“That was a strike,” the veteran pitcher growls at home plate umpire Dale Wiederholt.

“No, it wasn’t,” Wiederholt barks back, lifting his mask. “It was low.”

Insisting the pitch should have been called a third strike, the pitcher presses, “That wasn’t low, Dale.”

“Yes, it was!” insists Wiederholt, his voice rising.

59-year-old Wiederholt engages players and coaches with constant dialog. His style is to explain why he makes the calls he does. “No, that’s low.” Or, “That’s outside,” you will hear him say often to whoever will listen.

In another game, while working the bases, a player called out on a pick-off move jumps up and argues, “I got back.”

“No, you didn’t!” counters Wiederholt, loud enough for fans in the stands to hear him.

While some quick-triggered umpires might “toss” a player for arguing, Wiederholt – also known as “Shooter” for his signature style on called third strikes – is long-suffering with those who disagree or challenge him. After 41 years of working behind the plate and in the field, most baseball people in Northeast Iowa know “Shooter,” and he knows many of them.

“They give me a hard time, sometimes,” admitted Wiederholt. “Most of the stuff, when they are giving it to me, is just friendly heckling. I have known these people for years and years and now I am doing the kid’s games whose parents I also did.”

He said he’s human and does have moments that try his patience, but they are few and far between.

Wiederholt continued, “I enjoy getting out there. You might get me rattled once in a while, I will get somebody that angers me, but that is very short-lived. The next hitter gets up and that’s it, and it’s all over. Most of the time when the game’s over, they will come shake your hand, and probably even offer you a drink – a beer or a pop. I don’t think I have made any enemies. I think I have made a heck of a lot more friends, and people who know me in good ways, not bad ways.”

The nickname “Shooter” sounds like an uncomfortable moniker these days, considering the news of late. But Wiederholt wears the nickname like a badge of honor. It’s his handle, his signature. After all, a name makes somebody, somebody.

He describes how he got the name.

“They call me shooter because I get both fingers up in the air like I am going to shoot them after a called third strike,” he explains. “It was something kind of by accident. I called somebody out and shot them like a gun with both fingers. Then I said, ‘gee, that felt kinda good.’ So, it kind of stuck. And then I kept doing it. Then people would notice when I called them out on strikes, I would shoot them.”

According to Wiederholt, the Budweiser corporation had sent somebody up intentionally (unknown to him) to get called out on strikes so they could film him in action. “They had me shoot them, and that’s when they called me “The Shooter.” It’s just something that stuck,” he laughs.

But it was after a cameo appearance at the 4-minute mark of a YouTube video titled Craziest Baseball Umpires was posted, Wiederholt became a minor celebrity and the name “Shooter,” was cemented. He even has a t-shirt with his likeness printed on it.

Watching “Shooter” in action, it’s evident he is having fun and enjoys the environment. And the last 10 years or so, the demand for his services have definitely increased. “I use to do 50-60 games a year, now I am doing over 100. We just don’t have anybody. I don’t turn anybody down if I get a free night.”

Wiederholt’s decades-long labor of love began after graduating from high school in Dubuque at the young age of 18, umpiring baseball and fast-pitch softball. Now, at 59, the never-married, ever-busy umpire realizes time is catching up with him. He plans on retiring from his laborious job of loading windows and doors in trucks when he reaches 62, hoping this will extend his umpiring career. “I will probably give it six or seven more years,” he said, “till the body gives out.”

He has endured his share of bumps and bruises through the years, but said he has never been seriously injured. He took a fast ball on his shoulder on this night, which doubled him for a minute or so. He said he had taken a hard shot on the other shoulder a couple of nights earlier.

Asked if he could start his 41-year-career over at 18, what might he do differently?

“If I had my life over, I might have gone to umpire school down in Florida, just to see if I have what it takes to be a major league umpire,” he says, a hint of melancholy in his voice.

“If somebody would have helped me financially do it, I probably would have gone when I was 21. But I was trying to go to school, and back in the early 80s things weren’t really good financially.”

Now, after four decades and thousands of games, the 2011 inductee into the Dubuque County Baseball Hall of Fame has one dream: To umpire at least one game in a world tournament fast-pitch softball game. “If I could do one game, I would love to do that,” he admitted.

Wiederholt, who umpires the international softball tournament, noted that this year the world tournament happens to be in the Quad Cities. “But you have to be in a ‘special group’ to have such an opportunity, you almost have to give up your firstborn to get in.”

He pauses. “Or else, do a game out at the Field of Dreams, at their stadium.

“If we could get the Prairie League All-Star game at the Field of Dreams Stadium, or the All-Star game between semi-pro leagues, we could fill the stands.”