Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is this a Balk?

I know that the angle isn't great but let's see what you guys think. Is this a Balk?

Monday, November 29, 2010

RIP Mr. Nielsen!!!!

On the first day of Umpire School, we watched this video. Leslie Nielsen was one of the funniest men I have ever seen!!! He will be missed. Rest in Peace!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A moment to say Thank You

Growing up in the western suburbs of St. Louis, MO, I was not exposed to the military too much. Sure, every once and a while, someone from the neighborhood would have a family member for joined the Army, Navy or Air Force. Outside of that and movies, I really did not understand what that meant. I know my parents tried to teach me but being the stubborn kid I was, I didn't pay any attention.

On September 11th, I got my first taste of why these people need to be saluted more than once a year. As I sat in the living room of my apartment watching the horrors unfold in PA, NY and Washington DC, I finally understood how fortunante I had been to enjoy the freedom that this country provides. I'm sure that there had been other moments where I had seen just how great this country is but it really wasn't until that moment, that I truely respected it. I'm not proud of that, I was just a dumb kid with too much time on his hands.

When I met my wife, I knew I was marrying into a military family. Her father has been involved with the Air Force in one aspect of another since the age of 18. I respect the hell out of him. Since starting my relationship with my wife and getting closer to her family, I have really learn to understand the sacrefice and committment it takes from entire families to be in the military.

On this Veteran's Day, I wanted to take a break from posting about baseball and umpiring to say thank you to all the men and women in the United States Military. I also wanted to say thank you their families for the sacrifice they make. I am proud to be an American and I get to say that because of all the men and women who serve this great nation. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do to protect the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. We could never repay you for the committment and sacrifice you give but we should always try. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!

God Bless America!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are you sure you want me to call every balk?

As youth umpires, we have all been there. Stuck doing a game where the skill level isn't very good. Sure, it's still better than sitting at a desk but there are times it isn't very fun. Now, I take every game I do very seriously. I try to be the best umpire I can be every single time I step on the field. But, let's be honest, we all let certain things go in these games. We might expand the strike off the plate a little bit. We might give the fielder the benefit of the doubt on some bang bang calls and we might not call every single balk we see.

Two summers ago, I was doing a Boys 13 game and it was not a very good game. Both teams were very weak and not very skilled. I was in the field and in the top of the first, the pitcher stepped on the rubber, took the ball out of his glove and then looked in to take the sign. The visiting team coach started screaming for a balk. I ignored him and thought it was over. Well after the inning, he pulls me aside and asks me why I didn't call it. I was completely honest and told him that if I called every balk I saw, it was going to be a long game. I have used that line before and it worked fine but not today. He demanded that I call every balk. I asked him if he was sure and he told me that he was.

Well, the first pitch his pitcher threw, he was about two feet off the rubber when he threw the ball. So, I called an illegel pitch. Now, I can't lie, I was looking for something but the pitcher did make it easy for me. The coach went absolietely nuts. He asked me why I would call that. I told him that he asked me too. He didn't llike that and went off and was ejoected about ten seconds later.

To prove my point, I told him he could go down the first baseline and watch the game. In that game, I called 45 balks and let about 20 go. And I called them on both teams (The home team manager wanted them all called to but wasn't quite as big of a jerk about it)

After the game, the coach I ejected walked up and told me he was sorry. I told him it was forgotten but I only did what he asked me to do. He said that he knew and maybe he needed to work with his pitchers a little bit.

Long story short....coaches when you ask for something, be prepared to get it. Umpires do not like to be showed up at any level. And for you coaches who are coaching teams who really aren't that good, it might be a good idea to spend some more time coaching instead of insulting the umpires.

The season is over but that doesn't mean that I'm flying south for the winter. I will continue to add stories, tips and rules questions as I think of them.

Here is the trivia question for the day:

Pitcher steps on the rubber. As he is coming set, he drops the ball which hits his foot and rolls past the third baseline into foul territroy. Whats the call?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Update on the Big Weekend

Well, this weekend was my evaluation weekend for the Midwest Umpires Association. I have two 18U games at St. Louis University.

