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Grayson Jordan: Beginner umpire meets his idol

Young umpire gets a visit from MLB's Hudson

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST …
Eleven-year-old Grayson Jordan umpired a Rowan Little League baseball game at Salisbury Community Park on Thursday. Grayson idolizes MLB umpire Marvin Hudson and the big-league ump made a surprise visit on Thursday to watch the youngster call balls and strikes.

By Dennis Davidson

dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Umpire Grayson Jordan was about to call his first game behind the plate on Thursday when he got emotional.

That’s O.K. Any of us would react that way if our idol showed up at our big moment.

You see, Grayson is not your usual umpire. He’s 11 years old.

While most 11-year-olds want to play baseball and grow up to be like Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout, Grayson wants to be like major league baseball umpire Marvin Hudson.

And who showed up to watch Grayson’s debut during a Rowan Little League fall baseball game Thursday night at Salisbury Community Park? That’s right, 22-year MLB veteran umpire Marvin Hudson.

“I got emotional because I never thought he (Hudson) would come here,” said Grayson. “It was an honor and he said that I did awesome. It was really a big surprise to see him.”

It’s not often that you see an umpire who is the same age or maybe even younger than the players, but Grayson seemed to have administered his responsibilities just fine. He even handled a play at the plate early in the game.

“It looks like he’s doing a real nice job out there,” Hudson noted, during the early innings. “But it’s all about kids having some fun out there, whether they’re playing or umpiring.”

Robyn Creason, Grayson’s mother, started her son in pre-Tee ball when he was just 3 years old. But by the time Grayson was 5, he started noticing the umpires and soon after, picked Hudson as his favorite. Grayson has even picked up the nickname, “Little Marvin,” from family members, several of whom were there in support Thursday evening.

Robyn and Grayson live in Rowan County but she works in Davie County, so her son is a sixth-grader at South Davie Middle School.  In February, they traveled to Florida for some major league spring training games in hopes of meeting Hudson.

It worked.

“In Florida, we were first row at a Red Sox game and sure enough, Marvin walked out onto the field and Grayson just went crazy,” said Robyn. “He started yelling, ‘Marvin! Marvin!’ and Marvin looked around at us.”

Fans are usually closer to the field at the smaller spring training ballparks, and Hudson confirmed that first meeting.

“I had no idea that they were there,” said Hudson. “We came out and this kid was hollering, ‘Mr. Marvin!’ I just waved, but he said his name was Little Marvin. In spring training games, umpires rotate bases after three innings. And when I got to third base, we motioned to each other that we were watching each other.”

And they met after the game.

“Throughout the whole game, they made eye contact with each other and then, after the game, Grayson didn’t care about the players, he wanted an autograph from Marvin,” said Robyn.

Robyn and Grayson also saw Hudson in Atlanta this past summer.

“We went to two Braves games this year in and saw Marvin again and hung out with him for a little bit after each game,” remembers Robyn. “Marvin’s just been a really big inspiration and pretty much told Grayson that he can be anything he wants to be as long as he tries hard and does well in school.”

Grayson made his first umpiring appearance earlier this year, calling bases during some softball games. But when Robyn learned that her son was going to be calling balls and strikes on Thursday, she contacted the Hudson home in Georgia and it just happened to work out.

“My wife and Robyn had been talking and I found out that he was umpiring,” said Hudson. “I was heading to Durham for a clinic this weekend, so I just came up a day early, so I could come by and see him work tonight.”

Hudson wears No. 51 on his umpiring uniform and Grayson did likewise on Thursday evening.

***

Even when Grayson was playing baseball, either as a first baseman or pitcher (he’s left-handed), he saw that the umpires were a big part of the game as well.

“I’ve just always noticed the umpires when I went to baseball games,” Grayson explained. “I have been to some (Kannapolis) Intimidators games and watched the umpires. And he (Hudson) became a big inspiration after I read about him and watched some of his videos.”

As mom watched during Thursday’s game, Robyn was beaming with pride, even more so than some of the players’ parents. She was thankful that Rowan Little League administrator Jeff Bernhardt permitted Grayson to umpire behind the plate.

“It’s even more exciting watching him do this, because I know it’s what he really loves,” added Robyn. “He’s good at it. To be 11 years old … he really knows his stuff and knows the rules. It’s what he wants to do and I have no doubt that he’ll make it.”

Hudson, 54, is one of 76 MLB umpires and made his debut in 1997, getting the call while in Triple A. He was in Durham and was told to be in Philadelphia the next day. He has had a distinguished career and was a member of the crew that called the 2016 World Series (Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians), the 2014 ALCS and the 2004 MLB All-Star Game, among other big assignments.

Hudson helped start the Blue for Kids Foundation, which is now part of Umps Care, the MLB umpires’ charity. Umps Care annually provides four $10,000 scholarships for kids, does hospital visits for terminally ill children in various cities and working with the MLB teams, leaves tickets for the underprivileged.

For Grayson, after battling his nerves early on, he said his biggest challenge during Thursday’s game was keeping his strike zone consistent. The experience looks to have only increased his passion for umpiring.

“If I’m going to get the chance to keep umpiring, I may not play anymore,” said Grayson. “I’m going to chase my dream of being a major league umpire.”

That probably sounds good to Hudson, who admits to being surprised by that initial encounter in Florida.

“Yes, I was, but happy at the same time,” said Hudson. “You never know, as you’re coming through life, how you’re going to affect somebody’s life with the way you act and so forth.

“And I’ve never asked why he picked me … I thought that I had better leave well enough alone before he changes his mind,” laughed Hudson.

NOTE: In a coincidence, Seattle Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager was very surprised when he ran into Hudson at the community park on Thursday — obviously, one of those out-of-context moments. “I thought, ‘what is he doing here?'” said Seager. “But Marvin is a good umpire and a great guy.” Seager is a Kannapolis native and still lives in the area during the off-season.

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