OCTOBER 2023 VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6
What's your greatest fear?
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”
- Nelson Mandela
Probably more than anything else, umpires have to project an air of confidence. They may not necessarily be confident about everything and anything that happens on the field, but they must nonetheless appear to be confident.
Failure to be sure of what you're doing on a baseball field can lead to a breakdown at the fundamental level. If you don't look sure of every ball and strike call you make, every safe and out, every fair or foul ball, no one will trust anything you say or do on the field. And that can make for a long game, if you're getting arguments and pushback on every call you make.
"You gotta get help on that!" someone says after you make a weak out call on a tag play at second base.
"That's not a strike, Blue!" someone else yells after you hesitate calling a strike on a pitch right down the middle.
So it's important to look confident on the field. But that doesn't mean you can be confident about everything that happens every game.
Identify your fear
After all, according to some studies, there are 12,386,344 possible plays that can happen in a nine-inning baseball game. It's pretty hard to be ready for all of them.
It's important to not only know your strengths, but your weaknesses as well.
Sure, you're really good at calling tag plays on steals at second base, or making safe/out decisions on close plays at first. That's great.
But what are the plays you're not so sure about? What are the things you hope will never happen on the field?
For me, I'm scared to death of making a bad ball or strike call in a key situation. The Designated Hitter rule is also not my strong point, and I worry about getting caught in a batting out of order kerfuffle.
Not every problem has the same solution, so it's important to identify your weaknesses. That way, you can come up with solutions for them.Using my problem issues as examples, I try to avoid making bad ball and strike decisions by going back to the basics - I focus, concentrate on the pitch like it's the last one I'll ever call, and force myself to slow down and use good timing. It's a strike until I see otherwise, but I'm going to slow down to make sure.
Try a presentation
For the DH issue, several years ago I volunteered to make a presentation on the rule to my association during a training session. Believe me, having to give a presentation to a group of your peers will force you to learn the subject. You don't want to look bad in front of those people, so you work extra hard to learn the subject.
Batting out of order might be easily solvable in a classroom and on a sheet of paper, but it's a littler harder with people
crowding around and fighting amongst themselves and waiting impatiently for you to come up with an answer, like you may have on the field.
So to combat that, I found an excellent step-by-step guide on how to figure out if there actually is a BOO infraction, reduced it in size, printed it out and taped it to the inside of my lineup card holder. So now it's always there for quick reference.
Deal with it
So what's your greatest fear on the field? And how are you going to deal with it? Because it's not going to just go away, and hoping it never happens isn't really much of a strategy.
First of all, you have to be honest with yourself and admit what that fear is. It's OK. You're just revealing it to yourself. So be honest.
Is it game management? Confrontation? Timing? Positioning? There are dozens of options. And, like most of us, you probably have multiple fears.
One thing is for sure: It won't just go away on its own. So identify it, then deal with it.
If you're having trouble identifying your fear, ask a mentor. No doubt they'll see something in your game that isn't as strong as other things.
And once you've found your fear or fears, then it's time to find solutions. As addressed earlier, not every fear has the same method of solution.
Again, if you're having trouble coming up with a solution, work with a mentor to find the answer.
When you come up with the method, you'll need a deadline and a way to measure it.
Be SMART when setting your goals
When setting goals (or identifying and fixing fears), the SMART system is an effective method.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
To break it down further, Specific means your goal has to be specific. Instead of saying "I want to get better," try something like "I want to be confident with the Designated Hitter rule."
To be able to see if you're making progress, that specific goal has to be Measurable. Can you see an improvement from the same time last week? Or from five games ago?Of course, the goal has to be Achievable, meaning you might want to read the rule 15 times until you completely understand it, and ace a series of questions on the rule.
Saying you want to be the best ever umpire at understanding the DH rule might not be achievable. (Or Measurable, for that matter.)
Having a goal of becoming confident with the DH rule is Relevant to your job of umpiring, so that's a good choice to make.
However, deciding instead that your goal is to be able to quote the rule number and page of the rule book the DH section is in is not Relevant to helping you become a better umpire. Knowing what page a rule is on does nothing to help you better understand the rule.
You must also have a deadline, or make your goal Time-bound. After all, if you just say "I'm gonna learn more about the DH rule . . . someday" doesn't do anything to further your goal. Have a realistic end date in mind.
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Statistics for the 2023 World Series umpires
Here's a look at some information on the umpires who are umpiring the 2023 World Series.
Please note that at the time of writing, the series was just about to begin.
Collectively, the seven on-field umpires averaged 46.8 years of age, roughly the same as the average age of last year's crew.
The oldest umpire in the Series is Bill Miller, at 56, and the youngest is Quinn Wolcott, 37.
Combined, the seven umpires have 104 years of service at the MLB level, with the average being 14.8 years of service.
Crew chief Miller has the most years, at 24, and Wolcott had the fewest, 9.5.
Do the top umpires each year always work the World Series? The short answer is no, but another answer is . . . it's complicated. Major League Baseball uses a combination of ball and strike accuracy, calls overturned, and various other items, some of which they keep secret, to determine who works the World Series.
Let's look at the individual umpires in the Series:
D.J. Reyburn (sleeve #17) was chosen to work the plate in the first game. Reyburn, aged 49, has 11 years of service in MLB.
To date he has worked two Wild Card series (or, before 2022, single games), four Division Series, and one League Championship Series.
This was his first World Series.
In 2023 he ranked 63rd in ball and strike accuracy, at 93.5%, as tabulated by umpscorecards.com. (We counted the rankings of 75 umpires, who worked a minimum of 20 plate games).
Quinn Wolcott #81, was assigned the plate in Game 2. Wolcott is 37 and has 9.5 years of service time.
Wolcott has worked three Wild Card series, four Division Series, one League Championship Series, and this is his first World Series.
This year Wolcott ranked first overall in ball and strike accuracy, at 96%.
Alfonso Marquez, #72, had the plate for Game 3. Aged 51, he has 23.5 years of MLB service time.
Marquez has worked three Wild Cards, 12 Division Series, six League Championship Series and now five World Series. This year he ranked 61st in ball and strike accuracy, with an average score of 93.5%.
David Rackley, #86, was plate umpire for Game 4. Rackley is 42 and has 10 years of service. He has worked four Wild Cards, three Division Series, one League Championship Series, and 2023 was his first World Series. This year Rackley ranked 44th out of 75 in accuracy, with an average of 93.9%.
Brian Knight, #71, was scheduled to work the plate for Game 5, if necessary. Knight, aged 49, has 14 years of MLB service time, and has worked three Wild Cards, five Division Series, one League Championship Series and this was his first World Series.
He ranked 42nd in ball and strike accuracy for 2022, with an average score of 94%.
Vic Carapazza, #19, is scheduled to work the plate for Game 6. Carapazza, 44, has 12 years of MLB service time. He has worked two Wild Cards, six Division Series, two League Championship Series, and this is his first World Series.
He had an average score of 93.7% in balls and strikes accuracy in 2023, which ranked him at 56th out of 75.
Bill Miller, the crew chief, is scheduled to be the plate umpire should the Series go to Game 7.
Miller, #26, has 24 years of service time and he is aged 56. Miller has umpired six Wild Cards, 11 Division Series, eight League Championship Series and this is his fifth World Series. He ranked 37th in ball and strike accuracy with an average score of 94.1%.