WARRENSBURG — Former Lincoln University softball coach Chad Kerr noticed a small detail when he started checking his umpiring assignments in 2015. Most sign-offs include “Thank you” or “God Bless” or “Yours truly,” but not those from Bud Jones.
The Boonville-native finished every email with “Yours in Sportsmanship.”
It’s also how Bud Jones lived his life.
“I thought that was kind of weird (at first). It was unique, but beyond being an umpire, that is just how he lived his life — yours in sportsmanship,” Kerr said. “Everything he did was fair. He just lived like his creed, ‘Yours in Sportsmanship.’”
Jones died Saturday, Dec. 15, after suffering a seizure while refereeing a high school basketball game at the Lotspeich Automotive Central Missouri Shootout at the Multipurpose Building on the University of Central Missouri campus.
The 32-year-old was a familiar face on the court and the diamond, having been a high school basketball official for 11 years and having umpired high school softball for 14 years, as well as college softballl. Jones had just become a high school volleyball official this year.
“Immediately from the onset, you could see his passion for sports and his passion for fairness,” Kerr, who coached at Lincoln University from 2015 to 2017, said. “He was there to manage the game and call a fair game. He didn’t think people were there to see him. He was there because of his passion for the kids and his passion for sports.”
Kerr and Jones became friends on and off the field.
“I just always knew when we had Bud Jones on the assignment, I knew it was going to be a good day,” Kerr said.
One game in particular stood out to Kerr as an example of who Jones was as an umpire and a person.
A blown call at second base in the second game of doubleheader in Warrensburg against Central Missouri pushed the normally laid-back Kerr past his boiling point.
“I blew my fuse and I was on a beeline to confront the (second base) umpire and we were going to have discussion where I do most of the talking and probably get tossed,” Kerr said. “Bud was behind the plate that day and recognized that I was coming out of my normal character, and he intercepted me at the pitcher’s circle and stopped me from getting to the (second base) umpire and said to me, ‘That was a terrible call, everybody here knows that. I respect you as a coach, I admire you, you’re my friend and I am afraid you are about to do something you don’t normally do.’”
Jones de-escalated the situation and kept Kerr from receiving his first career ejection.
“That is the type of guy he was,” Kerr said. “He was there for people, and he was there for me.”
Jones also umpired for University of Missouri softball, calling fall games and intersquads for the Tigers. Former assistant coach and now head coach of Virginia Tech Pete D’Amour was the point man for coordinating umps during his 10 years in Columbia.
“There was nobody more kind than Bud,” D’Amour said. “He was a soft-spoken guy — just kind of did his job — and he was appreciative of the opportunities. A hard worker. He didn’t say much when he was behind the plate, but when he talked, you listened to him.”
Jones didn’t just make an impact on college coaches, but with high school coaches from across central Missouri. Tweets from Oak Grove to Otterville wishing their condolences poured in Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Jones had umpired and refereed games for Warrensburg over the years, Warrensburg Athletic Director Keith Chapman said.
“Bud was a great guy, always had a smile on his face when I was around him,” Chapman said.
The first memory Albert Foster has of Jones was of him reffing one of his middle school basketball games.
Jones helped Foster, now an official himself, when he first began umpiring softball games and worked basketball games with him.
“He drove an hour to watch me umpire my first softball game and told me what I needed to improve on,” Foster said.
Jones also helped Foster further his career, recommending him to work a junior varsity college game between Missouri Valley and Central Methodist this past January.
“He stuck his neck out for me. I woldn’t have gotten that game otherwise,” Foster said.
Working a game with Jones began the same way, with Foster and Jones catching up on life prior to the contest.
Once on the court, Foster noted that Jones, with college-level officiating experience, never treated him any different despite Foster being a newcomer to the profession.
“He never treated me like a new guy,” Foster said.
When Kerr resigned from Lincoln in 2017, one of the first people to reach out was Jones, offering Kerr a letter of recommendation and commending him on his leadership during his time there.
The email, as always, was signed, “Yours in Sportsmanship, Bud Jones.”