WARNER ROBINS -- There are similarities to being a baseball umpire and a law enforcement officer.
At least that is what Ron Brainard of the Houston County Sheriffs Office believes.
The 52-year-old umpire said he sometimes has to use law enforcement tactics for crowd control at Warner Robins American Little League baseball games as many parents are passionate about the sport and the calls the umpire makes.
Behind home plate, Brainard dons his gear including a mask and chest protector. He leans in close to the catcher to call balls and strikes. And although the Air Force veteran had Lasik eye surgery a few years ago, that doesnt stop him from wearing glasses when he umpires.
I wear them out here, so people cant say, Put your glasses on, he said smiling.
He takes pride in his appearance as an umpire and makes sure he comes dressed in his uniform to the field. His pregame meetings with the managers of the opposing teams are brief, though Brainard takes a few seconds to talk to each catcher.
You gonna take care of me tonight? he asks the player. Yes, sir, comes the reply from beneath the catchers mask.
Although his children are grown, Brainard still finds time to volunteer at the league. He is in his 10th year of umpiring. He started out with the Houston County Umpires Association and has a dream to go to the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as an umpire. To do that, an umpire must not be paid.
The past few years, Brainard has looked up to his umpiring hero, Robbie Guest.
Guest was chosen to be an umpire for the Little League Baseball World Series in 2012.
Baseball is a love of Brainards, and when he couldnt play the game anymore, he chose to give back to the sport that gave him so much pleasure.
Though he doesnt have a lot of experience in tournament play, Brainard hopes to get some in the district and state tournaments, which will be held at WRALL this summer.
Im getting better with every game, he said.
League president Joey Stella had nothing but praise for Brainard.
He knows the rules, Stella said. He studies hard and works hard at it.
The hardest part of umpiring, Brainard said, was learning to control the flinch when the ball is thrown. He said it is a natural reaction to want to close your eyes, but, of course, even with his just-for-show glasses it is hard to call a ball a strike with the eyes closed.
The league could always use more umpires, he said.
There are a lot of people who feel like they are qualified, he said looking to the parents sitting in the bleachers.
In a season that starts in March and ends in the middle of June, players and teams get to know one another in this highly competitive league. The umpire has seen some of the players go from Tee ball to playing in the major league at WRALL.
Really the best enjoyment is to watch the kids enjoy the game, Brainard said.