MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - If you have attended a ballgame, you probably know that the referees, umpires and officiating crews are just about always among the least popular people there. They get booed, yelled out and called all kinds of names. So why would anyone ever want to put themselves through that?
Warren Baker is one of the best in our area and in Mississippi and he's being honored by his peers.
Baker has been officiating high school football for 20 years. On most Friday nights, you will find him at an area game. He's known as 'the white hat', or the referee.
Coming up in December, Baker will serve as the lead referee in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game on the USM campus in Hattiesburg
"To get the opportunity to get the Mississippi-Alabama game is a once in a career opportunity that most people look forward to and I'm just glad I got the call," Baker said.
Baker says officiating high school football and basketball has been a passion for a very long time. But how do referees feel when everyone in the stands is cheering the players but booing them?
"You have to have tough skin," Baker said. "You absolutely can't pay any attention to it because if you do it's going to take you off your game. And you can't listen to the noise coming from the stands or from the sidelines. That stuff will drive you crazy."
Newscenter 11 asked Baker is he catches himself refereeing from his couch while watching a game at home.
"I watch the officials more than I do the game. It's not to be critical but it's to try and pick up on things, watch their positioning, watch their signals and thinks like that," said Baker. "Just trying to get better."
Baker and all the men and women in stripes on Friday nights have a tough and sometimes thankless job.
"There's no such thing in my book as make-up calls. You're going to hear boos from either side. You just have to call it the way you see it," said Baker. "Get yourself in the best position possible to see the play, make the call and live with the results. You're never as good as you think you are and you're never as bad as the people say you are."
So the next time you're in the stands and think about booing the refs, why not take a moment and realize they're human, they're normally always right, and they're out there because they love the game?