ATHENS, Ohio -- Former Ohio baseball skipper Joe Carbone has seen all there is to see as a baseball coach.
He won a Mid-American Conference crown, coached eight All-Americans and had 42 of his players sign contracts to play professional baseball.
But three weeks ago, the former Bobcat baseball coach was able to watch one of his former players to do something very unique.
Jeremie Rehak, class of 2009, made his Major League Baseball umpiring debut on Monday, April 9, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City as the Seattle Mariners took on the Kansas City Royals, a game which the Royals won, 10-0.
Rehak became the first Bobcat to ever umpire an MLB game.
"All the work and support I've had along the journey was definitely surreal. I've used that word quite a bit over the last two weeks," said Rehak of his first MLB game. "All the emotions are there. I was amped and anxious. The game's at 7 p.m., and I wake up ready to go. Once I stepped on the field, it was pretty cool. The lights were brighter. The stadiums are bigger. The players are better."
Rehak played for Carbone from 2007-2009 as a utility player. Initially a walk-on outfielder from the Pittsburgh area, Rehak saw some good chunks of playing time throughout his career in Athens and finished his collegiate career batting .272.
Still, he knew that playing the game he loved wasn't going to get him to the next level.
Carbone remembers a few of Rehak's teammates approaching the coach to tell him that one of his players was interested in becoming an umpire. So, he helped out as any coach would -- he had him umpire some fall scrimmages.
Along with that, Carbone put in a few calls to friends to see if there was anything else he could do for Rehak. But from there, the former walk-on set himself apart from others.
Rehak decided to attend the prestigious Wendelstedt Umpire School in Florida and learned from some of the best umpires in the nation. People from all over the nation attend the school and range in ages. Some go on to one day make it to the MLB like Rehak. Others go so they can share the wealth of knowledge with their local Babe Ruth League.
Rehak graduated the top of his class in 2010.
"Self evaluation is really critical," said Rehak. "If there's a crazy play that happens I'll go back and watch the film and my positioning on the play. We're kind of playing a game inside of the game that people don't see. The umpires are out there and we don't want to be seen. Whenever your name isn't mentioned it's a job well done."
Just like it is as a player, the minor leagues select the top umpiring prospects. Umpires have to make their way up the minors before they get the big league call up, too.
Rehak umpired in the Gulf Coast (2011), Appalachian ('12), Florida Instructional ('12), Midwest ('13), California ('13), Eastern ('14-'15), and Arizona Instructional ('14) leagues. He officiated the 2017 Arizona Fall League and served as second base umpire for the 2017 AFL Championship Game, in addition to officiating the 2017 IL postseason. Rehak officiated MLB Spring Training in 2017 and '18.
Still, his long-term goal is to umpire in the MLB on a consistent basis. He hasn't accomplished that yet. His current job status is to umpire games in Triple-A's International League and do MLB games whenever an ump is sick or on vacation.
Rehak and Carbone still keep in touch, too. When Rehak umpired a game last summer in Toledo, Carbone made the drive up and brought all his friends with him. As coaches say, it's awesome to win games, but it's even better to see former players be successful in life.
At least, that's how Carbone sees it.
"It's really exciting to see him live his dream," said Carbone. "He (Rehak) was just really a great young man. I told him that he should be very proud of himself. It's tougher to get to the big leagues as an umpire than as a player because you only get one guy every couple years who retires from umpiring. I'm very proud of him. It's taken him almost nine years."