TORONTO — Canadian umpire Trevor Grieve won’t forget the summer he spent working in the minor leagues surviving on three things: Pizza Hut, Chinese buffets and sandwiches purchased in bulk at the nearest grocery store.
The Toronto native had a $20 per diem and didn’t want to leave himself broke, so he and a partner would rotate through the three spots, always hoping they didn’t have to tackle the physical job at home plate on the same day they had indulged in a heavy Chinese buffet.
Grieve spent almost four seasons working around the minor leagues before retiring in 2004. But he does continue to umpire now and then and will be travelling to Tokyo on March 11 to work the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
"It was really tough living on the road. I didn’t enjoy several of the years that I was there," Grieve said. "I was missing a lot of weddings, I was missing some funerals, some close family. And I think that was sort of the topper for me was life was passing me by and you’re on the road for anywhere from five to eight months of the year. You didn’t get time off."
The 2017 WBC, which begins March 6, will be Grieve’s second after also working the tournament in 2013. His performance during the previous edition took him all the way to the final at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
"It was pretty crazy," the 39-year-old Grieve said. "It was a great time there and that ball park in San Francisco is unbelievable."
Larry Young, a Major League Baseball umpire supervisor and co-ordinator of WBC umpires, said that he developed a lot of faith in Grieve after seeing him work the first round of the 2013 tournament in Taichung, Taiwan. Young said Grieve stood out and had the abilities they were looking for.
"It’s very serious (umpiring) when it’s on the field but when the day is over and you have a little camaraderie, it’s nice to be with somebody that’s fun and that’s Trevor," Young said. "I consider him not only as an employee but also consider him as a friend."
Grieve left minor league baseball in 2004, returning to Toronto to become a police officer with the Toronto Police Service, where he’s worked for the past 12 years. Although the two professions are very different, Grieve is quick to point out that there’s some similarities as well.
"You have to take charge on a field and as a police officer you sort of take charge at a scene, you have to know the rules, the laws," Grieve said. "There’s so many comparables between the two, it was almost a natural fit.
"It was the best decision I ever made."
Grieve is the lone umpire from Canada that will work this year’s WBC and his assignment assures that at least one Canadian umpire has been represented at the tournament since it began in 2006.
The University of Guelph product admits that becoming a professional umpire and reaching the major leagues wasn’t necessarily a dream growing up and said he was always very realistic with himself about his chances. Grieve started umpiring as a summer job in his teens and kept going through university, working 100-150 games a summer.
"I have no complaints," Grieve said. "Life has worked out great for me in the sense that I have a job that I love, I love policing, but I love umpiring. It’s allowed me to almost fulfil that dream of umpiring at a high professional level. It’s been the best of both worlds.
"I’m blessed. I’ve had a lot of good opportunities come my way and this is another one."
Grieve said that he has no immediate plans of putting away his mask and that he’s enjoying his supervising and instructing roles with Baseball Ontario and Baseball Canada. He adds that he’ll at least umpire through 2020 and see what happens with the Olympics in Tokyo.
"I grew up swimming for about 18 years up to Olympic trials and Commonwealth trials so Olympics would be a dream come true," Grieve said. "But I also realize that there’s a lot of great and worthy umpires in the country as well."