Imagine you had a job that kept you on the road, away from home, for six months.
Dorothy in the Wizard Oz proclaimed there's no place like home. Professional umpire Kyle McCrady of Longview would agree. Unfortunately, anywhere McCrady works is anything, but home.
"I spend alot of my time (on the road) alone," the 29-year-old said. "I try to occupy my time in the gym. I'm a gym guy during the day. I do gym stuff ... besides napping."
The solitary lifestyle isn't a big problem for McCrady who admits he likes being by himself.
The only problem he has is in the morning. "I'm not good at waking up. I'm usually up at 11 or 12."
Umps get 12 days off during their season and then a six-month break, which McCrady uses spending time with his three-year-old son Finley.
"I'm gone for six months and when I'm home, I want to be an influence in his life," McCrady, who shares joint custody of Finley, explained.
McCrady enrolled in umpiring school in January of 2013. "It's a six- to eight-year process. That's the average," he said of the umpiring journey.
"The average age for umpires entering umpiring school is 26 or 27. An outlier would be an 18-year-old. I was 22."
"Starting my sixth season this year, I've been promoted to AAA - the Pacific Coast League," he said.
"Realistically, my timetable is that I would like to be assigned to Winter Ball after my first year in the PCL. Then the Fall League after my second or third year and then Spring Training."
McCrady knows this is his stretch run to reach his goal of becoming a Major League umpire.
AAA umpires earn between $2,900 and $3,900 per month. They also receive $58-$66 per diem.
McCrady admits that umpiring can be a grind, but when he gets back home, the mood changes.
"Umpiring wears you out. It's a job," he said. "But it's funny because it's always cool to come home to a small town and people know what I do. People seem to be excited by the job and the process and their reaction reinvigorates me."
And as hard as it has been so far, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Back in 2013, Baseball America, which is a sports magazine that covers baseball at every level, with a particular focus on up-and-coming players in high school, college, Japan, and the minor leagues, estimated that 17.2 percent of drafted players (about 1 in 6), make it to The Show. For umpires, the number is three percent.
And if that doesn't happen, it will be fish or cut bait time for the Mark Morris graduate.
"That's a tough question," McCrady admitted when asked what his plan B would be.
"I've looked into being a firefighter/paramedic, but that would be another 18 month project. Do I want to put my life on hold again," said McCrady.
McCrady, who played baseball at Mark Morris and Lower Columbia College, subs in the Longview School District while home and says a career in teaching "is definitely a possibility," if professional umpiring flames out.
McCrady has been subbing here since 2004.
"I found it (teaching) to be quite rewarding lately," he said. The 29-year-old said that perhaps umpiring at the D1 collegiate level might work.
"You can make $20,000 to $40,000 umpiring college games and pro baseball is an average of about $3,000 a month," he explained. "I don't know if doing college games is enough for full-time, but it is a good fall-back plan."
But those career avenues are in the backseat for now. Umpiring is riding shotgun.
McCrady was the crew chief (for his three-man crew) the past two years in the Texas League (AA). He also umped the Texas League Championship this past summer.
He umpired The XM All-Star Futures Game in Miami as well as the major league home run derby and the celebrity softball game during the All-Star break in Washington, D.C.
And while these special events are eye-catching, McCrady said it in no way means you are going to get a ticket to the big leagues.
"Hmm, it's important to remember that these events are perks. When you do these games and events, there are supervisors watching you with new eyes," he explained. "Doing the right thing -on the field and off - is important. When you get those opportunities, you have a chance. But if you don't make it, they will release you and that is it for pro baseball - period."
The Pacific Coast League season begins the first week of April. Prior to that, McCrady will spend three weeks at spring ball.
When asked to describe what umpires looks like, McCrady didn't hesistate.
"They are tall, athletic and have a presence about them." McCrady checks all those boxes.
McCrady realizes that looking like an umpire only takes you so far.
"By the time you make AAA, you have the ability to umpire. A lot of the eventual outcome can depend on timing and luck," he added.
McCrady's bid to make it to the bigs is fueled by his work ethic.
And it appears that the harder McCrady works, the luckier he gets.