David Emerling: From Retired Navy Fighter Pilot to Umpire in Chief and Rules Enforcer at Mid-South (Memphis) MSBL

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Dave Emerling is a 65-year-old retired Navy and commercial pilot with four kids that has put in plenty of years coaching the kids as well as umpiring for over 30 years.  He pitched for the United States Naval Academy back in the day and has been a part of the Mid-South MSBL for about 15 years.

“I came into the league when I was 50 and still pitch once in a while,” explained Emerling, who plays in the 40+ division for the River Rats.  “I simply enjoy being with the guys before, during, and after the games.  Our team has an inordinate number of military veterans so we always have something to talk about.”

As League President Paul Tingley puts it, “David is our umpire coordinator and rules expert.  We would be lost without his guidance.”

Ironically, Dave umpires primarily high school and doesn’t umpire any MSBL league games.  He just plays, while helping to organize the umpiring effort.  But he is also a ‘strong arm’ when necessary.

“I think I am technically a Vice-President of the league but any title doesn’t mean much to me.  I continually watch to make sure nobody breaks any rules or has illegal players.  I advise Paul (Tingley) of any infractions and his decision is final. We don’t have a lot of that but if there are questions, somebody has to follow up and I guess that’s me.”

Dave grew up in St. Louis and as stated earlier, he was a pretty fair pitcher for the Naval Academy.  Life and careers took hold for a while and he was unable to continue playing until about 15 years ago.

“A teacher friend of mine was playing in the Mid-South MSBL and told my wife about it.  She is also a teacher.  She told me about it and I couldn’t wait to get back out there and see if I still had it.

When I first came to the league, I happened to land on a dominant team and we won all the time.  I have since joined the River Rats to be with my buddies and we are now the Buffalo Bills’ of Memphis.  We make it to the championship game but can’t win it.  But it’s a lot more fun and we all love every moment together.”

Dave started as a pitcher in the league but he has since become a reliable catcher, a position he loves. 

“We just played in a Labor Day tournament in Huntsville and I caught all five games in three days.  I love every inning of the game.  You see everything from back there and are always involved.  If I catch, it allows the other guys to play where they want and it helps the team.  If they don’t have to catch, we are a better team.  We play regularly in Huntsville and travel to Atlanta once in a while for tournaments.  It’s a lot of fun.”

Dave has also been to Phoenix for the MSBL World Series and though he loves it down there in that atmosphere, all of the memories aren’t so great.

“I have been down there a couple of times but dislocated my shoulder in 2021.  That was certainly a painful experience and a way to put a damper on an otherwise wonderful time.”

Is there a favorite moment from the league?

“There isn’t a favorite moment or a special play, per se.  My favorite moment is the time with the guys after the game.  It is simply just that.  Every week.  That is what is best.  Just the general feeling of friendships.  We are very close and it isn’t just getting together for a game and then going our separate ways.  It is truly a ‘game day.’

Dave concluded our time together with some sage advice that he learned early on when baseball crept back into his life…”Friends don’t let friends play softball!”