do you ever find yourself getting emotionally involved in a game, like a huge game or a big situation, a walk-off or something where you go, “Wow, I can’t believe this is happening?”
A.M.: No, but it’s all part of all of the years and training, meaning from day one. You’re taught – and we also tell the younger guys now – you have to umpire every game like it’s a World Series game. Having worked the World Series, I now know what it’s like. Because if you start from Opening Day, you think “It’s Opening Day, what could happen, big deal, we’ve got a long way to go,” that’s when umpires start getting in trouble, because you’re not focusing, and you can’t treat the game that way. You can’t go a day, you can’t go a week, can’t go a month, can’t go a season, and can’t go a career umpiring that way. You have to umpire even a Spring Training game, even though it’s more relaxed, as if it was a World Series game. So having done that, all these years, when you’re in that situation, you don’t root [for a team], etc. When it happens, you’re so focused on if something happens you want to get it right. It’s not until after, when you see it on the news or see the highlights, that you go, “That was pretty cool.”
When you look at guys like Clayton Kershaw or Stephen Strasburg who have really exaggerated breaking balls, how do you adjust to that as a home plate umpire when the movement on the ball is so erratic?
A.M.: The one important thing about umpiring whether it’s on the bases or behind the plate is timing. Meaning you have to let everything happen. The times that we start getting in trouble – and what I mean by that is missing pitches, or missing plays – is when we’re too quick. We teach umpires to watch the ball from the minute it leaves the pitcher’s hand to when it’s caught. I mean, our eyes are on that glove. And that’s proper timing. If you start making up your mind before it gets to the catcher, you’re too quick, your timing is quick, and that’s when you miss pitches. Timing is very important with guys like Kershaw, or Strasburg, or the knuckleball. Because if you’re too quick, you’re going to miss them. What looks like a strike up here [lifts hand up], might end up in the dirt. The pitcher pitches it, the catcher catches it, then you call it. So timing is the essential thing for everything, really, as an umpire. And believe me, when we miss a pitch, we’re the first ones to know. Why? Because of timing. A lot of times, a pitch will come in, boom, “ball.” A split second later, you’re going, “dang it.” So if you had waited just a little bit longer, you would’ve got it.
What is your take on catchers who frame pitches, and pull the ball back in to the zone and how do you adjust to that?
A.M.: That all comes from being in the minor leagues. In the minor leagues, there’s no TV. And again, as umpires, you’re learning, so I’m not saying that it works all the time, but I’m pretty sure if I sit back and look at my old tapes from the one or two televised game a year in the minor leagues, I’m sure it worked, where they pull them back. I think that’s where all of that comes from. Here’s my thing on it – if they’re pulling it, what are they telling everybody? That it’s not in the zone, right? If the catcher’s catching it and [pulling his glove back to the zone], well, he just told everybody that it’s not in the strike zone. So I think it doesn’t work in the big leagues. Sometimes they’re pulling pitches that are in the zone. So they’ll pull a strike the [broadcaster] will say “Oh, the umpire was fooled.” Well, no, not really. And sometimes I tell them, “Hey, you’ don’t got to pull it, just catch it.” But my thinking is that if you’re pulling it, you’re telling me and everyone else that it’s not in the strike zone. So, if they’re pulling pitches that are in the zone, I just tell them, “Hey, just catch it.”
I want to bring up a call that you don’t really see every day, and that’s balks. Do you ever feel reluctant to make that call, particularly on a guy who pushes the envelope on every pitch or maybe on every pickoff throw? What are your criteria when you’re making that call?
A.M.: Balks are – I don’t want to say it’s tough, but if I see a guy that’s constantly borderline… say you’re one of those pitchers, and say I see you in Spring Training, if I get a chance to, I’ll go up to you and say, “Hey, don’t forget, I’ll be watching. If you come close on the pickoff to first or second,” you know, I’ll plant the seed. If I have a rapport with the pitching coach, same thing, I’ll just say “Hey, talk to so-and-so, he’s coming close.” I don’t do that during the regular season because it would almost be like I’m cutting them slack. But if I can say it in Spring Training or something, then I will. That way, during the regular season, if I happen to call a balk, they’ll say “Ahh come on!” So I’ll say “I talked to you in Spring Training.” […] So, they’re always going to push the envelope because they’re trying to get the guy out by picking him off or whatever. So those are always tough because they’re always borderline. The easy ones are where they step off with the wrong foot; they drop the ball, or whatever.
