He eats 48-ounce steaks by himself. He weighs more than three bills, but will put on a Speedo for a laugh. He has a “problem” with porn. He once put a live donkey in someone’s kitchen, where it crapped everywhere, and even the “victim” had a laugh about it. Sounds like a live wire, eh? Did I mention that he’s a Christian minister?
He’s Dean Esskew — Pastor Dean — and he’s the leader of the Calling for Christ ministry which ministers to one specific group of people: umpires. Major league and minor league umpires. That’s it. He travels the country visiting them on the job and off and holds weekly teleconference services with them from wherever he and they may be.
Every Friday he runs a prayer call for major league umpires, every Saturday for minor leaguers. They’re like regular church services, except the congregation dials in from locker rooms and hotels across the country. If Esskew notices a particular ump has missed a call-in or two, he’ll hop a flight and pay the man a visit. He has appeared unexpectedly a few rows behind the dugout of the Triple-A Isotopes in Albuquerque. He has materialized at the graveside service for an umpire’s father in the middle of Kansas. In the offseason, he runs a Calling for Christ retreat in Texas (annual attendance: about 60 umpires) and performs a lot of umpire weddings. He has baptized 66 umpires so far, calling them safe in the only way that matters.
It’s something I’ve never heard about. But now that I think about it, we don’t hear most things about umpires and their personal lives. It’s a stressful job, obviously, and that’s before you even figure in the fact that they’re traveling twice as much as ballplayers do and have no fan base to provide some psychic support. Granted, when your job is to make judgment calls it’s always going to be hard and prone to criticism, but that expectation probably doesn’t do much to make you feel better when you’re away from your family and are subject to constant criticism.
Enter Pastor Dean. What a fascinating read. Take some time for it today if you can.