WILLIAMSTOWN -- Chris Conroy walked into the room, and for once, people clapped for him.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, guys. It's not often an umpire gets introduced and gets an applause," Conroy told his audience of Williamstown Elementary School students in grades 3 through 6.
For the past 13 years, Conroy has been calling the shots in Triple-A and working as a replacement umpire for Major League Baseball. He said he's umpired 212 MLB games since his first pro game -- Sept. 29, 2010, a doubleheader between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers in New York.
Conroy, 38, was born and raised in Williamstown and lives in North Adams with his wife and 3-year-old twin daughters, when he's not on the road. Though he holds an English degree from Siena College, he eventually decided to pursue his dream of being a professional umpire, and enrolled in Umpire School. (Learn about becoming an MLB ump here: http://atmlb.com/aza32M.)
On Tuesday, he revisited his alma mater of Williamstown Elementary as a guest of his former physical education teacher, Susan Kirby. She specifically asked him to speak about good sportsmanship and making tough calls.
"I think sportsmanship is a trait that is becoming a little bit lost in our society as a whole," said Kirby.
She said that in her 38 years of physical education instruction, she's learned the importance of keeping calm and helping kids to understand wins and losses with dignity.
Conroy acknowledged that sportsmanship is a learned practice.
"When I was your age," Conroy told the students, "I remember it clear as day. I was 10 years old, in fifth grade, playing basketball for the Williamstown Youth Center. We lost every single game that season. It was my first time experiencing losing. Instead of saying ‘good game,' I would go inside the boys' bathroom and cry. I didn't know how to handle winning or losing."
Many of the students nodded, seemingly in either sympathy, or perhaps empathy.
Conroy shared other stories with students, like making the tough call to umpire in the MLB offseason for four months in Venezuela, while his wife was pregnant, and how being an umpire has made him a neutral fan of the game and its teams, despite growing up a Boston Red Sox fan.
"The job wears that out of you," he said, noting that he never plays favorites. "Plus, every game is on TV. There isn't a play that happens that someone can't find a camera and show whether an ump got [a call] right or wrong."