Local umpire Bob Sinks retiring after 47-year career

After umpiring locally for 47 years, a simple 15-minute retirement ceremony was enough for Bob Sinks.

Sinks, 69, has been the umpire coordinator for Wichita’s Northeast Baseball Association since 2006, and he will retire at the end of this season.

“I’m going to miss this next year,” Sinks said Monday night. “I don’t know where my life would be without this game.”

He has been called the caricature of an umpire: grizzled, one-eyed and toothless; Sinks is an unmistakable presence at the baseball field. He will leave a permanent mark on Planeview Ballpark, where field No. 3 has been renamed Bob Sinks Field.

“It was a surprise,” he said. “I’ve got a good group of umpires under me, and I’ve got a good league.”

After undergoing open-heart surgery and suffering through five heart attacks, congestive heart failure and diabetes, Sinks said it was time to take a break.

“I’m 69, but you know what, I don’t feel like I’m 69,” Sinks said. “I feel like I’m 68.

“Every time I leave this field and turn the lights out, I can’t wait to come in tomorrow and see the improvement.”

The first game he called was played at the YMCA in 1966. Since then, he said, he has called high school, National Baseball Congress, Wichita State University and semi-professional baseball games.

At Northeast, he is in charge of training youth umpires, a task he said he does meticulously.

“They’re not major-league umpires, but they’re decent,” he said. “That’s what I want to be – I want to be decent. Some of these guys could go out and call a high school, even college game just fine.”

Sinks is known for his dedication to the job. He has come to work on the same day after being released from the hospital for a heart attack and on the day his wife died in 2009.

“I’m responsible – I’m in charge,” he said. “This is my chance to show people what umpiring is all about.”

One of his fellow umpires said Sinks was his mentor.

“All you need to know about Bob is that he is very passionate about baseball and about training young people,” said Mike Schaplowsky, 32. “He’ll do anything to be out here.”

The league’s vice president, David Haas, a former pitcher for WSU and the Detroit Tigers, said the league hired Sinks for his dedication to the game.

“He’s a true believer in the cause, not just in the players but in the umpires,” Haas said. “He’s an umpire through and through.”

League president Mark Cass said it will be difficult to replace Sinks.

“We don’t know how long the man will be with us,” he said. “We thought it was time to let him know how much we appreciate him.”