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Two big Ducks call it like it is

Linemen on diamonds get chance to exercise their umpire skills
by: Special to, Offensive lineman Josh Tschirgi is a force to contend with, and not just during football season.

EUGENE -The Oregon Ducks' offensive linemen stand in front of the mirror in the weight room and practice their poses. Josh Tschirgi and Geoff Schwartz, who double as baseball umpires in the offseason, have rubbed off on them.

'Every O lineman has his own unique strike-three punch out,' Tschirgi says. 'We walk around the weight room, big burly guys, and use the mirrors to practice.

'The soccer girls and others look at us like, 'What are you guys smokin' and drinkin'?' '

Tschirgi thinks of a chain saw when he calls a strike three. He pulls his right hand back and punches his left hand forward, his left foot leaving the ground for exaggeration. 'It's pretty explosive,' he says.

In the football offseason, Tschirgi goes into umpire mode. The junior from Vancouver, Wash., has been an ump for more than 300 high school and American Legion baseball games since starting in 1999. He's a member of associations in Lane County, Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

He and Schwartz have done games the past two years, usually American Legion ball in Eugene. But Tschirgi also commutes to Portland and Vancouver for games.

Can you imagine the 6-4, 290-pound Tschirgi and the 6-7, 360 Schwartz on the same field together, dressed in blue?

'We had a coach yell at us, 'You guys need to separate, the field is tipping!' ' Tschirgi says. 'One time Geoff brutalized a call, and one of the coaches yelled after the game - from about 40 feet away - 'Stick to football!' I told Geoff he should have thrown him out.'

Tschirgi says he has 'about six notches on my belt' for the number of coaches he has tossed from games.

A couple of Vancouver umpires have mentored him, and he had the pleasure of meeting big league umps Dale Scott from Portland and Adam Dowdy of Illinois.

'We're actually friends,' he says of Dowdy. 'He's come to (football) games in Eugene, and he went to the Holiday Bowl.'

Tschirgi's biggest game was working the Washington American Legion title game with three Pac-10 umpires last summer. Twenty years old at the time, he worked the plate. It was the day before UO training camp.

If football doesn't work out - he's also going to get a master's degree in journalism or education - Tschirgi seriously thinks about being a full-time umpire. But the pay could be prohibitive.

'I have to look at going as an umpire and kicking around the minors with a low salary, or using my master's degree for something more profitable,' he says. 'It doesn't make sense to get a master's and then kick around the minors for pennies.'

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