Following the dream
Umpire C.B. Bucknor grew up on baseball, then found way back in
C.B. Bucknor has lived his life pursuing possibilities.
As a Jamaica-born youngster growing up in Brooklyn, he played baseball in the Bonnie Youth Club, a local organization that encourages participants to seek a college education.
That led to enrolling at SUNY Cortland, where he twice earned All-State University of New York Athletic Conference honors as a center fielder and set a school record for stolen bases while earning a degree in recreation.
That, in turn, resulted in a career working as a recreation therapist in New York City, but it also eventually led him back to baseball after he decided on a whim to spend vacation time during 1990 in umpire school.
Fast forward from then to now, as this spring Bucknor begins his 15th year as a Major League Baseball umpire. He has served on umpiring crews in four American League Division Series, most recently this past season for Detroit vs. Oakland.
He has pursued the possibilities offered by sports, education and work -- and has also given something back at each step along the way.
Bucknor never has forgotten his experiences in youth baseball in Brooklyn.
“If I’m home on a Sunday -- we get four weeks off during the season -- I like to go down to the Parade Ground, where I used to play baseball and worked with the Bonnie Youth Club,” he told The New York Times in a 2012 article about his umpiring routine. “I catch up with the guys and watch the kids play.”
He actually has also served on the club’s board of directors.
Bucknor also has been active in supporting his alma mater, where he still ranks among the top three Red Dragons in career stolen bases with 65. For example, he hosted a “Meet the Umpire” event for alumni in Southern California before a 2011 game at Anaheim Stadium.
For years after becoming an umpire, Bucknor also remained in his job at New York and Presbyterian Hospital, working during baseball’s off season to help children through therapeutic play, arts, crafts and games, thus helping them cope with hospitalization and surgery.
He also has participated in activities with the Major League Baseball-affiliated Umps Care program, and recently has returned to Jamaica during the off-season, aiding senior citizens with rehabilitation and with furnishing homes.
He also has collected toys and helped organize an annual holiday party for Jamaican children.