You may know Jose Matamoros as the head coach of the Beaver Dam High School boys hockey team, but you may not know that he’s on the fast track working his way through minor league baseball as an umpire.
The 2009 Waupun High School graduate got his 1st taste of umpiring as a 13-year-old kid when Kent VandeKolk asked him to start umpiring little league games for Waupun Youth Little League. Under VandeKolk’s wing he continued to umpire Little League games, youth tournaments and even JV high school games while he was still in high school himself. During high school is when he says he started to think about umpiring as a career.
While a freshman at UW-Milwaukee, Matamoros got invited a Little League umpiring clinic in Indianapolis, which led him to working district, state and senior level regional tournaments. Working those higher profile youth events while still in college, cemented even more the dream of professional umpiring.
After graduating from Milwaukee in 2013, Matamoros enrolled in The Umpire School, now called Minor League Baseball Umpire Academy in January of 2014. He says about 90 to 100 were enrolled in the four-week program. He was one of 26 people asked back for the “evaluation course.” He says that was an intense 10-day course, which he describes as a “boot camp for umpires.”
When the evaluation course was complete, he was named a reserve umpire and was assigned to the Costal Plain League, which is a summer college wood bat league, which is similar to the Northwoods League here in the upper-Midwest. He says that experience, not only to hone his craft but also allowed him to learn how to manage his travel and finances while on the road every day.
With a season in Coastal Plain League under his belt, Matamoros got his break into minor league baseball. In August of 2014 when he was hired to work the Arizona rookie league. After 18 games, he was promoted to the Class A short season, New York-Penn League for the 2015 season.
After a year in the northeast, Jose was promoted again, this time to the Class A, Midwest League for the 2016 campaign. The Midwest League includes the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Beloit Snappers. He says walking into Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton as an umpire was a surreal moment for him because he had been to that facility numerous times to watch baseball as a kid growing up. Matamoros says that his Wisconsin roots didn’t stop the fans from booing him off the field after calling a third strike on a Timber Rattlers player.
In 2017, it was back to warmer weather with a single season in the Florida State League which is considered “High A” baseball. He says the great thing about that league was the longest drive between games was three to four hours.
Then the call came for a promotion to the AA Texas League in 2018. Double-A baseball is where many future superstars come into their own and former Big Leaguers are trying to work their way back to MLB. Last season, he was promoted to crew chief toward the end of the year. He says the plan right now is to return for a third season in the Texas League, and if things go his way, he might get a shot at Triple-A, which is one step below Major League Baseball.
Currently, Matamoros is working on getting the Beaver Dam High School boys hockey team ready for the WIAA playoffs, but he will leave for Phoenix, Arizona for Spring Training on March 18th and begin another season chasing his dream.
Click the link to hear Jose Matamoros tell his story of umpiring in Minor League Baseball
Photo Credit: Jose Matamoros