DES MOINES, Iowa — Eric Cooper was considered one of Major League Baseball’s top umpires before his sudden death in 2019. The Des Moines native was remembered this weekend at a charity event focused on a different kind of balls and strikes.

The Eric Cooper Memorial Bowling Tournament at Gameday Lanes raised money to pay for a $10,000 college scholarship through Umps Care, the foundation headed by fellow Major League Baseball umpires.

“We believe in education, and the intent is to put one kid through college,” said Jim Reynolds, an MLB umpire and a longtime friend of Cooper’s.

Cooper passed away at age 52, just two weeks after working his final game, an American League Division Series playoff matchup. His loved ones say his presence remains missed behind the plate.

“We got to the big leagues at the same time. We got our first World Series in 2014 together,” Reynolds said. “Eric was my guy. There are times where I find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call him.”

“He came through the American Association coming through the minors, so I’ve known him forever,” said Iowa Cubs president Sam Bernabe. “We miss him terribly. He was a great friend and a terrific umpire.”

Cooper graduated from Hoover High School and Iowa State University before receiving his call-up to the big leagues in 1996. He worked the 2014 World Series and the 2005 All-Star Game and was the umpire for three different no-hitters.

“I strive to be as good as Eric was,” Reynolds said.