How would you describe the relationship between players and umpires? Is it pretty divided or are there certain guys that know you on a first basis, for example?
A.M.: Pretty much everybody is on a first name basis. We don’t hang out together. It’s just the way the job ends up being, because really the one thing we have in common is baseball. They play it, we officiate it. We really don’t have much to talk about outside of the ballpark. We run in to them occasionally, “Hey how’re you doing?” We’ve run in to players, “Hey this is my wife, hey nice to meet you,” and then we just go our own way. On the field sometimes we talk a little more, but it’s more of a “Where are you guys going next? Where are you coming from? Did you see that play in Cincinnati?” Stuff like that. Other than that, it’s probably more, I would say, more professional than a personal basis.
Let’s say you eject a guy one night, it’s the beginning of the series, you see him the next day… Is it ever awkward if you threw a guy out the day before? What’s that like?
A.M.: In the minor leagues, I would get so fired up that I would even stutter. I would get so upset, and I would hold on to that. If I saw you the next day, I would still be mad. But that’s one of those things that’s a part of being young and inexperienced, and immature as an umpire. Because really, what makes a Major League umpire is not whether or not you can call safe/out, ball/strike, or fair/foul. If you can’t do that by the time you get to the big leagues, you shouldn’t be there. What makes a Major League umpire is handling situations and handling different personalities. […] When those tough calls come and you have to eject somebody, we’re really like the “cops” of the field, so our job is to bring a manager from this [raises hand] level, down to this [lowers hand] level, and calm them down. If you can’t, or they choose not to, well, then you have to eject them.
In baseball, there’s no penalties or yellow flags, there’s no 5-yard penalty or 10-yard penalty, there’s no technical foul, you can’t just say “We’re going to add a run.” So in baseball, it’s ejections. That’s it. There’s really nothing else. As you grow, as you mature, as you become experienced as an umpire, you start to realize, especially in the big leagues, there’s no other level. That’s it. You’ve reached the top level. You’re going to live with these guys and they’re going to live with you. They’ll learn that to. You have to understand today I might eject you, I’m not going to get personal with you, hopefully they don’t with you, and tomorrow is a new day. A lot of times, we appreciate that, we respect that, and so do they.
It’s gotten to where they’ll come out and say “Hey Fonz, I’m sorry, I blew a gasket, I apologize.” There’s times where I’ll come out, if I missed the play, umpires don’t like to say I’m sorry, because you can’t get teams used to you apologizing for missing something because it happens. But what I’ll do is I’ll come out and say “Hey listen, I probably could’ve handled that situation a little better.” […] But you try not to say “I’m sorry,” because then they start to expect that all the time. Lou Piniella was a great example. That guy would just go nuts. The fans would think, “Man, that guy hates umpires.” But you’d [eject] him tonight, and he’d put on a show, but you could run in to him that night at the restaurant, and he’d go “hey Fonz, we put on a show didn’t we?” And that’s a professional. What happens today is today and tomorrow is a new day.
What are your criteria for ejecting someone? Is there a magic word that they say or something that is a little bit across the line?
A.M.: Well, by rule, they can’t argue balls and strikes. It’s in the rule book. We’ll give them a warning and if they continue, it’s an ejection. They can’t argue a step balk.
