Major League Baseball umpire Mark Wegner, right, joins fellow volunteer Steve Norris as they staff the food line at Our Daily Bread Sept. 7. Wegner, who is working the Orioles-Yankees series at Camden Yards, tries to help at the Catholic Charities’ soup kitchen whenever he is in Baltimore. (Bill McAllen | Special to the Review)
A hero behind home plate: MLB umpire feeds hungry at Our Daily Bread
By Maria Wiering
Major League Baseball umpire Mark Wegner
got off the field at Camden Yards at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 6, after the Baltimore
Orioles beat the New York Yankees 10-6, tying for first-place in the race for
the American League East pennant.
At 9 a.m. the next morning, he was at Our
Daily Bread, a Catholic Charities of Baltimore program that serves meals to the
Wegner, 40, tries to visit Our Daily Bread
every time he is in town for an Orioles series, once or twice a year, he said. On
Sept. 7, he was part of the program’s 11,422nd day of uninterrupted food
Dressed in an Under Armour T-shirt,
baseball cap and a green apron, Wegner worked with other volunteers to prepare
tables, mix salads and fill plates for the lunch crowd, which began to arrive at
A Catholic, Wegner first connected with Our
Daily Bread 10 years ago, when it was located next to the Basilica of the
Shrine of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Cathedral Street, before it
moved to the Fallsway in 2007. After attending Mass at the Basilica, he
inquired at Catholic Charities for local volunteer opportunities. They sent him
to Our Daily Bread.
“I have free time, and I try to use it
productively, but nothing is more productive than, going to Mass, No. 1, but No.
2, coming to do some things like this,” said Wegner, who wears uniform No. 47.
Wegner was raised in St. Paul, Minn., where
he attended Catholic schools and played baseball. After one semester at the
University of Minnesota while umpiring Little League, he moved to Florida to
attend the Brinkman-Froemming Umpire School in Cocoa.
He did well, and spent seven years umpiring
in the minor leagues before moving to the major leagues 14 years ago. He lives
near Tampa with his wife, Michelle, and their four children, who range in age
from 1 to 14.
Wegner’s job takes him on the road six
months each year, with four weeks of vacation. Our Daily Bread is the only place
Wegner regularly volunteers outside of Tampa during the baseball season, he
said. He also gives time to UMPS CARE Charities, an outreach of the MLB umpires,
When he is home, Wegner is an active member
of his parish, Nativity, in Brandon, Fla., where his kids also attend school.
Wegner clearly loves umpiring, but his favorite
job is being a dad, he said. He is quick to show off family photos and a video
of his 1-year-old son via his phone. He is also helping his kids develop hearts
for service and, in the off-season, often takes his oldest sons to serve meals
to Tampa’s homeless men and women, he said.
“There’s a lot of different ways to show
the love God is showing to us to other people, but when it comes down to the
basic need to eat, there’s something really special here,” he said. “It is an
awesome, awesome thing to be able to do this.”
When he serves homeless men and women, he
looks at each person as a “child of God,” he said.
“To me, every time I come in here, I just
think that it’s almost like I’m serving Jesus today,” he added. “Each person I
meet, I try to be respectful to them, and try ... to show them that they’re
human beings and that I care about them and I love them.”
As Wegner sees it, offering homeless people
love and respect, as Our Daily Bread does, is as important as offering food, he
Wegner’s Catholic faith motivates his
desire to serve. About six years ago, Wegner started attending daily Mass
regularly, and searches for churches while traveling with a mobile phone app.
Daily Mass “just ends up being something I
feel like I need, kind of like a workout every day,” he said. “People use
different things to find their peace, and that’s been it for me.”
Wegner’s oldest sons sometimes travel with
him, and he is thinking, he said, of bringing his oldest to Our Daily Bread
“He’d love to do this, and it’s a great
city,” he said.