Robert (“Bob”) Wayne Smith was an unassuming kind of guy. Short, stocky, and bald as an eight-ball, he would not impose himself on anybody. He knew his limitations and that’s what made him a great guy and a friend—a friend that passed too suddenly, but at just the right time in God’s eyes. Bob died this morning from complications due to lymphoma. I’ll miss him very much.
I first came to know Bob several years ago. He showed up one evening at a softball umpire’s meeting and we got to know each other casually; no big deal; they come and they go, do umpires. If I’ve known one, I’ve known a thousand.
Yet, as the years passed and we got to know each other on and off the field and our friendship grew. What I liked is that I knew he could take a joke and dish them out as well. So every opportunity I’d try to say something to gig him, only to have him try the same with me later. It’s the way a friendship ought to be—give and take.
Bob wasn’t a great umpire or perhaps even a good one. But he was a great man who had a great attitude and personality. One could always count on the fact that Bob would try to make up for whatever lack he might have had with his hustle. That in itself was a sight to behold. Have you ever seen a five-foot-five bowling ball rumbling across a skinned softball infield? That was Bob Smith.
Kind, considerate, and respectful, he always went out of his way to say “Hi” to me or my wife. She always enjoyed having Bob come and ask, “And how are you young lady?” Such a flatterer in the right way was he. It just won’t be the same whenever there is a tournament at Gateway that he could work and he’s not there.
But Bob was also a private person. His humbleness wouldn’t allow him to receive pity. I didn’t know he was sick until it was almost too late. At the first umpire meeting this year it was mentioned that Bob was sick and in the hospital. The news saddened me because I knew that Bob would have been at the meeting just like he had for years. So, it had to be serious.
We would not make it, though, to the second meeting before finding out that Bob had moved on to a completely different playing field; a place where the days don’t turn into night, crickets don’t dive-bomb everyone, and the temperatures never get up to 105. Plus, the coaches and parents behave themselves. Surely he must be in softball paradise.
Bob Smith is gone. The quintessential gentleman, who apologized as the last thing he said to me, as I walked out his hospital room the day before he passed. He thought his condition was burdensome to me. No, Bob, it wasn’t. You dealt with it like you dealt with life and death. You were a class act. It was my honor to have known you. Take care my friend. I’ll see you again when God says it’s time for me to go extra-innings.