As far as an argument, anything personal. If they say “You-“ and then something else, then it’s pretty much done. They can’t curse you, it just can’t get personal. If they get personal, it’s automatic. And trust me, umpires know when they’re coming. You make a call, boom, you know. Because, you know, it’s a part of the game. Or you know that the situation calls a manager to come out. If they come out and they’re super heated, I normally try to tell them, “Hey, calm down, talk to me, what do you want to tell me?” Or if they go “Fonz, there’s no way, this and that…” I’ll let them tell me what they have, I’ll tell them what I have and what I saw and the reason I called it the way I did. Normally, then, they’ll come back with something else. Once I make sure I gave them the opportunity to tell me what they’re going to tell me, and I explain it to them, anything after that – if they start repeating themselves, if they won’t leave – I’ll tell them “I listened to what you had to say and told you what I have. We have to continue with the game.” And if they continue, I’ll say, “Listen, if you don’t leave, I’m going to have to eject you.” So right there, I’ve warned them twice. A lot of times, I’ll say, “Look, I told you what I have, I’m going to turn around and go back, when I get there, if you’re still there, I’m going to [eject] you.” What we try to learn is that you don’t eject managers and players, they eject themselves by something they say or do. So that’s how we approach it.
What’s going through your mind if you make a call and the stadium is booing you? Do you even notice it?
A.M.: For years it didn’t [bother me], but now because of technology… I mean, when you go to a game, think about this: everybody in the ballpark – and I mean everybody; the fans, the employees, the teams – everybody has access to some type of replay except the umpires. So when we have a call, and we call it, a lot of times the manager will be out there arguing, and you hear the fans, “Ohhh!!!” or get really mad. That’s because they saw a replay, and you might have missed it. So now, you kind of do [notice it], but in the end, I was told a few years ago to always trust what you see. If it goes against the home team, of course the home fans even after a replay are going to see what they want to see anyway.
If you make a questionable call, and you believe it was right, but you go back and look at the replay after the game and see that it was an incorrect call, is there a certain protocol that you follow? What do you do at that point?
A.M.: Well, again, I was taught a long time ago, if you go in and look at a replay and you missed a play, you have to try to learn or find out why. What did I do wrong? Was my angle bad? Was I too far from it? Was I moving? Was my timing too quick? You have to try to narrow it down to what possibly caused you to call it wrong. You’re also taught as a crew on what to do the next time you see that play to avoid missing it. […] When you call something out there, you’re calling what’s in your heart, you call what you think you see. When it’s a really really close play, it’s not as heartbreaking, because it’s just a close play. But this year I missed a play in San Francisco. And I mean, the guy missed the tag by this much [widens hands]. But on the field when I called it, I kind of had an idea now – I knew I missed it. I was supposed to rotate to third from the plate, but I started rotating really late. So I missed that play from the minute the ball was hit because I didn’t do my job, which caused me to miss the play. So I ended up running the manager. I go in, we had a supervisor there, I go in the locker room, he said “Well Fonz, you want to look at the play?” I said, “Eddie, I don’t have to look at it. I missed it from the minute the ball was hit.” He goes, “Yep, I agree.” So, I knew what I did wrong. You just make sure you don’t do that kind of stuff.
On that note, how do you feel about instant replay and the upcoming expansions?
I think instant replay is good for the obvious mistakes, like that play I had in San Francisco. I’m telling you – if I showed you a replay of it, you’d go, “Oh my.” I missed him by a lot. It wasn’t even close. But I guessed because I wasn’t in the right spot. We’ll never be able to compete with technology. Never. Technology is here, it will never go away, and our eyes are not as good as technology. So, we have to adapt. I think replay is good, again, for the obvious mistakes. If you start getting in to really bang-bang, calls that could go either way – I mean, there are some plays that we call and then look at them on replay and I kid you not – you look at one angle, it will show that you’re wrong, and another angle you go, “Wait a minute, you got it right.” So, it’s not intended for those plays. For the obvious ones? Absolutely. It’s helped us with home runs. But with that being said, the number of home runs that get changed in a whole season are very few.
Armando Gallaraga had the perfect game bid, 8.2 innings. There was an incorrect call by Jim Joyce, and it ended the bid for the perfect game and no-hitter. Did you reach out to Joyce? What was your reaction to that? How did that make you feel as an umpire when you saw that?
