NOVEMBER 2022 VOLUME 1, ISSUE 5
Are you good under pressure?
"Pressure is a privilege. It only comes
to those who earn it."
Tennis legend Billie Jean King may not have had baseball umpires in mind when she said that famous quote, but when it comes to working big games, no words could be more accurate.
Yes, every game is important and should be treated accordingly. But in real life, the "big" games create more pressure for the participants and officials. Umpires, being human, are usually going to feel more pressure in the final game of a state college final than they are in the first Little League game of the year.
Picture this: You're plate umpire for the "big" playoff game. That "big" game can be whatever you think is a high-stakes, high-intensity game for you.
All of a sudden, you can't remember anything you're supposed to do. There's ringing in your ears. You're sweating - and you haven't even started the game yet.
Pressure is a mental issue that affects you physically. Your heart rate speeds up and you can't always think clearly, which makes dealing with a tricky rule difficult.
You're scared to death of getting a call wrong. After all, this is the big game. What if you mess it up? How are you supposed to get through this game?
Anyone who has ever put on the gear and gone behind the plate has, at some time, been nervous. If you say you haven't, you're probably not being honest with yourself.
As MLB umpire and crew chief Jeff Nelson said, “It’s OK to be nervous. Even the top umpires get nervous before a big game, though they may not admit it.”
So if even Major League umpires with more than 20 years' experience at the highest levels and arguably facing the highest pressures in our sport get nervous, that probably means you're going to get nervous, too. And that's OK.
It's how you deal with that nervousness that counts.
So, how do you do that, exactly? How do you perform at a high level even though you're aware this is an important game and the players, coaches, and fans are all expecting you to get every little call right, and may give it to you with both barrels if you mess up even a little bit?
Fortunately, pressure has been around for a long time, in real life and in sports, so there's been time to study it, analyze it, and combat it. Here are some steps to consider.
1. Don't rush
Tell yourself even more now how important timing is to an umpire. When you feel pressure, it can cause you to panic
and rush. But now, more than ever, you need to keep proper timing. Wait to see the whole play. Then, because you're stressed and rushing more than usual, take another half-second before you make your call.
Be consciously aware that you need to relax and breathe. The more you do this, the more you'll be able to slow down and use that good timing. Breathe in through the nose, inhaling for five seconds, hold it for two seconds, then exhale for at least five seconds. Then do it again.
The exhale promotes relaxation and calmness. You probably won't be able to do this during an at-bat, but you can do it between innings.
During the game, try to breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and still maintain your game rhythm.
See yourself being successful. Play out in your mind - in advance of the big game - different difficult scenarios where you end up excelling. Maybe it's a play at the plate, maybe an interference/obstruction issue, maybe it's just getting the proper angle and using perfect timing. When you've already "done" the play successfully in your mind, it makes it easier to complete in real life.
4. Superman pose
You might think it's silly, but I've tried it and it really works - if you believe it will work. Between innings of a game you're feeling pressure or stress, stand on the baseline
and literally strike the Superman pose - legs spread shoulder width apart or wider, hands on hips, straight, tall posture, head held high. Body language is important, whether you believe it or not.
Just watch an umpire who has blown a call and he knows it. If he's not a confident umpire, his shoulders will slump and he'll walk around looking defeated.
A confident umpire will move quickly and confidently to his position, never indicating that he just blew a call. He moves on.
And the Superman pose projects an air of confidence. So first use the pose, then feel the confidence it projects
5. You earned it
You're there in that big game for a reason. Whoever assigned it to you didn't just draw names out of a hat. You're good, and you belong there. And don't forget it. You've been there, done that. You have talent and experience. Sure, this is a big game. But you can handle it, because that's why you were put there in the first place. So don't forget to tell yourself that.
6. Have fun
It's baseball, for goodness sakes! Didn't you sign up for this because you like baseball? Where else would you rather be, than working the plate for the big game? Don't spend the whole game worrying about messing up. Take some time to savor it. Soak it up. Enjoy it. It's baseball at its finest, and you're right there in the middle of it. It doesn't get any better than that.
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Statistics for the 2022 World Series umpires
Here's a look at some information on the umpires who worked the 2022 World Series.
Please note that at the time of writing, the series was3-2 for Houston.
Collectively, the seven on-field umpires averaged 46 years of age. The oldest umpire in the Series was Lance Barksdale, at 55, and the youngest was Pat Hoberg, 33.
Combined, the seven umpires have 88 years of service at the MLB level, with the average being 12.57 years of service.
Crew chief Dan Iassogna has the most years, at 20, and Hoberg had the fewest, seven.
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:
James Hoye (sleeve #92) worked the plate in the first game. Hoye, aged 51, has 14 years of service in MLB.
To date he has worked four Wild Card series (or, before 2022, single games), four Division Series, and three League Championship Series. This was his second World Series.
In 2022 he ranked 51st (tied) in ball and strike accuracy, at 93.5%, as tabulated by umpscorecards.com. (We counted the rankings of 79 umpires, who worked a minimum of 20 plate games).
Pat Hoberg, #31, had the plate in Game 2. Hoberg is 36 and has seven years of service time, having debuted in the Major Leagues at an unbelievable 29 years of age.
Hoberg has worked two Wild Card games, three Division Series, one League Championship Series, and 2022 was his first World Series.
It's amazing Hoberg had a 100% score on balls and strikes in Game 2, as tabulated by umpscorecards.com, but it's not completely surprising, as he also ranked as the top balls and strikes umpire in 2022, with an average accuracy of 95.5%.
Crew chief Dan Iassogna, #58, had the plate for Game 3. Aged 53, he has 20 years of MLB service time.
Iassogna has worked three Wild Cards, seven Division Series, six League Championship Series and now three World Series. This year he ranked about 61st in ball and strike accuracy, with an average score of 92.9%.
Tripp Gibson, #73, was plate umpire for Game 4. Gibson is 41 and has 8.5 years of service. He has worked three Wild Cards, three Division Series, one League Championship Series, and 2022 was his first World Series. This year Gibson ranked third out of 79 in accuracy, with an average of 94.9%.
Jordan Baker, #71, worked Game 5 on the plate. Baker, aged 41, has worked three Wild Cards, two Division Series, one League Championship Series and this was his first World Series. Baker has 9.5 years of service time. He ranked 22nd (tied) in ball and strike accuracy for 2022,
with an average score of 94.3%.
Lance Barksdale, #23, is scheduled to work plate for Game 6. Barksdale, 55, has 18 years of MLB service time. He has worked three Wild Card games, six Division Series, three League Championship Series, and two World Series. He had an average score of 94.5% in balls and strikes
accuracy in 2022, which ranked him at 17th (tied).
Alan Porter is scheduled to be the plate umpire should the Series go to Game 7.
Porter, #64, has 11 years of service time and he is aged 45. Porter has umpired three Wild Cards, six Division Series, three League Championship Series and two World Series. He ranked 22nd (tied) in ball and strike accuracy with an average score of 94.3%.