FEBRUARY 2024 VOLUME 3, ISSUE 9
"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
- Vince Lombardi
NFL coach and Hall of Fame member
It seems everywhere you look on social media these days, umpires are practicing, training, taking clinics, getting ready for the new season.
The Wendelstedt Umpire School and MLB Umpire Prospect Development Camp recently concluded their training programs in Florida.
Training sessions are being held in almost every state, it seems, and every organization. Some are regular Zoom training calls, some are in-person. Some are on-field, some are in classroom, and some are a combination of both.
Depending on where you live and what you're looking for, a session could be as little as an hour, or as long as a week.
But why are they being held every year? I mean, every year.
Didn't you just go to an all-day camp last year? Why do you need to go again? Has umpiring changed that much since last year?
Probably not. But it has changed, I can guarantee that. No matter what rule set you use, there will be a rule change, or at least a tweak.
Some mechanic, or rotation, or positioning, will change.
So there will indeed be some change, even if it's small.
Well so what, you say? Surely, if there's a change, you can
The importance of training
pick it up from a senior umpire before your first game. Well that may be true, but there may be things that need to be discussed. Not all rule changes are easy or simple. You might benefit from a group discussion on the rule changes, led by senior umpire trainers who are familiar with the change and comfortable with it.
Methods of training are changing as well. Thanks to Covid-19, a lot of associations are using more remote training. In addition, there are technology breakthroughs. Devices that can accurately measure the strike zone are becoming more prominent, and can help umpires improve their strike zones.
And virtual reality headsets and software are also finding their way into umpire training.
So there are changes in rules, changes umpiring methods, changes in training methods. You're going to need to keep up with all that or you'll be left behind.
But those are not the only reasons to go to a training session every year.
To put it bluntly, every umpire has something to work on, no matter how small. No one is perfect.
Many training sessions or camps give you the chance to work on things you want to work on, such as timing, game
management, angles, balls and strikes . . . the list of possibilities goes on and on.
In addition, you'll be seen by impartial, experienced umpires whose only goal is to help you get better. So you might go to a camp thinking you need to work on your timing, for example.
But after watching you work behind the plate, a senior
umpire with decades of high-level experience sees that it's not your timing that's the issue, it's your plate stance.
That impartial, experienced help could take only a few minutes to fix, and it could make a big difference in your game. But you can't pick that up unless you actually go to a clinic. And practice it.
There are other reasons to make the commitment to a clinic or training session every year.
For example, 36 of the 100 contributors to the book UMPIRE MENTORS say the very best thing about umpiring is the brotherhood, the lifelong friendships it creates. Attending a clinic renews that bond. It feels good just to see those great people again.
Whatever you see as an important reason for going to camp every year, remember this:
The officials running those camps, clinics, sessions, etc., have lives. They could find something else to do. But instead, they spend hours and hours putting the camp together for one reason: they know it's important. They're trying to help.
So find a way to make those sessions work for you.
"I know you've heard it a thousand times before, but it's true. Hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, don't do it."
- Ray Bradbury,
author and screenwriter
"When you are not practicing, someone else is getting better."
- Allen Iverson,
former NBA player
Innovative ideas for your umpire meetings
If you have regular umpire meetings and are looking for topics to discuss, we have one for you.
It didn't originate with me - it came from another umpire who contacted me and told me this is what his association does. Unfortunately, for the life of me I can't remember his name or find his message. So here's the deal - if he sees this and contacts me, I'll make sure I let people know in the next newsletter who came up with the idea.
This person - let's call him John - bought the book UMPIRE MENTORS. He read the book and liked the questions and answers in it, and said he learned a lot from it. His umpire association has regular meetings, so he decided to take the book to a meeting and each week they sit around and discuss one of the questions from the book.
Imagine the discussion you could have - and the things you'd discover - if there are 10 umpires sitting around a table and each one in turn gives their answer to "What's the best thing about umpiring?" (Question 1 in the book).
If you think that would spark an interesting discussion session, imagine the lengthy conversation you could have with your umpire brethren when you ask them all to answer "What's the worst thing about umpiring?" (Question 2).
You don't even have to have a copy of the book. The questions in the book - nine questions for a nine-inning baseball game, plus a bonus "extra innings" question - can be found on our website, www.umpirementors.com.
That being said, if even one person had a copy of the book, they might be able to better guide the discussion.
For example, they could point out that not one of the 100 contributors to the book mentioned money in any form when asked what the best thing about umpiring is.
So if the people in your meeting begin talking about money as their motivator for umpiring, you might be able to tell them that it's nice to be paid for umpiring, but no top umpires do it for the money. Instead, they have other motivators - giving back to the game, lifelong friendships, or being part of the greatest game ever created, for example. Then see where the conversation goes.
In addition, game management is focused on a lot in the book, so it might be good to spend several sessions on the topic - what it is, how to improve on it, and best practices for different situations.
We can't even imagine the laughter and fun created when your group gets to discussing the book's Question 8 - "What's your favorite umpire-related story?" Umpires love
to tell stories, and almost every umpire with any experience has a few good ones.
Not only is this topic guaranteed to create a few laughs, a good moderator could also guide the story-telling session into a learning session. Most stories have something other umpires can learn from.
The 9 questions (plus the extra innings bonus question) will no doubt stimulate conversation on to other topics, which is one of the great things about the idea. In addition to just answering the questions, a lot more will be talked about, prompted by the questions.
We realize this is only one area of discussion, or things to do at your regular meetings.
We'd love to hear what else you're up to when you hold those meetings. Perhaps even other associations could learn from them or adopt them.
Let us know what your association is up to - what it does during regular meetings that can be helpful and innovative for other groups- and we'll share it here in future GOOD CALL! newsletters.
Send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll pass it on so others can learn.