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Umpire Joe West Is Living The Dream

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: May 25, 2013 at 12:35 AM

Whether you see him as a country western-singing umpire or as an umpire who sings country western music, Joe West is living life one musical note and out at a time.

He has been umpiring in the major leagues since the mid-1970s and singing since the 1980s.

West, 55, nicknamed Cowboy Joe, released his second CD on April 14 entitled, "Diamond Dreams." It features West's stories he has come across in his many years as a baseball umpire.

West said he has always had a passion for sports, but it wasn't always like that for singing. Growing up Asheville, N.C., everyone in school was forced to try out for the glee club.

"A friend and I down the street didn't want to try out, but we weren't worried because we didn't think that we would get picked," he said. "We ended up being the only two kids on the block to get picked."

On the sports side, he excelled in football and baseball during his college days. During his senior year at Elon College, he was named MVP of the football team. Since he had a full scholarship, the football coach also let him play baseball. That is when he was introduced to umpiring. West began his umpiring career working high school games.

By age 23, West was umpiring his first major-league game, the start of a 30-year career that is still going.

"The best aspect of baseball is the cat and mouse chase between the pitcher and the hitter," he said.

West has worked eight National League Championship Series, three division series, two All-Star Games and three World Series.

In addition, he designed and owns the patent for the "West Vest" chest protectors in the United States, Canada and Japan.

As for his singing, he started out as a nightly performer at Gilley's in Pasadena, Texas, in the early 1980s. His first CD is entitled "Blue Cowboy."

"I love the music because it's pure," West said "I was once told that it is two chords and the truth. ... It's simple, it tells a story. ... It's real life."

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