While helping to coach his 7-year-old son's baseball team in Pensacola, Bubba Watson encountered a major issue before a recent game."This was a makeup from a rainout, and there was a mix up. We had no umpires!" Watson said, smiling. "No one was around to umpire."So Watson accepted that role.The
While helping to coach his 7-year-old son's baseball team in Pensacola, Bubba Watson encountered a major issue before a recent game.
"This was a makeup from a rainout, and there was a mix up. We had no umpires!" Watson said, smiling. "No one was around to umpire."
So Watson accepted that role.
The PGA Tour star, a two-time Masters champion and co-owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, was now standing behind second base, making his umpiring debut.
"I was the umpire… for both teams. So, they trust me, right?" Watson said, laughing, as he recalled the experience while playing last week at the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic in New Orleans. "They knew I wasn't picking sides.
"But it was interesting, for sure. You have to watch all this stuff at once. In coach-pitch, you only get six pitches. And it doesn't matter if they are all wild or not, if you don't swing, you are out. So I'm also having to watch the pitch count, too. But it was great."
Last Friday, a group of 75 Blue Wahoos' season-ticket holders, sponsors, and front office staff traveled on two charter buses to see Watson and playing partner J.B. Holmes play in the Zurich Classic. Watson won the 2011 Zurich Classic, back when it was a individual play event.
His baseball affinity began as he grew up in Milton playing youth baseball for 13 years. Before golf entered the picture, Watson dreamed of being a left-handed pitcher in the major leagues. His father, Gerry, a Vietnam veteran and Green Beret, grew up a New York Yankees fan hoping his son would be the next Don Mattingly.
All of that background led Watson in January 2015 to join the Blue Wahoos as a minority partner with team owners Quint and Rishy Studer.
"If you can't play, owning a team isn't bad either," said Watson, laughing. "It is a dream come true. As a guy who loves sports, a guy who dreamed about owning his own team one day, a guy who loves the game of baseball, this has been great."
Before playing in the Zurich Classic, Watson attended a Blue Wahoos game against the Mobile BayBears with his wife Angie, son Caleb and 4-year-old daughter Dakota. The family outing, complete with taste-testing different items from the Blue Wahoos' concessions, reinforced a baseball fan's benefits.
"It's a family atmosphere. That's what we try to create," Watson said. "I think we are doing a great job of that. I can see it in my 4-year-old daughter and my son. They want to go to the games, they want to watch the team, want to be around the team. They want to be inspired by these young guys.
"What Quint's vision was…was how do you grow a community? How do you get a community to come together? And sports is one of the best ways to do that. And we have seen it around the world time after time. And Pensacola is now having a taste of it."
Whenever Watson is around the team, there is admiration for how professional baseball players prepare daily for each game and the long grind of a season. Whether it's the major league level or Double-A, the schedule is basically the same.
"Their schedule is more demanding, because they really have no days off," Watson said. "I can pick and choose my tournaments at this level. They can't do that. They are trying to make it to the high level. If the game is at 6 or 6:30, they are getting there at one o'clock. They are working out, they take infield and batting practice, so they're at the stadium five to six hours before a game.
"For me, that's my whole round in a tournament. And they are just warming up to then play a game that night. So when you see their dedication and drive and striving to get to the next level, it's inspiring for me as an athlete."
Watson's son has shown an interest in being a catcher. He watched the Blue Wahoos catchers and asked his father about the equipment and way catchers handle every pitch.
Watson said it has meant a lot to him just seeing Caleb smile and watch each pitch during games. Both of his children are now old enough to understand some of the aspects of attending a game.
"Caleb asked me to go to batting practice, so he could talk to the team, hang out in the dugout," Watson said. "Now, he might steal some of the bubble gum, too, that's in a bucket in the dugout, but he loves being there.
"As a dad, luckily, I am able to do that. Just watching him as the National Anthem is played. What an honor and a privilege that is. Pensacola has such a long history with the military and so being part of that is special.
"And then you have the friendly atmosphere at the games and all the things we try to do to make it fun for young kids."
The experience is what Quint and Rishy Studer have focused upon with the Blue Wahoos and the Double-A affiliation with the Minnesota Twins.
"Quint's vision to bring a baseball team here. And somehow I snuck into that vision," Watson said. "And so I am helping now. Years and years to come, his legacy will be there from that baseball team he created and brought to Pensacola. It wasn't easy to do. But he worked hard to make it happen."