Friday, December 11, 2009

Funniest Thing I have ever seen on a baseball field

As I have said before, this summer will be my 20th year as an umpire. In that time, I have seen a lot of things but this one takes the far.

I was either 19 or 20 and I was working on field #1 at the Chesterfield Baseball Softball Association complex. It was a weekend day and my partner and I were on our four or fifth game of the day, it was the middle of July so needless to say it was hot and we were tired.

Anyways, I was in the field and my partner, Rob, was behind the plate. The game had been an interesting one. The fans from one of the teams really didn't like Rob's strike zone. The caoches weren't too bad but the fans were all over him. Anyways I an in position behind first base with nobody on and two outs (I don't remember the inning or the score). Rob calls a kid out look at strike three. I thought it was a boarder line pitch, definetly one the kid should have at least taken a swing at. The coaches agrued and the fans screamed, Rob turned his back on them and walked down the third baseline. Everything quieted down so I thought it was over. I turned to go into short right field.

When I turned back around, one of the kids grandmothers is on the field walking out to Rob. Rob didn't see her right away but when he did he looked about as shocked as I felt. I had started walking in and this is how the conversation went:

Rob "M'aam you can't be out here."

Grandmother "Are you blind?"

Rob "Excuse me?!"

Grandmother "You just called me grandson out on a pitch that was 10 feet outside."

Rob "Please get off the field."

Grandmother "You are the worst umpire I have ever seen."

Ok so at this point the coach is starting to come out to get her but he didn't get there in time because Rob threw her out. Then everything went nuts. The fans absolutely lost it. They were screaming, a cup of soda landed on the field. The coach was trying to get them quiet but they weren't listening.

Before I go on. Never do what I did. In a situation like this, tell the coach to control their fans or he is ejected. If they are as bad as they were in this game threaten to forfeit the game. Most parents don't want to be responsible for their kids game being forfeited. So once again, DO NOT DO WHAT I DID!!!

I was standing half way between home and first with my jaw on the floor. I had never seen anything like this. This was out of control. Something had to be done. Rob looked like he was still in shock so I steped up to the fence and yelled as loud as I could "Your outta here!!!" They all stopped and started looking at each other. One of the fans yelled back "Who?" I pointed to one side of the stands and said "From you..." and then to the other side of the stands "to you." They just looked at me. So I said it more clearly, "Your all out of here. Go to your cars or this game is over."

It took about five minutes to get them to leave but yes I threw out all of one teams fans.

Over the years, I have told this story a lot but the thing that amazes me is that every once and I while someone else will bring it up. I have had umpires from other associations tell me that they heard about this. I have had kids who were playing in the game to tell me they were part of this game.

Looking back on it, I did not handle it well at all. Today, I would NEVER do that. I would make the coach take responsibility. I have learned that getting into it with fans (even though sometimes unavoidable) is not smart. But I do think it makes for a great story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tip of the Day 12/10/2009


According to the rule book, "The STIKE ZONE is that area over home plate that upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched balls."

Ok let's quickly break that down. The Strike zone is the area over the plate. For purposes of this definition this DOES NOT include the black. The black is NOT supposed to show on a field. The top of the strike zone is the middle of the top of your shoulders and the top of your belt. Somewhere just below your nipple. The bottom of the zone with just under the knee cap. This zone is not determined while the batter is waiting for the pitch. It is determined as he is preparing to swing. This means the strike zone is determined when batter is starting his swing.

Ok that is the rule book definition of the strike zone. Now, this blog is meant for youth umpires. And where I agree that if you are umpiring the top level boys 12 or higher, this is the strike zone you should use. This is not always the case. In youth baseball, there are going to be some games where the pitcher might need a little "help." You have all worked games like this. The pitcher can't find the plate. The right fielder is chasing butterflies. Nobody has swung at a pitch for 15 minutes. These games are not fun...FOR ANYBODY. Now, here is my tip in these situations. WIDEN you stike zone. Include a ball or two off the plate as part of your strike zone. I wouldn't change it too much up and down, maybe a little but you don't want to just be unfair to the batter. Look, I am, in most cases, a very this is the rules type of person. But after doing this for a while, I have learned that in youth baseball, sometimes you just need a bigger strike zone and 99 times out of 100, nobody is going to give you any trouble about it as long as you don't make it too big. Don't call pitches at the head a strike but maybe you call that pich that is just off the plate a strike. See what I mean?

No matter what you decide to do with the strike zone in your games remember this. The strike zone is NOT what each particular umpire feels it is. It is clearly defined. Now, I know that this isn't the case in any level but to be safe, at least base your strike zone on the definition and everything should be ok.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Infield Fly Rule

This is, in my opinion at least, one of the most misunderstood rules (outside of the difference between a foul ball and foul tip) in youth baseball. Umpires and coaches at all levels of skill don't understand this rule.

