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Life at the Top

You made it!

You've worked hard and now you're top of the heap, the "Big Dog."

You get the plate in the Big Game, and you work at the highest level available in your area. All your association members come to you for advice, and you're known as the rules guru for your area.

Surely that means you can start to take it easy now, right? Surely you can stop working so hard during games, stop reading the rule book like it's a best-selling novel, and coast a little bit when you're preparing to make a presentation for a camp or clinic.


Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Not if you want to stay Big Dog.

It was no coincidence you made it to the top. It wasn't just dumb luck. You worked hard, game after game. You studied, you asked questions, you paid attention.

Now you're going to have to continue doing more of the same, if not more.


Because now everyone is watching you. You're the example. Like it or not, and whether you're aware of it or not, people are watching you.

Young umpires are trying to learn from you; not only from what you say, but what you do. They're watching your games and trying to follow your example.

"Does he always hustle like that?"

"Wow, his timing is good."

"What kind of stance is that?"

"Look how clean his uniform is, and how shiny his shoes are!"

"I can learn a lot from watching this guy."

Or would you rather they were saying stuff like this about you:

"Wonder why he didn't hustle down to third on that play."

"Does his timing seem fast to you?"

"He's not really bending down in his stance, and I don't think he's in the slot."

"He must've done some games before this one. His shoes are all dirty and his uniform looks like he slept in it."

"I thought I could learn a lot from watching this guy. Guess I was wrong."

But there's even worse. Young, impressionable umpires watching you as you drag your way through a game will think that's how they're supposed to look and act. So they won't hustle at all, they won't focus on their stance and timing, and they won't pay attention to their appearance. Because, after all, that's how the Top Dog does it.

And it's not just your on-field behavior. Because you're the Big Dog, people will come to you with mechanics, rules, and positioning questions. You have to work at keeping up. For example, five years ago few people, if any, were practicing the wedge for plays at the plate.

So if you're not keeping up, you won't know how to help people when they come to you and ask you how to do it properly.

And it's not just the newer umpires who will be watching. The umpires with experience and drive, looking to learn something to help them improve, will also be paying attention. They'll be watching you like a hawk, trying to find something that will help them advance. And they'll know when you're not performing up to par.

Unfortunately, every group has its negative element. There will be those watching you who hope to be able to find something wrong. They'll be actively looking for your faults so they can say "Huh. He's not that great."

They think they can bring themselves up by knocking you down a peg or two.

Whoever's watching, it doesn't matter. All you have to do is these two things:

  1. Be aware they're watching. You won't see it most of the time, but they're there. So be alert that you're being watched, and act accordingly.

  2. The good news is, no matter who's looking at you, it shouldn't affect you. Just do your game, your studying, your presenting when you're at camps or clinics. Be yourself. Continue to do what got you where you are today.

In the book Umpire Mentors, contributor Eric Byrum (p. 358), who works D1 and Atlantic League baseball, tells this story:

I was at a camp three years ago and in our group was an umpire who just worked the NCAA World Series in Omaha. No one even knew until they showed his play on the big screen that he nailed it and got it right.

He was asked to stand up and tell everyone about this play. After he did, the man running the camp asked him, "Why are you here this weekend? You just finished calling the World Series a few months ago."

His response was "If I can learn just one new thing this weekend, then it will be worth it."

Be that guy.

This Week's Umpire Quote

“To really maximize your potential as an umpire, you need to get a solid foundation as soon as you can."

- Jim Evans

former MLB umpire

and umpire school owner

This Week's Quote That Applies To Umpiring

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion."

- Paulo Coelho

lyricist and novelist,

author of The Alchemist

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