You're all set to do your supervision. Great. Now what do you do?
Above all, you're looking for things that need improvement, that you can help them with that would enhance their game. You also want to see if the umpires you're supervising are capable of properly officiating at this level, whatever it is. You can't always tell just by watching them work one or two games, especially if the games are quiet and go smoothly. But if you're paying attention, the umpires usually give you some clues.
Here are some things you should be looking for, in no particular order:
Did the umpires show up in plenty of time, and did they have a good pre-game, especially if they haven't worked much together?
Do they have proper uniforms and equipment, and are the uniforms clean and well taken care of? Are the umpires' shoes clean?
Do the umpires communicate during the game? Do they indicate, according to the situation, who has third base on a rotation, for example, or who has fly balls, or that they're in a potential infield fly situation?
Do the umpires hustle? They don't have to sprint, but they should be where they need to be when they need to be there. And they shouldn't be walking from position to position.
Do they talk to each other too much between innings and hold up the game?
Are their ball and strike, safe and out, fair and foul signals crisp and confident? Do their voices project confidence when they need it?
There can also be other indications that these umpires haven't had much feedback, which is OK. You have to start somewhere. And a lot of things can be easily fixed. Things like:
They make a huge "FOUL!" signal and vocal even on routine fouls straight back to the backstop.
The plate umpire doesn't always take his mask off when the ball is in play, or move out much from behind the plate.
The plate umpire does a big "strike three mechanic" on a swinging strike three.
The umpire fails to put the ball back in play after a stoppage, with runners on base.
The base umpire sets up too shallow (or too deep) when inside the diamond with runners on.
The base umpire fails to move closer to the play and basically makes calls on the bases from the position he started in.
The plate umpire spends too much time looking down at his indicator.
Other things will probably take more work, depending how ingrained the habits are in the umpires.
For example, if their timing is really quick, particularly on balls and strikes, that's going to take some work to improve, as is a bad plate stance. But it can be done, depending on how hard the umpire wants to work on it.
Ideally, as a supervisor you would want to see some type of conflict during the game - maybe a close play at a base, or a strike three on a close pitch in a key part of the game.
Not that you want to see the umpire get in trouble, but you need to see how he handles adversity. First of all, if the umpire made what looks like the wrong call or applied the rules incorrectly, you need to know what caused that. You can usually find that in the debrief later by asking the right questions.
But if there was some discussion or argument about a controversial call, you want to see how the umpire handles that. Does he keep his cool and respond calmly? Does the discussion take too long?
And once the issue is over, you want to see if the umpire has moved on and is focusing on the rest of the game, or if they're still upset and thinking about the controversy. You can usually tell they're not focusing if their timing or behavior is off, or they miss a call or rotation because they're not thinking about what they have to do now; they're still thinking about the problem issue.
In a perfect world (for a supervisor), the umpire would have a second controversial situation, so you can see if he hesitates for fear of getting yelled at again. Ideally, the umpire will make the tough call because he knows it's the right one, and won't be concerned about getting someone upset with the call.
Be aware that once the game is over, and the umpires are getting set for their debrief, that your job of watching these umpires hasn't ended.
You're still watching to see how they react to their feedback.
Do they have a pen and paper? You're probably going to have several things for them to work on. If it's more than one or two things, it's doubtful they'll remember them all unless they write them down. If they have a pen and paper, it's a clear indication they're serious about wanting to get better. It doesn't necessarily mean they're not interested in improving if they don't have pen and paper, but it's hard to fix things if you can't remember what needs fixing.
What's their body language like? Are they genuinely interested in what you have to say? If so, they'll probably be sitting fairly close to you, leaning in toward you and watching you as you go over your critique. If they disagree or they're defensive about their game, they'll have arms and/or legs folded, they'll be leaning backwards more than forwards, and they won't make much eye contact.
Do they try to argue with you or justify why they did the thing you didn't like or want to correct?
The second umpire should also be paying attention while you're making a point to the first umpire. If you're going over ways to slow down your timing on plate work, for example, the base umpire can still learn from that. After all, there will come a time, no doubt, in the not too distant future, when he will be the plate umpire. So just because a point doesn't concern the other umpire right at this very instant doesn't mean he can't listen to it and learn from it.
If your group is anything like ours, we have more young and learning umpires that need mentoring and supervising than we can effectively get to each year. For that reason, you need to find out which ones are really interested in getting feedback and improving. You probably need all your umpires because there seems to be a universal shortage, but don't spend as much time with those who don't want to improve and think they're fine as is.
Because your supervising time is limited, you have to find out which umpires are really interested in getting better.
Next time we'll talk about where you conduct your debrief, and the actual bones of a good post-game discussion from the supervisor (Hey - that's you!).
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William Evans, 22, became the youngest umpire in Major League history.
Chicago Cubs manager Frank Chance became the first person ejected from a World Series game when umpire Thomas Connolly threw him out for protesting a home run call.
This Week's Umpire Quote
“It isn't enough for an umpire to merely know what he is doing. He has to look as though he knows what he is doing, too.”
- Larry Goetz
former MLB umpire
This Week's Quote That Applies To Umpiring
“You owe it to yourself to be the best you can possibly be - in baseball and in life.”
- Pete Rose
former MLB player