MAY 28, 2020, 9:46 A.M. (ET)
USA Softball of Massachusetts Umpire Michael Kuszay (Somerset, Mass.) began officiating softball in 2016 and has since graduated from nursing school and started working at St. Anne’s Hospital Emergency Room in Fall River, Mass. He is now one of many working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kuszay’s officiating career started with football in 2014, but after the commissioner of the board he was working for asked if anyone was interested in umpiring softball, Kuszay jumped on the opportunity to return to the diamond.
“I haven’t played baseball since I was 16, and I miss being on the diamond,” he said. “I thought ‘softball, I think I can do that’, figured I’d give it a shot, decided I was going to take the classes and it all worked out well.”
The role of umpire has given Kuszay new perspective on the game which has kept him behind the plate ever since.
“It’s a different role and it gives you a different look from when you were a player as a kid to now being the guy wearing the uniform and the pads underneath,” he said. “Being the guy making the calls now, I see why someone would make a call in a certain situation. It gives you a different viewpoint. After I realized that, it just stuck with me from that point forward.”
Kuszay has umpired events ranging from 10U games to college showcases. He says the difference between the age groups has helped him grow his skillset and he enjoys umpiring games showing the large range of abilities.
“Any time there is a game I jump on it right away, weekend tournaments and recreational games during the week,” he said. “Last year I got the chance to do a couple of college showcases and the opportunity to do the first 18 and over games.”
“It’s a different feel going from a 10U one day to 18 and up the next day,” Kuszay added. “I was behind the plate doing the college showcase games and looking at some pitchers, those girls are throwing some educated heat, right on the corners. I thought ‘I need more of this.’ There was some flawless execution, you get an appreciation for those things.”
The decision to enter healthcare was one that Kuszay was wrestling with towards the end of his high school education. He was split between law enforcement and health care. Soon after his high school graduation, a family incident cemented his career choice and path to nursing school.
“I woke up to my dad yelling my mom’s name and I ran downstairs to see my mom on the ground,” Kuszay said. “She was unconscious for a bit and was having a seizure, the doctors didn’t know what was going on. I did not like the feeling of not knowing what to do. I thought nursing would be the correct career path for me because I wanted to know what to do in that situation, I want to be able to help others. It went from being a consideration to being kicked into overdrive just in that one moment.”
The love for softball grew during Kuszay’s time at Rhode Island College while earning his Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. He credits his softball umpiring to his recent transition from nursing school to the emergency room at St. Anne’s in July 2019. The quick decision-making that takes place on the diamond is escalated in the E.R. with incoming patients and a constantly changing work environment.
“In the E.R. anything can happen, literally anything can happen,” he said. “When you’re umpiring you have to make a decision quickly - ‘what happened with this play?’, read it, make the call. In the E.R. it’s ‘okay what’s going on with this person’, read what’s going on with their vital signs, make the call on what you’re going to do next. You have to be able to think quickly when things aren’t going as planned.”
The interactions with players, coaches and parents on the diamond is something Kuszay says is interchangeable with the interaction with patients and their families in the E.R. The use of therapeutic communication has been key for him in both areas.
“I use therapeutic communication to deescalate things, figure out what their point of view is so I can help them out,” he said. “Maybe there’s a big misunderstanding I can help out with. I use that during umpiring when coaches or parents are upset. If there’s ever a parent or patient that’s upset in the E.R., I’ll use that therapeutic communication to figure out what’s going on that we can work out.”
Kuszay is currently testing potential COVID-19 patients that come into the hospital as a part of his normal E.R. duties. St. Anne’s recently added three additional negative pressure rooms to the two they previously had to keep the COVID-19 patients isolated and prevent contamination. Kuszay says going straight from nursing school into a global pandemic has been eye-opening.
“Having to wear the gown, goggles and the N95 [mask], it puts a different perspective on things,” he said. “I’ve had to wear an N95 for eight hours straight and let me tell you, those are not made for comfort.”
While keeping himself isolated outside of work and away from the diamond, Kuszay keeps himself busy training for hurling, a sport he describes as a combination of field hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and soccer.