[My wife and I] were in LA. We ended a day game, and we’re going to my buddy’s house, and I start getting all these text messages from all my buddies. “Hey, what happened to your boy?” or “Hey your boy just cost someone a perfect game.” So in my mind, I’m thinking “Yeah, okay, whatever, must have been a really close play,” and I’m texting my buddy back, “It must have been a really close play.” He’s going, “No, I’m telling you, it was wide open, I can’t believe he missed it.” I couldn’t believe it. We got to my buddy’s house and I saw it, and my heart just sank. I mean, when we saw it, you feel terrible more for the person, Jim Joyce. I mean my heart just sank. It was almost like, I don’t know, I don’t want to say we were devastated […] We were like, “Oh no!” Then you start thinking about his wife, his kids, and you’re like “How could that have happened?”
So, we kind of waited a while and then we reached out to him and said, “Hey, keep your head up, we’ve all been there,” after that, there’s really nothing much you can say. Again, we reached out to him, we saw him at the meetings, and once it all kind of died down… I always ask the guys, when something happens like that, “What did you see? What made you call it the way you did?” […] Sometimes, if you have a guy make a controversial call that ends a game, I like to ask guys, “If you had it all over again would you call it the same way?” Because I like to learn what was in their mind. What went on in their mind? But, yeah, it’s always bad when you see one of your colleagues or you yourself go through something like that. Especially because it could’ve been a perfect game.
In the  World Series, there was the game that ended on the obstruction call. Were you watching that game? What was your reaction to that play?
I was at the gym, and so when I got home [my wife] told me about it, and in my mind – Jim Joyce is at third – so I’m thinking, “please, I hope he gets it right.” So, sure enough when I saw the replay, I go “Oh, okay.”
So it was the correct call then?
How do you feel when a correct call is made but there’s nonetheless so much controversy surrounding the call?
I scream at the TV. When a guy gets something right, I’ll say “Way to go!” I get on the phone right away, start texting him, that way as soon as he gets off the field he can see my text message. In our business of umpiring, nobody other than your peers or your family tells you – or hardly ever tells you – “Hey great call,” or “Hey way to go,” or “You did an awesome job.” Everybody usually likes to point out all the negatives. “Hey, what are you thinking on that pitch?” or “Hey, you missed that pitch.” So if I’m watching, I’ll scream, I’ll clap, I’ll do whatever, and then I’ll start texting him, “Hey way to go, way to make us proud,” that kind of stuff.
Who do you report to directly? Who is your boss?
Our boss right now is Joe Torre. Then there’s Tony Larussa doing a lot of stuff, I don’t know what his title is but he’s around a lot. But Joe Torre is our boss and under him is Peter Woodfork, and then you’ve got ex-umpires Randy Marsh, Rich Rieker, and then below them are supervisors which are all ex-umpires.
Have you met the commissioner?
And how did you react when you found out that Bud Selig is retiring?
I really had no – my initial reaction was, “Who is going to be the next commissioner?”
So you weren’t really close with him at all?
No. Our dealings with him are maybe at a special event, an All-Star game, an Opening Day… he’s come to our meetings. But maybe a hello, that’s about it. I don’t deal much with him.
How are the umpiring crews decided, and who is on your crew?
Last year it was Ted Barrett, he’s like my brother, my best friend. And he actually lives in the next cul-de-sac [over from me]. He’s the crew chief. I was his #2. Then Mike DiMuro, and Scott Barry. How they come up with crews is the crew chief puts a list of 5 guys in order of who they would like, and [MLB] guarantees him one of those guys. So the chief gets one guy and the league assigns the other two to the crew. So right now I’m hoping that I can still be his #2 for years to come.
How is the crew chief decided?
It’s based on seniority. Like when you first get hired, you’re the #4 guy on a crew, meaning you’re the guy with the least seniority. Like I said right now, I’m Teddy’s number. So my next promotion if-you-will would be to become a crew chief. So right now,  was my first year as a number two. So right now, I don’t leave Teddy. I’m on his hip. What I mean by that is when I have to be deal with the office, or he has to deal with rain situations at the stadium, when he has to deal with GMs, managers, I’m always on his side. I just try to absorb everything that I can, so that hopefully one day, when he goes on break, then I can be the crew chief until he comes back. So, that’s how you start getting experience, and then when a crew chief spot opens up, you express your interest, and then they interview guys, and then they decide who to name.
