Jason Berning always had the desire to be an umpire, but it wasn’t until he turned 40 that he acted on it.
In his early 20s, the current Clarion-Goldfield-Dows boys basketball coach, attempted to make it on the field, but it didn’t work out.
“I started quite a few years ago when I was 20,” Berning said. “One of my friends talked me into going to a professional umpire school. At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I wanted to see what it was like. I attended the Brinkman Fleming Umpire School, but I didn’t make it.
“When I came back, I went to college and got into education and coaching. When I got out of coaching baseball, I still had an interest in umpiring.”
The 47-year-old Berning was the Clarion-Goldfield-Dows head baseball coach for 11 seasons and spent four seasons at Anita-CAM.
“I am a baseball guy and I wanted to be involved with baseball,” Berning said. “Over the years I fell in love with everything and enjoyed being back on the field in a different manner. You definitely see the game differently as a coach, player and umpire.”
Last summer Berning had a familiar face follow in his footsteps, as his step-son Mateo Martinez joined him on the diamond.
“Last summer I talked him into it for a summer job and he was working with me and doing lower level games,” said Berning who just completed his first year as Cowboy basketball coach. “We did some games in Clarion, Eagle Grove and Humboldt for him to make some money.
“This past spring I wanted to do it again and help with some lower level games. Then he said he wanted to work some junior varsity and varsity games, which I was happy about.”
Martinez, a 2021 Clarion-Goldfield-Dows graduate, wanted to start slow in his new adventure.
“Fresh out of high school, I was just going to do middle school games,” Martinez said. “Jason was telling me there was a shortage of umpires and if they didn’t have officials, these kids might not be able to play and I didn’t want that to happen.
“It was also a good way to stay in touch with the game and that was a good part of it.”
Berning and Martinez also got a chance to work together.
“We got to work together a little bit,” said Berning, who umpired with Martinez five or six times. “I coached him in basketball, baseball and football, so it was fun to spend some time with him there.
“It’s awesome to have a young guy to have that goal. I just want to make it positive for the younger guys, so they return.”
The first time on the field, step-dad was a little nervous for his prodigy.
“I was a little nervous for him,” Berning said. “He is a very confident young man, but I know when I started umpiring, I was nervous. Being 19 and dealing with adults can be tough.
“Our first two games of the year, we worked in Webster City both nights. The second game was Webster City and Ballard and I told him this was going to be a high-level game and for the second night out, he did great.”
Berning was proud to see Martinez’ confidence grow as the season went on.
“As the season went on, he got more comfortable,” Berning said. “When he would umpire games himself, he would come home and we would talk afterwards and see if he had any problems.
“He mostly did the bases, but he did end up doing the plate. He wanted to start on the bases and get used to that.”
The best part for Martinez was being able to spend some time with his step-dad and share what he had learned.
“He (Berning) taught me a lot,” said Martinez, who plans on getting a crew together with Berning and a couple of other umpires to put a schedule together next season. “I was nervous going into it, but Jason, who has umpired in some state tournament games, knows what he is doing.
“Learning from him was a blessing.”