DENVER (CBS4) – Josh Cordova is a bit of a sports celebrity. He’s the teenager that professional sports officials have been lining up to meet after a brawl among parents broke out at a youth baseball game he was umpiring in Lakewood.
“Josh, I had to meet you. I am so impressed by the way you handled that situation,” Greg Wilson, a long-time NFL referee, said as he shook Cordova’s hand Monday afternoon.
Wilson is also the owner of the sports officials equipment and gear company Honig’s. He invited Cordova and the teen’s parents, as well as a handful of other local sports officials, to the Denver warehouse for a special surprise.
“You’re an example of what young kids should be like,” Wilson told Cordova. “We’re encouraging you to continue your passion and dream of umpiring. We want to offer you a full uniform.”
With a big smile, Cordova graciously accepted brand new gear to wear while on the field, including a chest plate, shin guards, shoes, shirts and facemask. He told CBS4 he only had a facemask to wear during games this last season, and he had a few painful encounters when behind the dish.
“I took a lot of foul balls to the chest a couple times. It was a nightmare because some of the catchers couldn’t catch the ball, so it would hit me in the shins,” he said with a slight laugh.
Wilson also gave the teen an official NFL referee jersey, hat and windbreaker jacket — with permission from the league, he explained. Cordova said he is extremely grateful for the support, but he also doesn’t want the seven year olds who were playing before the brawl to be ignored.
“I had a bad experience, but they probably had a worse one seeing their parents on the field like that,” he said.
Unruly fans and aggressive parents are unfortunately common at youth sporting events around the country, Wilson explained. He believes it’s a big reason why there’s a nationwide shortage of umpires and officials for youth sports.
“Games are getting cancelled, games are getting delayed, games are getting moved to different dates,” Wilson told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “It’s become such a problem and it’s got to stop. If you want sports to continue, it just has to stop. Parents need to act like adults.”
Wilson made it a point to shake the hands of Cordova’s mom and dad, thanking them for raising a smart, kind and incredible son.
“We’re trying to turn a negative that happened a few weeks ago into a positive,” he said of giving the new gear to Cordova. “We also want to spread the word that we have a need for sports officials.
Cordova said he won’t let the brawl incident keep him from umpiring. He said he’s excited to sport his new umpire uniform and get back in the game, anxious to show kids how great umpiring and baseball can really be.
“Don’t let this deter them away from baseball,” Cordova said of younger athletes. “Just keep loving the sport and the game.”