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Just a quick glance at the box score will tell you that Thursday evening's game between the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the Asheville Tourists was a wild affair.
The visiting Tourists plated six runs in the ninth to take an 8-7 lead, but the Grasshoppers evened it up in the bottom of the frame. Then, after three scoreless innings, both teams managed to push across a run in the 13th. The pitching-depleted Tourists sent first baseman Bo Bowman to the mound in the 14th, and the emergency hurler loaded the bases before finally allowing Joel Staples' game-winning single.
This ballgame was even crazier than the box score lets on, however.
Try this one on for size -- over the final eight innings of the contest, the role of field umpire was filled by pitchers from both teams.
This rare, but not unprecedented, occurrence was the result of a scary event that took place in the sixth inning. Home plate umpire Koyu Inoue was struck in the head by a foul ball and knocked unconscious, and the ballgame was delayed for 47 minutes while he was attended to on the field. Inoue was taken to a hospital for observation, but returned to the ballpark later in the evening.
When play resumed, field umpire Jason Hutchings moved behind home plate. Taking his place in the field were a pair of pitchers -- Brandon Todd of the Grasshoppers and Adam Jorgenson of the Tourists.
Yes, this is standard operating procedure.
"This isn't as unusual as you may think it is, especially in leagues with a two-umpire system," said Justin Klemm, the executive director of the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation (PBUC). "Should one umpire become ill or injured, the other umpire can use his discretion and select a player from each team to work the bases."
As for what players are selected, that is usually left to each team's manager.
"It has generally been starting pitchers; guys who have pitched the night before, or might be scheduled for the next night."
Todd and Jorgenson are both relievers, but each had pitched on Wednesday. Needless to say, neither of them expected to be thrust into the role of umpire.
[Tourists manager Joe Mikuluk] came over and told me 'You're gonna go ump,' and I thought he was joking," said Jorgenson. "He was serious."
An arrangement was made so that the moonlighting pitchers switched back and forth between first and third base. The first base umpire would be from the defensive team, while the third base arbiter represented the offense.
"I didn't have to deal with any bang-bang plays, fortunately," said Jorgenson. "At first I was kind of nervous, because you have it in your head that you're going to [make calls] one way, and then it doesn't come out the way you thought it would. But after two or three innings, it felt natural."
As it turned out, Jorgenson and Todd had more than enough time to settle in.
"Every half-inning, me and [Todd] would say stuff to each other as we walked across the field. But by the 10th inning, we were just rolling our eyes," said Jorgenson. "And it was Thirsty Thursday, too, so there were a lot of fans giving me a hard time."
As it turned out, Jorgenson was relieved of his umpiring duties after the 13th, when it became apparent he might be needed to pitch. Kurt Yacko, who had pitched the ninth and 10th innings for the Tourists and was charged with a blown save, took over in the 14th.
Thursday's wild ballgame capped what turned out to be a very memorable series. On Tuesday, Hutchings made headlines after he ejected the Grasshoppers' canine mascot, Master Yogi Berra, for using the playing field as a personal toilet.
"That's one of the great things about Minor League Baseball, that those kind of things happen," said Klemm. "This is an entertainment business, so we tell our umpires that to be part of the entertainment is okay, and even encouraged."
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.