The Ashland Beacon
Toby Conley is no stranger to the ball field. At a very young age Conley took the Tees at Boyd County’s own Fraley Field. “That’s where I cut my teeth at, Fraley Field,” stated Conley.
Toby continued to play baseball all the way up through high school as a catcher, pitcher and third baseman. He even went on to play at a semi-pro level in the military. So, it should be no surprise that even today you will find Toby on a field most days. Typically, you will find him on the softball fields, but Toby enjoys umping for the baseball games as well. Conley has been, and continues to be, one of the most loved umpires to ever grace Fraley’s fields and he enjoys every minute of it.
Growing up on Fraley Field has played a big part in what inspired Conley to get into the umping gig which all too often seems to be a thankless job that nobody wants to do but everyone wants to complain about. Toby is one of those special umps, though, that just lights up the field with his presence and everyone who knows him … loves him not only as an ump but as a person as well.
Conley declared, “I just love being able to help all the kids. All those kids are just so great and being an ump gives me an opportunity to also be a coach to many of them. I get the opportunity to help the ones grow that need it when they come up at bat if they are nervous or when they just slid in. I just love it because these kids are our future. This is the future of ball in this area. I want everybody to have the same chance.”
Conley added, “I try to make if fun for the girls and really just for everyone because at that age it’s not about winning or losing! It’s about growing and educating them on the sport. You have a lot of kids that are athletic in the sport but you also have a lot of kids that don’t get enough attention and the same opportunity to grow and I see that and make it my mission to try and help them at the batter’s box, when they are pitching, when they are fielding and I try and talk to them you know and keep their stress level down so they will excel. You know some kids are different than other kids and need different coaching. You can reach one kid one way but may need to do something different to reach another. So, you have to be able to reach them all on their level and understand them before you can make them move on.”
The most difficult thing about umpiring according to Conley is “Honestly, you can’t help but get attached to everyone. That makes calling them out or safe or calling a strike on them it makes it hard because being around so many great kids you being to feel like they are like you own you know.”
However, that doesn’t stop Conley from being what I consider one of the fairest umpires I have ever come across. I have witnessed Conley in action at the fields and I have to say he is good at what he does, and you can clearly see he enjoys being an ump.
I asked Conley just what exactly it about umping is that he enjoys so much, and he replied, “I get to see the girls and boy’s expressions. I get to see them enjoying this game I love so much and hear their laughter. I get to be there for them no matter if they win or lose. I get to give back what I’ve learned in all my years of sports to them. If I can help a kid with what I know, and it helps them to grow and to succeed then that’s what it’s all about for me. If I see them playing say on a high school level, then I can say to myself… hey I’ve helped them in some way be it coaching or umping so that just gives me satisfaction and enjoyment. For me umpiring is just my way of relaxing and I get enjoyment from getting to be a part of these kids’ lives. We have some of the best youth in the area. Just a great bunch of kids.”