MLB umpire Chris Guccione is used to making tough calls. This one, however, was easy.
Guccione extended an invitation to 13-year-old Josh Cordova, his parents and his siblings for Sunday’s Rockies-Dodgers game in Denver after he heard what Cordova experienced on June 15 at Westgate Elementary School in Lakewood, Colo.
Authorities said a youth-league game between 7-year-olds, in which Cordova was the umpire, turned into an on-field brawl between adults when Cordova asked the supporters of both teams to stop cursing. Lakewood police later issued citations to 12 people in connection with the brawl, which was captured on video and has gone viral.
“When I saw the story I was shocked and I was saddened and I wanted to reach out,” Guccione told 9 News in Denver.
Guccione is a native of Colorado and was in the area to serve as an umpire at the weekend series between the Rockies and Dodgers. He knows from years of experience just how tough it can be sometimes to keep the peace. He umpired his first major-league game in 2000, has been a full-time umpire since 2009 and umpired the 2016 World Series. He worked at third base on Sunday, which saw Los Angeles beat Colorado 10-5 to win its MLB-best 57th game so far this season.
Still, Sunday’s game was a moment Cordova will never forget. In fact, Cordova was the guest of honor. He went out onto the field for opening lineups, got a new chest protector and even got to ask Guccione a few questions.
“It means so much,” Cordova said to thedenverchannel.com. “I’m so appreciative of what he’s done. It’s surreal.”
Guccione’s act of encouragement seems to have worked. Cordova said he is going to keep umpiring, and hopefully become a professional just like his new friend.
Guccione, who is a follower of Christ, was a guest on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last October. He came to faith in 2011 when fellow umpire Mark Wegner invited him to church one day. Guccione kept attending and slowly began to realize that his life of sin would lead only to destruction. He needed a Savior to take control.
“I went to church by myself and I just got down on my knees after the church service,” Guccione said on the podcast. “I sat there and said, ‘Jesus, I’m sorry. I’m a sinner and I want you in my life.’ I walked out of church and … I know the angels were singing in Heaven.”
Finally, the burdens of his previous life disappeared, only to be replaced by God’s love. Guccione is now free to share that love with others, like encouraging a 13-year-old aspiring umpire named Josh Cordova.
Guccione told ESPN The Magazine in 2014, “There’s just a feeling of ease now, when you realize there’s something so much bigger than what you feel is the biggest thing in your life — something so much more grand.”
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