By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
For a longtime umpire, the offer was a no-brainer.
Near the beginning of the year, Joe Nickey was asked to join the umpiring crew for a cancer benefit game still in the planning stages.
"I have a real passion for the game of baseball," said Nickey, a Milton native. "When they asked me to umpire, right away I said yes."
The inaugural Coaches and Seniors vs. Cancer game is 7 p.m. Saturday at Historic Bowman Field. It will pit area high school seniors against coaches, and benefit the American Cancer Society.
Umping the charity game took a personal turn for Nickey about a month and a half ago, when his wife, Chris, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Suddenly the game meant much more to him. Nickey, who said several co-workers at the Milton Regional Sewer Authority have been diagnosed with cancer in the last year, now had a loved one directly affected by the disease, too. The experience put things in perspective, he said.
"I've been involved with baseball since 1976 in some form or another, and I've seen so many people take the fun out of the game," said Nickey, who noted that he has been umpiring for 23 years. "And with this, with what's happened to four or five people, close people, it's a game and people forget that. What's going on off the diamond with people that they care about and love is much more important.
"Once we're off the field, we're normal people, whether we're a coach, a player or an umpire," he added.
Nickey said that while it's been tough, he and Chris are taking things one day at a time. She is in treatment, and doctors are optimistic she will beat it, he said.