JULY 2022 VOLUME 1, ISSUE 4
What kind of umpire are you?
It's not easy to become a good umpire, as you no doubt already know.
There are clinics, training sessions, camps, rule books, manuals, guide books, videos . . . and the list goes on.
But we're not even talking about any of that today. What kind of umpire are you? To answer that, forget about your rule books and positioning for now. We're asking are you an umpire who just reports on what he sees on the field, or are you a big believer in game management?
Most experienced umpires will quickly say they're a big believer in game management. Sure. Sounds good.
But even if you are a big believer in game management, that doesn't mean you've put any thought into the particular issues we're going to discuss here.
There's nothing in any rule book or manual that tells you how you must behave on the field. Sure, the manuals tell you to hustle and keep your eye everlastingly on the ball. But they don't tell you how - or when - to talk, how to engage a player or coach, of even if you should do it.
An umpire who just reports what he sees stays relatively quiet on the field and reacts to what's happening. For example, a Team A player yells something offensive to a Team B player, which prompts the Team B player to yell something equally offensive back.
The reactive umpire may not do anything yet, because the players haven't crossed the ejection line, and they haven't done anything to affect the actual game.
But an umpire who applies game management will tell the players to knock it off, because he knows it could build into something bigger that could result in multiple ejections and cause havoc in the game if left unattended.
That's a fairly easy example. Probably most of you reading this will agree the umpire should step in if two players are yelling at each other.
But here are some other situations where the answer isn't always cut and dried. You have to decide what kind of umpire you want to be. Most of these examples are for higher age groups, given that most younger players need some direction and instruction, even during the live action. So let's assume, when you're deciding what kind of umpire you want to be, these are quality teams with players aged at least 15 years old. And you can also ask yourself if you would treat the situation differently at other age groups, whether younger or older.
Situation 1: R1, 1 out, batter swings at strike three in the dirt. Seeing that the pitch was not caught, the batter now takes off for first base. Do you yell "Batter's out! Batter's out!" or do you just umpire the play as it happens?
Situation 2: R1, 1 out. With a 1-1 count, the next pitch gets away from the catcher and rolls over to the on-deck hitter.
He begins to bend down to pick up the ball, which is still live. Do you yell at him to not touch the ball, or do you just watch to see what happens?
Situation 3: Tight playoff game, with the tying run on first base. Batter hits a double putting the tying run on third and
the go-ahead run on second. Catcher heads to the mound, looks back at you and asks for time, but you don't see him and you can't hear him over the roar of the crowd. R3 now comes home since there's no defender there. Do you score the run or tell the runner to go back to third, since it's obvious the veteran catcher would have asked for time, as he is now yelling that he did, and you just didn't see it?
Situation 4: It's a rainy game and the score is tied in the 6th inning. Throughout the game, after the pitcher gets the ball back, if it's been on the ground (such as a ground ball or a base hit), he asks for time, you grant it, and the pitcher throws the ball out of play and gets a new, drier one. But this time the pitcher just flings the wet ball out of play underhanded, without asking for time. Do you call time, leaving the runners where they are, and get the pitcher a drier baseball? Or do you award bases based on the fact the pitcher just threw a live ball out of play?
How did you do? What did you answer? If you're waiting to see if you got the answers right, you'll be waiting a long time. As much as they like to try to cover every possible situation in a baseball game, there just isn't a clear and specific rule for every little thing. You're going to have to decide what kind of umpire you want to be. If you're by the book, fine. But, as with everything, there are consequences to that. For example, Situation 3, the one where the catcher asked for time but the umpire didn't hear or see him, actually happened in an Australian Baseball League pro game.
The umpire allowed the run to score and all heck broke loose, ending in three ejections. You can see part of the play here.If you're more of a game management umpire, where you try to make the best decisions in an attempt to head off
controversy, there are consequences to that, as well. If you do tell everyone you had time called in Situation 3, you may get just as much of a blowback from the offensive team, which doesn't believe you did, in fact, call time.
What kind of umpire are you?
There are no right or wrong answers. And you can't necessarily treat every situation shown here - and the infinite others that can happen in a baseball game - all the same way.
In some cases, it's just your normal conversation with players and coaches that you may have to watch. For example, in the 4th inning you happen to mention to the batter coming up that you haven't seen the pitcher throw
anything but fastballs so far today. That might just be friendly conversation, but it tips the batter off that he can probably zero in on fastballs this at-bat.
While there may not be hard-and-fast rules for every situation in every game, two things are clear:
1. Game management is a personal and individual issue. Every umpire seems to have a different philosophy about game management.
Even the experienced umpires in the book UMPIRE MENTORS (www.umpirementors.com) can't agree. We asked those 100 umpires and many of them came up with vastly different answers. For those of you who haven't yet read the book, we asked our 100 world-class umpires what their definition of game management is and why it's so important. There were nearly 100 different answers. Some broke down game management to different issues, such as preventative umpiring and handling situations.
See UMPIRE on Page 2
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UMPIRE MENTORS, the best book for umpires since the rule book, is now 25% off for GOOD CALL! subscribers only (if you're reading this, you're probably a GOOD CALL! subscriber).
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Are you ready
to be supervised?
Most of the time in our GOOD CALL! newsletter and UMPIRE MENTOR blogs (www.umpirementors.com/blog) we focus on the supervisors and mentors. But many of our readers are young, learning umpires, so we thought it might be helpful to add a story on the umpires being evaluated and mentored. And for those of you who supervisor or mentor, you might recognize most of these common beginning umpire faux pas.
