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Dennis Fila 1952-2015


Mick
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For those of you who officiated during week 6 of 2014, you may have met Dennis Fila.  An easy-going, soft spoken gentleman.  He bunked in 33B.  We became friends right off the bat, hung out and dined together.  It was a Tuesday or Wednesday when I asked him if he'd like to go out for wings & beers at Kelli Jean's Steakhouse.  We went and had a good time.  Then he dropped the bomb.

 

It was there that he told me he had stage 4 cancer.  I was floored!  I knew two stage 4 cancer patients, and they could barely get around.  This guy was still umpiring!  The doctors told him in January of 2014 that he probably had six months to live (six months later, he's umpiring two games a day).  He pointed out the bulge under his shirt, which was a device required, as he had no colon.  My head was spinning.  He acted as if he were talking about having a cold or something.  This man became my hero instantly.  He wanted no sympathy; he wanted wings & baseball talk.

 

His only setback that week was his last scheduled game, which he couldn't do because he was "feeling tired".  I watched him bid goodbyes to parents of his sponsored team from his hometown.  There were hugs and tears; they all knew.

 

I promised Dennis I'd see him again.  We spoke on the phone a few times throughout the fall.  He was always positive and upbeat.  However, in December, it started to catch up to him.  I made the trip to Maryland from upstate NY on December 28th.  He was still coherent  and positive.  We talked a lot about baseball.  Between him, his wife, his daughter and some other visitors, I had never experienced such a collective positive attitude anywhere.

 

We had dinner together.  We joked and laughed.  I gave him a hug, and I was on my way.

 

I got the call from his wife in early January that Dennis had passed.  He won every round of the fight, but the cancer finally took him.  He told me he thought "the Man upstairs" had some kind of reason for keeping him around, but he didn't know what that reason was.  I do.  It was a reminder to all of us to be strong, stay positive, avoid trivial nonsense, and -to his fellow umpires- pursue your profession with a passion and love for The Game.   

 

 

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“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.â€- Stuart Scott

 

 

 

my condolences on your loss

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I am sitting here... absolutely gutted.

 

I am normally exceptionally verbose and long-winded, and right now, I can't seem to make complete sentences.

 

Dennis was on my crew my first year at CDP, and didn't treat me as the wetnosed rookie I was, but an equal and a true friend. I may not have had the same ready-correspondence with him that @Mick had, but I caught up with him from time to time. He knew about my own private war against cancer (lost a GF to ovarian cancer in my 20's), and we even got a chance to do a Pink Game with him on this previous summer's CDP trip.

 

This is a major, major loss. He knew where he was going, and while I share in that belief in the Lord, the words are escaping me right now... 

 

Add: Yeah, @Mick, I remember him saying he was tired. I didn't blame him in the slightest. In an umpire context, we're not supposed to mingle with fans, coaches, etc... we're supposed to stay aloof and apart. But Dennis was one of those guys you wanted to be out there acting as an ambassador and bridge between the baseball enthusiasts and us. Because he was that good and genuine of a human.

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For those of you who officiated during week 6 of 2014, you may have met Dennis Fila.  An easy-going, soft spoken gentleman.  He bunked in 33B.  We became friends right off the bat, hung out and dined together.  It was a Tuesday or Wednesday when I asked him if he'd like to go out for wings & beers at Kelli Jean's Steakhouse.  We went and had a good time.  Then he dropped the bomb.

 

It was there that he told me he had stage 4 cancer.  I was floored!  I knew two stage 4 cancer patients, and they could barely get around.  This guy was still umpiring!  The doctors told him in January of 2014 that he probably had six months to live (six months later, he's umpiring two games a day).  He pointed out the bulge under his shirt, which was a device required, as he had no colon.  My head was spinning.  He acted as if he were talking about having a cold or something.  This man became my hero instantly.  He wanted no sympathy; he wanted wings & baseball talk.

 

His only setback that week was his last scheduled game, which he couldn't do because he was "feeling tired".  I watched him bid goodbyes to parents of his sponsored team from his hometown.  There were hugs and tears; they all knew.

 

I promised Dennis I'd see him again.  We spoke on the phone a few times throughout the fall.  He was always positive and upbeat.  However, in December, it started to catch up to him.  I made the trip to Maryland from upstate NY on December 28th.  He was still coherent  and positive.  We talked a lot about baseball.  Between him, his wife, his daughter and some other visitors, I had never experienced such a collective positive attitude anywhere.

 

We had dinner together.  We joked and laughed.  I gave him a hug, and I was on my way.

 

I got the call from his wife in early January that Dennis had passed.  He won every round of the fight, but the cancer finally took him.  He told me he thought "the Man upstairs" had some kind of reason for keeping him around, but he didn't know what that reason was.  I do.  It was a reminder to all of us to be strong, stay positive, avoid trivial nonsense, and -to his fellow umpires- pursue your profession with a passion and love for The Game.   

 

Sorry for loss.  Thanks for telling us about your friend.  

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