Hometown Heroes: Bobby Zepeda

Minga and Bobby Zepeda have been married for 40 years.

Minga and Bobby Zepeda have been married for 40 years.

By M.G. Angulo –

The crack of a bat connecting with the ball. The muffled “whump” of a baseball in a glove. The furious taps of feet hitting the ground as players try to get to base. All of it is music to Bobby Zepeda’s ears.

“I love this game,” said 59 year-old Zepeda, who has volunteered as a little league umpire since the early 90s. “I have loved the game of baseball since I started playing it at eight years old.”

Zepeda played baseball until he was 32 years old, and while he may not be standing on the plate with a bat in his hand anymore, he is still on the field, and he relishes every minute of it. In 1992, he began umpiring for Rosenberg Little League, and in 1997, he went to umpire for Lamar Little League, which is where he is today. “I’ve never missed a season of being on the field even after I stopped playing amateur baseball,” he said. “Actually, I cannot imagine ever living without baseball, and umpiring keeps me on the field.”

Being an umpire for the Lamar Little League is more than an opportunity to be in his favorite setting. Watching the young players learn from the sport also brings Zepeda a sense of satisfaction. “Baseball is more than a game. It teaches these young kids values, discipline and offers them lessons and opportunities,” Zepeda said. “Some of these kids go on to play at the professional level, and I can tell you, it’s a beautiful thing to watch them play. When I go to Minute Maid Stadium, or wherever, I think to myself, ‘I used to be their umpire.’ It’s a great feeling.”

While umpiring has its ups and downs – “One half of the stadium loves you and the other half doesn’t” – Zepeda said he volunteers his time to umpiring because “volunteering helps ease the burdens of others.” Explaining that playing baseball is not cheap – “Considering the bat, ball, shoes and everything else, a kid is in $300 deep before they step on the field” – Zepeda said he also gladly volunteers to barbecue meals to sell at local fundraisers.

Bobby Zepeda umpiring at the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania last year.

Bobby Zepeda umpiring at the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania last year.

“I’ll grab my pit and smoke up that food,” he said with a laugh. “When it comes to volunteering and helping these kids, we should. Baseball is the only thing some of these kids look forward to. It’s the only thing they have. It’s unfortunate but true.”

Zepeda takes his umpiring so seriously that in 2016, he was selected to umpire for the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. “When you talk about life, for a lot of kids, the ultimate place to go is Disney World, right? That’s the Magic Kingdom. In baseball, the ultimate dream is to get to the World Series – now that’s the magical kingdom.”

“To be selected to umpire at ‘the big stage’ was like winning the lottery. I had to have someone read and reread my acceptance letter to me a few times before I believed it. Watching those kids’ performances was almost unbelievable,” he said of being at the World Series. “When I got on the field, it all set in – the players, the TV crews, the stadium. It was a once in a lifetime kind of deal.”

While the World Series was an experience he wouldn’t trade for anything, Zepeda stressed that he is just as honored and excited to volunteer his time at the Lamar Little League games. The 11 and 12 year olds who play the game are at a pivotal point in their lives, he explained. And if life has taught him anything, it’s this: The decisions you make as a child matter.

“Volunteering your time to the kids in your community is important,” said Zepeda, who also volunteers for the Fort Bend County Fair because they provide scholarships to students. “If we aren’t paying attention to our kids, someone on the streets will.”

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