Chris Hunt hails from a family of cops, for whom breaking up fights is second nature.
Now Hunt wants to transfer his 13 years of dispute mediation on the streets to another arena: the baseball field. Hunt, who currently co-runs a private investigation firm in Sarasota, is training to become a baseball umpire. At 40, Hunt says he’s too old to get an umpiring gig in the major leagues. So, he set his sights on a full-time job in college baseball.
Hunt’s passions have long been law enforcement and baseball. He worked for a county sheriff’s department in New York for several years before he moved in the mid-1990s to the Gulf Coast, where he worked for police departments in Punta Gorda and Sarasota. Before that career, Hunt, a first baseman, played semi-pro baseball and had several unsuccessful major league tryouts.
Hunt and former Sarasota police officer Scott Blackstone founded their own private investigation firm, BlackstoneHunt, in 2007. Even though the recession started soon after, the timing proved fortuitous, because the firm found a niche in processing foreclosures for overwhelmed counties.
Still, the work can be inconsistent, and it’s not where Hunt’s heart lies. Instead, that focus shifted to umpiring.
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Hunt’s umpiring experience:
Recent accomplishment: Hunt was one of the few participants older than 40 to ever complete the five-week training session at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, in Kissimmee. The academy, run by former major league ump Jim Evans, is one of the top schools in the country for training professional umpires.
Training regimen: Wind sprints, early and often, were the most common training exercise. Sessions ran six days a week, with at least four hours a day on the field. “It was an unbelievable workout,” he says. “It was a ton of stop and go. It’s physically demanding if you do it right.”
Balls and strikes: Consistency is the key lesson Hunt picked up at school, one he diligently tries to execute on the field. Knowing the rules and maintaining credibility are other keys to the job — similar to law enforcement. “I equate umpiring to being a police officer,” says Hunt. “That’s why I like it so much.”
Bounce back: Hunt says umpiring is also similar to his business life with BlackstoneHunt in that you can’t let mistakes distract you from the next task.
It happens much faster in umpiring than in the private investigation business, but the psychology is the same. “You have to be strong upstairs,” he says. “You have to have a short memory.”
More than a game: In less than a year in umpiring, Hunt has discovered that finding work is just like any other new business: Networking is immensely important, and so is the old saw: It’s not what you know, but who you know. So Hunt builds a baseball Rolodex by going to baseball camps, local little league games and anything baseball where he can meet potential contacts. “You got to get your name out there,” he says.
Current work: Hunt picked up jobs at high school games in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. He has also worked games in the Central Sarasota Little League.
Next challenge: The Perfect Game Tournaments, a series of games nationwide that showcases top high school and college players. Hunt worked games at a tournament in Marietta, Ga., in late June. He hopes to do more Perfect Game Tournaments in the future.