U is for Umpire: Varsity umpire pursues dream in medical field

Bowling Green senior Grant Burkeen has been an umpire since he was 12 years old.  His father taught him and his younger sister to be umpires. “I think it’s awesome that I have a job I can go to and love,” Burkeen said.

Monica Spees

Bowling Green senior Grant Burkeen loves baseball.

“I get paid to get yelled at, but I also get paid to watch baseball,” Burkeen said.

Burkeen has been an umpire since he was 12 years old. When Little League ended, his dad encouraged him to take a job as an umpire.

“It’s kind of funny,” Burkeen said. “I was afraid of the ball, so I quit (Little League). Now I’m back there every pitch. I’ve got all that gear on, so I feel safe.”

But there’s more to Burkeen than just being an umpire.

He’s a chemistry and biology major and will be attending medical school at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s weird being an umpire and being pre-med,” Burkeen said.

Burkeen said his desire to become a doctor began in the eighth grade with his grandfather’s death. He said it was then that he realized how important doctors are and how they impact people’s lives.

When Burkeen was 19, he attended the Professional Education Preparation Program (PEPP) that allowed people going into the medical field to shadow doctors and prepare for the profession. Watching a Caesarean section (or C-section) during that program strengthened his desire to be a doctor, Burkeen said.

“Seeing how these doctors perform miracles every day led me to want to be a doctor, to do those things, to perform miracles,” Burkeen said.

Owensboro senior Skyler Shown, also an umpire, said Burkeen is a “really calm and collected guy,” a “good guy to talk to” and “easy to work with.” He also praised Burkeen for his academics.

“Grant’s a genius,” Shown said.

Shown said he attributed Burkeen’s brains to more than just success in school.

“He’s a smart individual. I guess that’s why he’s good at what he does in anything,” Shown said.

But Burkeen said right now he has to focus on different aspects of his character on the field compared to in his studies.

“On the field, it’s more about being professional and being right,” he said. “When I’m studying, it’s about preparing myself.”

However, Burkeen said he thinks being an umpire has improved his communication skills and helped him mature, traits he said he believes will come in handy later.

“Everybody wants a doctor that can thrive under pressure, be professional and communicate,” Burkeen said. “And those are obvious in both umpiring and being a doctor.”

Phil Burkeen, Grant’s father and boss, said he thinks his son is an “excellent umpire,” but he’s also proud of Burkeen’s success in education.

“First of all, he’s very intelligent, he’s going to work at it, and he’s going do whatever is necessary to succeed,” said Phil, the fourth region baseball umpire supervisor. “He’s very self-motivated, and that’s a trait that’s going to help him in medical school.”

Burkeen said he’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist and is hard on himself when it comes to school.

“I challenge myself, so my rewards are worth it,” Burkeen said.

Although Burkeen said he loves umpiring because of the pressure and the opportunity to be professional, he said he doesn’t see how he will be able to continue umpiring after college.

“It’s sad I’m going to have to give up umpiring when I go to med school because of time constraints,” Burkeen said. “Because if I could, I would continue umpiring because it’s been fun.

“I guess you could say I’m giving up one dream to pursue another.”