It's that time of year again when it's great to show umpires that you care.
The fourth annual UMPS CARE Charities Online Auction got under way on Friday, and if the previous three years were any indication, the bidding will be brisk between now and the 8 p.m. ET closing on May 13.
Major League Baseball umps will offer more than 200 ticket packages, signed items and one-of-a-kind VIP experiences at MLB.com/UmpsCare, with proceeds helping to provide MLB experiences for children awaiting adoption, Build-A-Bear Workshop experiences for children coping with cancer and college scholarships for deserving young adults who were adopted as children.
"The online auction is a major fundraiser for UMPS CARE Charities and has received quite a bit of attention in its first three years," said Gary Darling, MLB umpire and president of UMPS CARE Charities. "The auction will be hosted on MLB.com and has something for everyone, from autographed memorabilia to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so we encourage fans to tell all of their friends to check the auction out on MLB.com and bid generously."
Say this for umpires: They know people. They end up with some of the best auction listings you'll find anywhere. Here are some of the coolest items on the block this time:
The opportunity to throw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field; a signed Albert Pujols Angels jersey; family four-packs for a special Father's Day outing; chances to watch batting practice from the field at many MLB ballparks; and more than 50 suites or ticket blocks from Minor League clubs, so fans can see rising stars up close.
A home plate from the 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona, signed by Commissioner Bud Selig and that night's umpiring crew at Chase Field. This is especially attractive for National League bidders.
Signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys from stars of yesterday and today, including Roy Halladay, Frank Robinson, Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, Ichiro, Yogi Berra and Bryce Harper.
Greg Gibson's No. 53 World Series Base Jacket, size medium, worn during the 2011 World Series. We guarantee you none of your friends or family has this, and if you're a Cardinals fan, it might be another piece of title memorabilia you must have.
Plenty of items for the non-baseball fan as well. Examples include a golf experience at Pinehurst with a PGA pro; two-night hotel stays from the finest hotels, including the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan; a Build-A-Bear signed by The Jonas Brothers; a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus gift pack; a pin flag from the 2011 PGA Championship signed by winner Keegan Bradley; and much more.
To put you into the proper mindset for the competitive bidding ahead, it may be best to remember the words of former umpire Doug Harvey during his 2012 Hall of Fame Induction speech:
"You cannot have fear and officiate properly, believe me. Absolutely fearless! That's what it takes -- among many other things. You have to show bravado whether you are feeling it inside or not."
UMPS CARE Charities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit established by MLB umpires to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America's youth and families in need. Through their youth-based programs, umpires enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness by providing memorable baseball experiences, supporting pediatric medical care and raising awareness for foster care children waiting to be adopted. For more information, like Facebook.com/UmpsCare.