He started his first umpiring job 37 years ago and never looked back.
Even after retiring from the umpire-in-chief position at Snowden Grove Parks, Terry Malone still dons the pads and facemask to call games.
“The umpiring bug sort of bit me,” Malone said. “I loved it. I still love it. It’s just something not everybody can do.”
Malone recently received a plaque from the city of Southaven at a banquet held in his honor in September. Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite awarded Malone with the plaque for his decades of service in the city. Malone said it was a neat experience and he felt very honored to be recognized.
Malone got his start as an umpire in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1984. He had been playing softball for years when he had kids and no longer had the time to continue playing sports, but he wasn’t ready to completely give it up.
“I thought to myself, ‘Well, my kids are going to start getting old enough to maybe play ball and they’re going to need gloves and cleats and uniforms and that kind of stuff,’ so I’ll get into umpiring,” he said. “I can stay in the game a little bit that way and make a little extra money.”
He used umpiring as a way to supplement the income from his main line of work off the field, carpentry, which he has also mostly retired from, aside from the occasional small project for friends or family.
Malone explained that early on in his officiating career, the extra money was the best part of it, but that quickly changed when he moved to Southaven in 1987, where he’s been an umpire ever since. The camaraderie between umpires and getting to know his colleagues turned into the best part of the job, he said.
“I consider the umpires at Snowden Grove Park family,” Malone said. “I keep an email list of all the umpires still, and they email me when they have kids born or anything going on in their lives. It’s not just about umpiring. It’s about being a family of umpires.”
Malone quickly worked his way up the baseball officiating ladder. A single year after moving to the city, he became the director at the Cherry Valley baseball fields that were used before Snowden Grove Park was built.
As director and umpire-in-chief, Malone was responsible for every other umpire in his park. He would start recruiting and searching for umpires in the winter, then he’d set up meetings, then he’d organize training or refresher clinics and get everything organized and ready to begin the baseball season.
He was also in charge of assigning each umpire to the games they were to officiate. He left Cherry Valley and continued his career as the umpire-in-chief at Snowden Grove Park when it opened in 2000. Malone resigned from the position after the 2021 Dizzy Dean World Series.
Malone recalled some of the best moments from the job. There was the time in 2011 where he had the opportunity to call a televised Dizzy Dean World Series game. There was also the time his fellow umpires gave him a plaque honoring his wife who had recently passed away.
“In March of 2016, right before we started the season, and I’m going to get teary eyed now, my umpires gave me a plaque because she loved the umpires like I did,” Malone said. “They gave me a plaque saying she was the ‘Umpire Behind the Scenes.’”
Now that he doesn’t have to worry about all 17 ballfields at Snowden Grove Park, Malone is enjoying his retirement, but also getting back to the roots of what he did for so many years. Instead of taking care of the logistics of umpiring, Malone can take back his spot behind home plate and call games again.
“Until this year, I hadn’t actually umpired a game in seven or eight years,” Malone said. “I’ve done about 13 games since September. It’s kind of nice only having to take care of the one field I’m umpiring, and not the 17 that the new assigner and umpire-in-chief have to.”
Along with getting back behind the plate, he’s also enjoying more birthday parties, family get togethers, and concerts at Graceland that he couldn’t get to when he was spending so much time at the ballfields.
“I think the Snowden group of umpires are a great bunch,” Malone said. “The new assigner and new umpire-in-chief are both friends of mine and I think they’re going to do a great job at Snowden.”