Alberto Collado is a baseball umpire in Greater Boston who earns respect with strong on-field relationships. Even when his calls are wrong, it’s alright.
Most umpires play it close to the vest when it comes to confronting ballplayers on the field. After a close call that doesn’t go a player’s way, the player may erupt. The man in blue is the one who typically takes the heat.
Umpiring is a unique profession where it is common to be told that you are no good at your job, almost every day. Even good umpires know they can’t get the call right every time. At the amateur level, what makes an umpire great is not just their eye for the strike zone, but the bond they form with the players. When an umpire has strong relationships with athletes on the field, even when there are questionable calls, they are recognized as part of the game, and the umpire receives some level of forgiveness. Alberto Collado is an umpire who is well-known by those he’s had a chance to officiate, and is often viewed as one of the best in the game.
On the field, Alberto is recognized by his boisterous “Ah, Sí!” trademark strikeout call. And while last names are a staple in baseball, everybody bonds with Alberto using his first name.
Alberto Collado is 55 years old, lives in Roslindale, MA, and is a member of the South Shore Umpires Association. He was originally trained to officiate baseball in New York City by professional Caribbean umpires. He later received certification at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in Florida. Alberto arrived on the Boston scene in 2001 while visiting from his home in New York to officiate a youth tourney. Shortly thereafter, he made Boston his permanent home.
“I started here to do an AAU tournament and somebody saw me umpiring. He approached me, and then his boss called me up. Then I moved to Boston so I’d be able to do a lot of baseball games.” And a lot of games he has done.
“I’ve done games in the MSBL, MABL, Yawkey League, Park League, AAU, high school, a little bit of college. It’s so many leagues. I can’t remember them all. Last time I counted, I had 202 games this year. I average 230. Last year I did 270 games.”
Many umpires try to distance themselves from the ballplayers they see with such regularity, so that conflict doesn’t get personal. Alberto’s approach is different.
“One of the umpire laws says that it’s not too good to be friendly with the players. But I like to do it opposite so I can relate to the players on the field and I can probably get them out of trouble, get myself out of trouble, by just mingling with them and talking about certain plays that they might like, they might not like. If they get upset, I can work with them, and this way I can not throw them out of a game.”
It’s a plan that has worked. Alberto has only tossed a handful of players out of games in the last 4 years.
“I have a good relationship with the players, so it works perfect with me, so far. No problem at all.”
Recognizing that it can be tough to come to work and be disagreed with so regularly, Alberto has learned to manage these situations.
“As an umpire, it comes from experience with the years you work in this business. You’re gonna know that one team is going to be happy, and another team is not gonna happy with you. Of course the winning team is gonna be absolutely great. You’re the best for them. The losing team is gonna be mad with you, because they probably lost the game because of you.”
Alberto even brought up a call he admittedly blew that cost a team the game.
“On that play, it was the bottom of the seventh inning, home team is hitting. And I made the wrong call, and the guy from third scores the tying run, the guy from second scored the winning run. And the game was over on a call that I made that was incorrect. So you have to learn how to deal with it. As an umpire you don’t want the game to finish on your call. You want the players to win or lose the game.”
That play didn’t sit well with Alberto, but he handled it well.
“It did bother me a little bit. But at the same time, as an umpire, you can not carry one game in your personal life, or a mistake you did, you have to understand there is a next game tomorrow.”
Knowing that the umpire is always expected to be right, Alberto commented on what truly makes a good umpire.
“What I really believe is that an umpire is only good in the game they are doing that day. I don’t think there is a good umpire or a bad umpire. I don’t think there is a better umpire than another umpire. I just think what you do best in that one game you’re doing that one day is what really counts. So I try to do my best at that game that I’m doing that night or that day. I’m not better than anybody. I could have a good game last night, and the next day and have a terrible game. It all depends how you work, and how you approach the game, that day.”
It was tough for Alberto to pinpoint his favorite games to come to work for.
“I do so many leagues with prestigious names. Personally, my best games have been in the MABL. I feel that the players in the MABL play with heart – especially in the championship games. A few years ago we had a really good series between the White Sox and Cutters. I enjoyed that series so much. It was very intense. The guys were into it. It was so much beautiful baseball. I got to say, maybe my favorite league, and maybe I’ll get in trouble for saying this, is the MABL. They not the greatest players out here, but they give me the best games.”
Jason Bressner joined the Boston MABL in 2001, the same year as Alberto, as a manager for the Boston Orioles, where he remains today as the league’s second-most tenured skipper.
“I love having Alberto as an umpire because of his infectious love for baseball, which manifests itself through his animated calls, and the enjoyment that he finds in chatting with the players. He knows me and many of my teammates well from the many conversations that we’ve had over the years between innings and after games.”
Alberto is perhaps more accurate with his calls than perhaps he gives himself credit for.
Bressner added: “More than any other umpire in the league, he also has earned the respect of the players for his ability to get almost every call right, leaving teams to dictate the outcome of each contest themselves. Alberto is an iconic figure in the Boston MABL and one of the league’s greatest assets.”
Alberto is a humble guy, and is quick to assure all umpires get their fair share of credit.
“I’m very happy to be a Boston baseball umpire and am very, very content. I just want everybody to know out there how difficult this job is and how hard all of us try to do the best we can. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. We’re human. But I want to congratulate my other partners. I don’t know one umpire that doesn’t do the best of their ability. It’s great to be around those guys.”
Brett Rudy lives in Boston, Massachusetts where he created Baseball Is My Life, and is co-founder of Charity Hop Sports Marketing, helping athletes raise money for their philanthropic initiatives. Brett helped launch Charity Wines with more than 30 professional athletes, selling more than one million bottles of wine. Brett is also the creator of the Corked Bat Collection, 100 Innings of Baseball for ALS, the Cooperstown Classic at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Winterball for Toys for Tots. In his spare time, Brett plays outfield in the Boston Men’s Baseball League.