First of all, if you're being evaluated or mentored, you should look forward to it. The supervisor is only trying to help you get better. If you find that's not the case, that the supervisor is being too negative and/or too critical, talk to another supervisor or higher-level umpire about it as soon as possible.
Supervisors and mentors should be trying to build you up, finding ways to help you and encourage you. They know a good umpire isn't created in a day, or even a year, so they should be patient and positive.
To speed up your development, here are some of the things you can work on in advance of your mentoring or supervision. If you fix or don't do most of the things on this list, your mentor/supervisor can move on to working on fine-tuning your game, and helping you improve and move up the ladder to higher-level games, if that's what you're looking for.
Again, these are things you shouldn't do, but many beginning umpires are guilty of.
1. Showing up late and not having a pre-game.
Too many young umpires think a 1 p.m. game time means they have to show up at 12:55 and walk on the field. Show up 15-20 minutes early and talk with your partner about certain signals and coverages. It will do you a world of good.
2. Looking too much and too closely at your indicator.
It's a helping tool, not something you should fixate on. Learn how to click each ball, strike and out without looking at your indicator, and then only glancing at it to check when you're not sure.
3. Yelling and signalling "FOUL!"
on obvious foul balls.
If everyone knows it's foul, there's no reason to attract attention to yourself by needlessly vocalizing this obvious foul. This would include fouls that go over or hit the backstop or go way out of play.
4. Staying in one spot when the ball is hit.
Both plate and base umpires have responsibilities almost every time the ball is put in play, which means they have to move somewhere to get the proper angle. If you end up where you started, that means you didn't do your job, and you probably didn't get the best angle for the play.
5. Leaving your mask on when the ball is in play.
Typically a young umpire has difficulty getting his mask off over his cap. It just takes practice. Learn how to do it properly, or ask a veteran umpire. Your mask should come off every time the ball is put in play.
6. Being out of uniform,
or wearing a dirty or sloppy uniform.
People judge other people by their appearance, including umpires. And your uniform is one of the few things you're in full control of. So take care to get and wear the proper uniform, and wear it correctly.
7. Not putting the ball back in play, or saying "Play!" when the ball is already live.
It's important with runners on base. Every time play has been killed, you need to make the ball live again when it's time to play. And you also need to know when the ball is already live, so there's no need to be saying "Play!" at that time.
8. Giving time at improper times.
R1 goes from first to third on a base hit and then asks for time, which you immediately grant. But meanwhile, the batter/runner is halfway to second. What are you going to do now?
Avoid that problem by having a look around to see if all play has stopped before you grant time.
There are others. Many others. And we'll get to them in future issues. But meanwhile, avoid these common mistakes and you and your supervisor will be much happier.
Continued from Page 1
Others said it's keeping the game moving along with the advantage-disadvantage philosophy and not being a "rule book Charlie."
Still others think it's about communicating and being approachable.
Again, there are no wrong answers. For the 1,000th time, I'll say it again: Umpiring baseball is tough. Do it to the best of your ability, keep it fair, and have fun.
2. Above all else, make your decisions for the good of the game. Don't make a decision just because you're trying to avoid controversy and this current decision seems the best way to do that.
Sometimes you have to make an unpopular decision because you know it's right and you know it's fair. Without addressing a specific situation, that should always be your guiding force: Get it right and make it fair.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is on record as saying MLB will be introducing an automated strike zone system in time for 2024.
While that seems clear enough, Manfred didn't elaborate on what type of system MLB will be implementing, or what specific brand of equipment will be used.
MLB used an automated ball and strike system (ABS) in the Atlantic Baseball League in 2019 and for the 2022 season they're using the ABS system in 11 Triple-A ballparks.
So it would seem logical this would be the system MLB is leaning heavily toward for their games.
In the ABS system, the plate umpire is still there - there's no actual robot. The umpire has an ear bud connected to the system, so he can hear if the system judges whether the pitch is a ball and strike, and the umpire then announces the decision as any plate umpire would - a signal and voice for a strike, a vocal "BALL!" if the pitch is judged to not be in the strike zone.
Whether or not you believe the ABS system is better at judging balls and strikes, there's a part of the ball-and-strike system that hasn't been addressed with the robo-system.
That is, it does not take into consideration how badly the pitcher missed his spot, or whether the ball is actually hittable. The system just projects a strike zone area, and if the ball is judged to have entered that area, it will announce the pitch as a strike.
So consider this: A catcher calls for a fastball inside and high. The pitcher completely misses his spot and the pitch is instead outside and low, but just nicks the bottom, outside part of the strike zone. That's a strike every time with ABS.
Is that what MLB wants? If so, if you think games are long now because pitchers try and nibble around the edges of the strike zone, wait until the ABS system comes into place. Pitchers will try to nibble even more, knowing they don't have to hit their spots or even throw what is normally considered a strike. All they need to do is get close enough so that the computer system will call it a strike.
Another possibility is keeping the present system, but allowing a manager to appeal, say, up to five pitches a game, kind of like the tracking system used in pro tennis.
Umpires can then quickly review the pitch and, based on what the ABS system said, change it if ABS disagrees with the call.
The only danger with that system, of course, is that it might result in several more delays per game.
But at least it still allows catchers to "frame" pitches and keep the overall style of the game intact.