Have you ever dealt with injuries?
You know what? I’ve been really lucky as far as concussions. I’ve been hit, but I’ve been lucky as far as concussions. Yeah, you get hit, you get massive bruises, but I’ve been pretty lucky. Although I did have back surgery 4 years ago, and that was just overtime with everything that we have to do. What’s tough about our job is that you stand around for 10, 15 minutes, and then all of a sudden you have to take off hard, run fast, then stop really hard. Then you stand around for another 10, 15 minutes. Or when it’s really cold… it’s not to where we’re constantly moving around, like in hockey, basketball, football, where they’re running a lot. So, I had a back injury, and ended up having back surgery, but that’s the one injury I’ve had to deal with.
What’s the longest game you’ve ever had to work? How long was it? How do you adjust to being on the field forever during a game?
Let’s see… I worked in San Diego in 2008, I worked 23 innings. I was behind the plate. So, the game started at 7, and we walked off the field after one o’clock in the morning. This last season I worked 21 innings in New York, I think we counted I squatted over 600 times in that whole game. So you just have to keep telling yourself – your body just starts getting tired. That 23-inning game, I couldn’t even say anything. I would call strikes, and nothing would come out. I was so tired. But you just have to keep telling yourself that every pitch matters, everything matters. Stay in it. Sometimes I’ll talk out loud to myself, “Stay in it, don’t lose focus,” and again, you realize that you’re getting tired, then it gets to be like you’re kind of giggling about it with the catcher or something. What made us giggle in San Diego is that they played the 7th inning stretch three times. So we’re giggling about it, kind of makes the time go. But once you’re done with it, and you’re beat, in your hotel room, you’re aching, and then you just have to hydrate, stretch, and be ready to work for the next day.
I just have to ask you about Jon Rauch and the incident in Toronto when he was angry, the jersey came off, people were holding him, what is going through your head when you’ve got a 6’11” Jon Rauch in your face?
You know, you’re not scared, not because you’re a tough guy, I wasn’t scared – again, I’m definitely not a tough guy – but you just know, he’s not going to hit you. I mean, the repercussions of him doing that would be very severe. So, you know he’s not going to hit you. When it happened, I knew he was upset, and you just try to stay calm, and my partners were there in a hurry, they held him back, they did what they did. I think [Toronto Manager John] Farrell dislocated his jaw, Rauch got him with an elbow or something. But you just try to stay calm, so you’re the cop, if you lose it, the guy that’s bad is you. You just try to tell yourself stay calm, and deal with things as they come.
What is the effect that your job has outside that of work, being gone for half the year and living in hotels and things like that?
Man… a lot. You’re gone away from home for up to 8 weeks. Luckily for us, we’re pretty blessed because [my wife] can come out as often as we want to. So we’re blessed that way. But there’s guys who have kids that are in school. If our kids were with us, it’d be tough. It’s tough. It’s tough on your marriage, tough on your relationship with your kids, I mean it’s tough all the way around. But as you grow and you mature personally and as an umpire, you find ways to deal with it. On the back end, you get to be home for 4, 5 months where you don’t have to dedicate your time to the game. So, unfortunately a lot of time it ends in divorce because you’re gone a lot. It’s tough for the wife to be the father, the mother, take care of the house while you’re gone a lot. A lot of times, early in your career, you come home and try to take over, like “Okay, I got this honey.” Where your wife already has a system, she knows what she’s doing, and then you come home and you’re just messing things up. And then you’re like, “Well, wait a minute, I’m the man, I take care of this stuff.” You realize you just get home and kind of blend in. Again, on the backside, you get to be home and dedicate your whole time to your family.
Well that’s all I got for you. Thanks a lot Fonz, I really appreciate it.
*Editor’s Note: This was published in 2014. Marquez has since umpired in his third World Series, the 2015 match-up between Kansas City and New York (NL).