BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — Baseball, Berkeley County and the name Burbage. The 3 B's, almost synonymous. There is now a large piece missing, but not, forgotten.
It's almost like Brian Burbage was born into this gig. The easiest call he ever made, following in the umpiring footsteps of his dad, Jerry Burbage Sr.
"We were always at the ballfield as long as I can remember - so, 30 years maybe?" Brian said. "He would take me to games and say to go get a hot dog and drink - sit in the bleachers. You are going to hear some stuff, but you are not allowed to say anything back to these people."
From looking up to, to looking across the diamond at his dad. Times progressed for this family. Brian, the youngest son - obsessed with the game. Obsessed with his dad.
"Great for me to be able to hang out with dad," Brian said. "Everyone wants to make their dad proud. Especially guys. We did Little League together, All-Star together. It was the best of times. After every game I would call him - hey, I had this coach tonight, he was arguing this, might have missed this play. The whole way home, just now, I would have been talking to him about everything that happened."
This year, set to be the same as the past 30 years. Burbage's. In blue. At a ballfield near you, until March 15.
"He went in for what they said was routine stent surgery for his heart," Brian said. "Go to work, he said - we'll talk afterwards. I never saw him again."
Baseball was pushed to the backburner for Brian. It was no longer that "shared" activity.
"I just wasn’t feeling it," he said. "I couldn't get over it. That was a big hit, losing Dad. When I finally texted the guys - said, if you have games, I’d love to come back."
There wasn't much going on that late in the season. But, a few days later, a 1A high school game at Collins Park in North Charleston popped open.
"I worked 100 games with him," Brian said. "I told him - Alex, I think I'm going to wear Dad's gear tonight - I'm going to give it one last game for the old man out there and see how it goes. I’m bigger than my dad was, I pulled out his gear, brand new - and it fit perfect. It's so strange because we're not the same size at all. Wrapped around me perfect. Everything clipped right in. Put mask on - usually I'm anxious or nervous before a game, but I walked out there cool as a cucumber. I was calm, at ease. I feel like I’m close to him when I’m doing it now. I can feel his presence when I do the games."
Pretty amazing how baseball's bonds carry well beyond the baseline. It's also hard to doubt a call - there is a sharp pair of eyes watching from above.