Umpire Ted Barrett pauses at home plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Seattle Mariners Sept. 5, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
By Scott Barkley
HOUSTON (BP) – Ted Barrett is headed back to the World Series.
A full-time umpire for Major League Baseball since 1999, Barrett’s testimony and leadership on the diamond has been documented by Baptist Press and a couple of months ago chronicled by the New York Times through the ministry he co-founded, Calling for Christ. On Oct. 15, the day after his crew wrapped up the divisional round between the Giants and Dodgers, Barrett received word that for the fifth time he would be among those making the calls on baseball’s biggest stage.
The 56-year-old ordained Southern Baptist minister has a seasoned perspective from when he first began calling some MLB games in 1994.
“It’s truly a gift,” he told Baptist Press today from his hotel room across from Minute Maid Park. “All good things come from God and this was a surprise for me.”
Typically, four to five years may pass between an umpire’s opportunities to be in the World Series. Barrett, whose most recent call-up came in 2018, will work tonight’s Game 1 between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at third base. Houston is going for its second championship since 2017 while the Braves, after a decade of divisional dominance in the ‘90s brought one title, is returning to the Series for the first time this century.
Barrett’s work off the baseball field overshadows his work on it. Through Calling for Christ, he encourages peers to stay strong in their faith through (when possible) in-person gatherings but also by virtual meet-ups from whatever various cities have a game that day. In his career he’s witnessed the Gospel’s impact on those working a high-stress job that has no shortage of people telling you you’re doing it wrong.
“It’s been really cool coming up with guys in the minor leagues who, at first, had no interest in church or Scripture,” he said. “I get to see their participation grow at things like a retreat or spring training Bible study. They get involved and go deep. It’s great to watch.”
Two of those involved in Calling for Christ, Alfonso Marquez and Mike Muchlinske, will be on the field with Barrett tonight. All three will have a small, metal cross that Barrett’s 81-year-old dad, Jim, a retired welder from Buffalo, N.Y., made in his backyard in Arizona.
“Since he makes them, they’re all a little different,” said Barrett. “Mine is attached to my stopwatch and so when I walk around it hangs from my pocket. Fans will see it and say something. They also see us pray at home plate before a game.”
That witness extends to the game itself.
“On the field, I want to be an example of a Christ-follower with integrity. I say Jesus would have been the ultimate umpire, with His ability to make the tough calls. I call people out, but grace and forgiveness can be there when confrontation happens. When I walk out there, I feel I have favor from God with the interaction I have with players, managers and coaches.”
2021’s version of baseball is different than last year, he noted. Although there was a champion crowned, the absence of crowds made the game different. It was very strange and surreal, he said.
“I’m really looking forward to tonight and having the fans back,” said Barrett, who was in the crew that officiated the 2020 National League Championship Series. “It’s going to be loud and rocking.”
And yet, he’s even more eager for what comes after the season. That includes spending time with his grandkids, ministry through Calling for Christ and filling pulpits.
“A lot of guys, as we get older, realize more and more how much we rely on God,” he said. “The reality is God has been carrying me all along. Whatever God has next, I’m going to enjoy it. We’re to give it all to God and let things play out.”
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