Ace Boschee has a way of covering all his bases.
Boschee started umpiring at the age of 17 and now, more than 50 years later, is still a staple at diamonds throughout the area.
“I enjoy it. I do,” he said. “I’ve had a good time and met a lot of good people.”
While Boschee used to officiate basketball games for many years, the Columbia man is best known for his work at baseball and softball games.
He recalled the first game he ever worked as a teenager in 1968.
“My uncle managed the town team,” Boschee said. “The guy that did (the umpiring) couldn’t make it, so I ended up working amateur baseball the rest of the year.”
Boschee said he was not intimidated calling games for older players and soon found his niche in the game.
“To me it’s been fun,” he said. “If you can have fun, it’s alright, but you have to learn to give up a lot of things.”
Through the years, Boschee has been involved in numerous memorable plays and moments on the diamond. Perhaps the most bizarre occurred in the first game he ever umped.
Boschee still remembers wild play in his first game
“I still remember, my uncle sent a guy home from third base and I’m starting out and not knowing, and I needed to brush off the plate,” Boschee explained as if the play happened just yesterday. “So I was brushing off the plate and the next thing here comes the guy sliding right between my legs. And I go ‘What?!’ And the catcher goes, ‘He can’t do that.’ I looked out and (the runner) said, ‘Well you didn’t call time.’ And I told him, ‘Get back,’ so he went back.”
Then there was the time when an infielder complained about an error called on him on a ground ball. He told Boschee, who was working the bases at the time, the ball hit a rock and he shouldn’t have been charged with an error. Moments later another ball was hit that the player was unable to field, and he claimed it was a different rock that was responsible.
One thing has remained consistent through the years, though. Boschee, as an umpire, always has the final say.
One time a player was picked off first base and a coach came out to complain to Boschee about the call.
“He said, ‘You know the kid you called out, he goes to church every Sunday. And he said he was safe. He wasn’t tagged,” Boschee said. “I said I go to church twice a year and I say he’s out.”
While Boschee certainly missed a few calls through the years, like any umpire, his memory of those is not as long as it is for those involved in those calls.
He recalled a time when an individual approached him about a call that was made decades ago.
“He said you remember that don’t you?” Boschee said, noting he had probably made 3,000 calls since that occasion. “I said, yeah, I probably do,” mainly to appease the person. “He walks away, he’s happy.”
Umpire remembers his favorite game
Boschee has worked numerous state tournaments in both baseball and softball. He said one game sticks out in particular.
“I worked the championship game of the state amateur (baseball tournament), two Sioux Falls teams, 1-0 in 10 innings,” Boschee said. “And when you have two Sioux Falls teams, they’ll let you know.”
But, he quickly added, “I don’t think I missed any that game.”
Needless to say, there have been many interesting conversations that have taken place during his 54 years of working games, but Boschee said he never second guesses his calls.
“I’ve always told them, I’ll sleep just as good tonight as I did last night,” he said.
While Boschee has thrown out about 10 people in softball and 10 others in baseball through the years, he said he never wants to eject anybody.
“I’m not looking to toss somebody,” Boschee said. “I’m going to have a say and when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough.”
However, Boschee always tries to diffuse a situation with a little levity if possible. After all, he said, it’s only a game.
“I don’t care, even in the big leagues, it’s not as big as life,” he said. “It’s a game and you have to have fun with it.”
Still, there are a few games that feel just a bit more important than others.
“You like to say that you treat every game the same,” Boschee said. “But I’ve worked state championship games and you can feel the pressure a little bit in that.”
Boschee currently serves as a district commissioner and still umps his share of games.
Boschee realizes his final game as an umpire is approaching
Now 72, Boschee knows the time is getting closer and closer to his final game. He had quadruple bypass surgery about 17 months ago but is still going strong.
“My two therapists at Avera helped me through,” he said.
Having had a decorated career, he has a few words of advice for aspiring umpires, specifically that sacrifices have to be made.
“You have to give up stuff, but you don’t have to be like me, go, go, go,” Boschee said, “but you still have to give up some things in life.”
Boschee isn’t quite sure when he will make his final out call, which in turn will mean that he is out of the game. But knows it is coming sooner rather than later.
“I’d like to think never, but it’s going to happen,” Boschee said of when he will step away from the game that he has been a part of for more than five decades. “I always tell them I’m going to go one more year. Well, another year comes, (then) one more, but it will come.”
In the meantime, he will continue to head out to ballparks to do something that has brought him a lifetime of enjoyment as he has found a way to stay connected to the game.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Boschee said. “I wish I could start all over again.”