The year was 1990.
River View and Meadowbrook were playing in a baseball sectional, and the Black Bears were down one run with a runner on second base.
That runner was Mark Lollo.
A ground ball was rocketed up the middle, heading straight at Lollo. The New Lexington native jumped over the ball and scored what would be the tying run.
Until it wasn’t.
The base umpire called Lollo out, claiming that the ball had hit him. To this day, Lollo is still certain it did not.
“I came out to warm up the pitcher the next half-inning, and the umpires were standing at about the 45-foot line,” Lollo recalls. “I saw the umpire give a little bit of a chuckle on his face, and to put it in layman’s terms, it pissed me off.”
It was the play that would change Mark Lollo’s life forever, as that day is when Lollo decided he wanted to be an umpire.
Lollo attended Jim Evans Academy for Professional Umpiring in January 2000 following graduation.
Upon graduation from the academy, Lollo was put on the reserve list and assigned to the Northwoods League, a summer baseball league that was full of college and independent ball players.
“When I was there in 2001, there were eight cities.” Lollo says. “Five in Minnesota, two in Wisconsin and one in Iowa. Now that league goes as far as Thunder Bay, Canada over into Michigan.”
Following the end of the season, Lollo was then awarded his first professional assignment in the Gulf Coast League.
After dabbling in the minor leagues for the next 10 years, Lollo finally got his big break in 2011.
“That spring training, in 2011, I’d showed up ready to go in the best physical condition I’d been in,” Lollo says. “I put my best presentation forward to show them that I was serious about working.”
“Them” refers to the Major League staff, who happened to be in attendance during this game. Among the attendees was longtime Yankees manager Joe Torre.
An ejection of former MLB manager Lloyd McClendon and a game behind the plate later, the staff meets Lollo in the locker room.
“I’m just sitting there listening to them, and they said they got my back on the ejection. “Lollo said. “It was almost like they snuck a punchline in there, they said ‘how about number 96?.’ I looked down at my phone, saw I missed some calls, and looked up. That’s how I got put on the call up list.”
Later that year, on July 2, Lollo received a call from former MLB umpire Larry Young, who told him he was headed to the show. He was assigned in Washington D.C., but Lollo says he didn’t really listen to the rest of the call.
Lollo’s Major League debut was a doubleheader between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals.
“I worked the bases both games, and the first one was a unique one.” Lollo recalls. “I called five check swings from third base for either strikes or strikeouts. I would have thought I got an ejection that game, but no one said anything.”
The second game was just a dramatized, as Lollo called a ball ripped down the third base line foul. Clint Hurdle, the Pirates manager at the time, sprinted out of the dugout, but Lollo was confident.
One of Lollo’s favorite stories, however, comes from the year 2008. He was selected to umpire the MLB All-Star Futures game, celebrity softball game and the home run derby at old Yankee Stadium. Lollo even got into an argument with famous sportscaster Kenny Mayne at the celebrity softball game.
“What I tell people is across baseball it led me to 48 states and three Latin American countries” Lollo said. “It was a surreal experience.”