It really is a simple rule if you take the time to read the rule and break it down.

Here is how the rule reads in the Major League Rulebook in Section 2:

"An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, chatcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule."

Ok lets take a look at it.

"An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attenpted bunt)..." - This part is pretty self explanatory.

"...which can be caight by an infielder with ordinary effort..." - This is the part the gets a lot of people. This is a judgement call. The umpire has to decide when the ball is hit and it's a possible infield fly if the infielder could caugth the ball with ordinary effort. I always get the question when I explain this, "What's ordinary effort?" My answer is, if the ball can be caught without the infielder diving or running full out to get it, that's ordinary effort.

"...when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out..." - Once again this is pretty self explanatory. The infield fly rule is in effort when there are runners on first and second or the bases are loaded and there are less than two outs.

"...The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purposes of this rule." - This means that anyone on the field at the time of the pitch is considered an infielder.

So let's recap, the Infield Fly rule is in effect when there is a fair batted ball (not a line drive or bunt) that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when there are runners on first and second or first, second and third with less than two outs.

Now here is the thing that a lot of people (coach's) either forget or don't know. Infield fly is NOT a dead ball, it is a live ball. This means that the runners can advance at their own risk but if the ball is caught they have to tag up. Also, and I can't believe how many times I have to explain this to coaches. If the ball is dropped the batter is still out and the runners DO NOT have to run. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have seen the following happen.

Runners on First and Second, one out. Batter hits a pop up to the short stop. I call infield fly, the ball is dropped, both runners take off for no reason and at least one of them gets tagged out. It happens at least twice a summer if not more.

Ok, now you understand the rule but what are the umpire mechanics on the infield fly rule? They are pretty simple. When you have decided that you are going to call infield fly, point straight up in the air and yell "INFIELD FLY, BATTER IS OUT." if the ball is near the foul line yell. "INFIELD FLY, IF FAIR, BATTER IS OUT." The only other thing you will have to do from time to time is if the ball is dropped you need to point at the batter-runner and make the out signal while yelling "HE'S STILL OUT!! HE'S STILL OUT!!!" This is one of those times as an umpire when you can't be too loud. You need to make sure everyone can hear you so they know what's going on.

Well, that's the infield fly in a nutshell. Hopefully, this info will help you when you get on the field in a couple months.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Top Baseball Rules Myths

Worth taking a look at.

Quick Tip of the Day 12/4/2009

Dealing with Fans (Parents)

In my experience, the times I have gotten myself into situations I wish I hadn't on a baseball field, usually had something to do with parents arguing and me not letting it go and getting into an argument with them, not the coach, the people in the stands. This is not a good idea.

I have learned that the best way to deal with angry fans is to go to the coach. In most leagues, there is a line in the rule book that states that the coach in in charge of the fans. The rule makes dealing with these situations very easy. Go tell the coach to calm his fans down. If it doesn't work, remind the coach that he can be ejected for the behavior of his fans. This will usually get his attention and he will quiet them down.

Also, for you younger umpires, remember there is an umpire in chief or a board member on duty that will be more than happy to take care of the situation for you. Program their number in your phone and if the parents are really getting out of them and have it handled, that's why they are there.

The best tip I can give you for dealing with fans is this; They are going to yell, they are going to scream. Ignore it!!! Don't have rabbit ears. Don't give them a reason to become more upset and start yelling more and more. If you have to, talk to the coach or get the umpire in chief but never EVER deal with the fan yourself. That's not part of your job.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quick Tip of the Day 12/3/2009


Timing is a key skill needed in order to become the complete umpire. Your timing between when you see the call and when you make the call is estential. There should always be about a 1-2 second (sometimes longer) pause between the end of the play and the call being made. A quick tip. SEE THE PLAY, THINK THE CALL IN YOUR HEAD, THEN MAKE THE CALL.

You do this for a couple reason. First, on a banger (close play), you need the give the fans time to switch from looking at the play to looking at you. Secondly, this will help keep you signaling out but calling safe or vise versa. Also, it will give you a chance to make sure the kid holds on to the ball in some instance.

So remember, there is no need to rush your call and you are less likely to make mistakes if you slow down, see the play, make the call in your head and then yell and signal the call.

More to come....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My advice to the new umpire

Every year around December I start having withdrawls. This is the time of year when I just can't wait for baseball to start up again. So, natutrally, I start thinking about umpiring and it ususally ends up with me thinking about training the younger umpires since that will happen before the games begin.

This year will be my 20th year as an umpire. It's hard to believe that i have been doing this that long. I have worked games at every level from little league to college. Now, I am not going to sit here and try tot ell you that I am the greatest umpire in the world because if that was the case, I would have gotten a job after attending umpire school. However; I do know a few things about umpiring and I would like to pass some of my thoughts on to any young umpire who would like to read on.

Umpiring is not that hard. There really isn't that much too becoming a good umpire. Sure, it takes time and some hard work just like everyting else but let's be honest, it isn't rocket science. WHenever I am training new umpires, I always tell them, for your first few years this is all you need to do to put yourself on that path to becoming a good umpire: Learn the Rules, Hustle, Learn the Correct Positioning, Look Good and Be Loud. I believe that these five things are the key to becoming a good umpire. As you become more experienced and start doing better and better games, there are some more things that you will need to pick up but when you are first starting out and doing the younger games, this will be all you need.

Learning the Baseball Rule Book will take time. It took me 15 years to get to a point where i feel comfortable with the entire rule book. No, I am not saying I know every rule but I am getting closer. But to umpire at the younger games, you need to understand the basic rules of baseball. You need to know what the rule book defines as the strike zone. You need to know the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. You need to know what the infield fly rule is and when it applies. You need to have a general understanding of the difference between obstruction and interference. And lastly have a very basic understnad of balks. If you can master those, you will be fine in your first year or so of umpiring. But as you more involved you will need to know more and more. Here is my tip to really learn the rulebook. Put one in the bathroom. Whenever you sit on the toilet read the rulebook. This will force you to learn, plus it will pass the time. On top of that, ask questions. Before, inbetween or after your game go to where all the umpires sit and ask questions. Umpires love to tell stories and talk rules. Plus, every association in the world has someone who makes it his life to know the rule book and they LOVE to talk about it. ASK, LISTEN AND LEARN!!!

Secondly, you need to hustle when you are on the field and be in the right position. If there is one thing that I believe in, its that the umpire who hustles and does his best to get into position, will not get yelled at as much as the umpire who does not hustle and is not in position to make a call. Listen, in most of your games there are only going to be two umpires on the field. There will be times that you just will NOT be able to get into the "perfect" position. But if you are hustling, the coaches (most of them at least) will give you a break. Also, learn that ANGLE is more important than DISTANCE. What does this mean? Let me explain. Getting close to the play is important but your angle is much more important. If you get the right angle and have a decent set of eyes, you can make the call from the otehr side of the field. Don't ever try it, just trust me. Ask any older umpire that know what they are doing and they will say the same thing.

WHile I am talking about distance and positioning. Let me add one quick thing. You don't want to be too close to any call. Umpires who are right "on top" of the play are out of position. 5 to 6 feet away is as close as you want to get. It allows you to see more. Like I said earlier, your angle on the play is MUCH more important than your distance. I know it sounds weird but trust me...I'm right.

Thirdly, you need to be loud when umpiring. Not so loud that you are making a fool out of yourself. But you want to make sure that the 90 year old Grandmother with the broken hearing aid can hear if her grandson was out of safe. Being loud makes you sound more confident and the more confident you sound, the less crap you are going to have to listen to on a close call.

The last, and in my opinion, most important thing that you need to remember as a umpire of any lever is this.....YOU HAVE TO LOOK LIKE AN UMPIRE!!!!! You ahve to look professional. Have you ever heard the saying, "You only get once chance to make a first impression"? Well, that is especially true when you are a umpire. If you walk on the field looking like a scrub, most likely, the coaches are going to give you more trouble than if you look like an umpire. In my opinion, to look like an umpire you have to have umpire pants, black shoes, a plain black hat (DO NOT WEAR IT BACKWARDS). Your plate equipment is on under your uniform. Your shirt is tucked in and your clothes are neatly pressed. That is what a professional umpire looks like.

I know this sounds like a lot of work and you might be thinking that umpiring just isn't worth it. I felt the same way when I was younger. But looking back, I couldn't have choosen a better job to get me through my summers in high school and college. It is a lot of fun and it pays well for the time you actually spend working.

I hope that these tips will help you when you take the field this coming summer. Have fun and PLAY BALL!!!


It's hard for me to believe that this year when I strap on my equipment, it will be the 20th year I have been an umpire. It seems like yesterady that I was a scared 12 year old kid getting ready to do my first game. Since then, I have worked thousands of little league, high school and college games. I have attending the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires twice. I have even been the Umpire in Chief at the little league complex I grew up playing and umpiring at.

By no means is this blog intended to make people think that I am the greatest umpire of all time....I'm not. If that were the case, I would have gotten a minor league job after going to umpire school. But, I do believe that I am a good umpire. I have spent over half of my life trying to become the best umpire that I can possibly be. I have also seen a lot and have a lot of information that I think could be entertaining and informative to other umpires. Also, I think that baseball fans will enjoy seeing what the game looks to the guys in blue.

I will do my best to post at least once a week with a story or tip. I will also throw some rules questions in here from time to time.

So, thanks again for checking out my blog and I guess there's only one more thing to say.....PLAY BALL!!!!!!!