Before I get into the actual games, I have to comment on the field conditions. I will get them a break on the field because it is October and I'm sure they aren't working on it that much. What I will comment on is the lights. I was in the field for the night game and the infield so so poorly lit that I could barely pick up the ball off the bat. For a divison 1 field, I would have expected more. Also, the plate umpire was having ttrouble picking up the ball because there was a light on a SLU owned building that was directly behind the pitcher. Both cather's missed about 20 pitches each, one of which took a ball in the collarbone (it ended up that he broke his collarbone). For anyone who a supported of SLU athletics, this needs to be fixed.

Now, onto the games. My first game pitted a 16U team against a 18U team. I was behind the plate. I believe I called a pretty good game. My big boy strike zone was working and I don't think I missed any off the plate. There was on breaking ball that caught me off guard that was a little up I called a strike but other than that, it was a great game. My partner had also been to umpire school so it was nice to work with someone who knew where to be. I would give myself an A on that game.

The second game, I obviously had the field. This was a rough game. There were so many errors and mistakes on the basepaths that they had me running all over the place. I know that I kicked (missed) one call. There was a runner on 3rd (I was in the C slot) and the batter hit a grounder to the first basemen who automatically threw the ball to third. The runner got in a run down so I start running to third to get a better angle. I got about half way there when the 3rd basemen (who had the guy at home if he wanted him) turned and threw to second. It took all I had to get out of the way. I called the runner out at second but right after the call, I knew I blew it. I have gone over the play over and over again in my head and I believe I was right in heading over to third, those yo-yo plays are just very hard to call. Other than that, I got the rest of the calls right. I would give myself a B on that performance. I hustled and got in the right position. I just needed to do a better job of anticipating the mistakes the players made so I wouldn't get myself caught out of position.

All in all, it was a good night. I have not heard anything from the evaluators yet (I'm not sure if they were there or not to tell you the truth). Hopefully, I performed well engough to get myself some college ball next year. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's the call

Batter hits a line drive up the middle. It hits the pitching rubber and bounces into foul territory before it passes a base. It then is touched by the third basemne in foul territory. Is this a fair or foul ball?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Weekend

This weekend is my evaluation weekend for the Midwest Umpires Association. I have two games to prove to them that I am capable of working some of their higher level college games. I'm not sure exactly what this will lead to but hopefully it will be some better ball.

The games I am doing are part of a Pastime Baseball Tournament. I don't know much about this orgbanization. Hopefully, it will be good.

The only thing I do know if that I will have 4-6 senior umpires evaluating my every move. So, wish me luck.

I'll post a full report on my double header Saturday night.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Importance of Not Assuming

The other day, I had something happen that I have only seen happen a few times in 20 years and it almost caught me off guard. Here’s the play:

Runner on 2nd, two outs. The ball is hit to the first basemen who fields the ball and starts walking to first base. This should be an EASY OUT!! In an effort to look cool he flips the ball to the pitchers mount…..only one problem…..he did it BEFORE he stepped on the base. Now, I almost signaled out but somehow I stopped myself and just stayed put and looked at the bag. The first base coach figured out what I was waiting on and told the runner to run. The runner touched first and I signaled safe. In the meantime, the runner from second rounded third and scored.

Needless to say, the coach went nuts and wasn’t in the game for very long after this but that’s a discussion for another day. The point of telling you this story is to once again remind you that timing is one of the most important aspects to being a good umpire. If my timing would have been too quick, I would have called him safe but since I take a second or two to make my calls, I was able to better process what I had just seen.

Remember, the quicker you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake. You will rush to call out before you make sure the ball is caught, or my favorite, you will call out and signal safe. Slow down and remember….see the play, make the call in your head, make the call. There should always be around a second in between the end of the play and your call. I guarantee you that you will get more calls right if you do that.

On a side note, I am considering putting some video training videos up in the next few weeks. I think it would be a good way to go over the correct positioning in the field and behind the plate. I have often found that I learn better by seeing rather than reading so maybe that will help someone looking for some pointers as well. Let me know if you think that is something you might be interested in.

Thanks again for reading and please spread the word about my blog. I appreciate it. Lastly, remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure the one you make when you step on the field is the right one. Look professional and act professional. PLAY BALL!!!!

Question of the Day

Runners on first and second, no body out. Batter hits a fly ball to short left field. THe Shortstop is able to get under the ball easily and makes the catch on the outfield grass behind short. Can this be considered an infield fly?

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Umpire For Instant Replay

A couple of years ago I was asked what I thought about instant replay in baseball. At the time, stated that there is no way that baseball needs instant replay. Missed calls are part of the game. Well, during the past two years, my opinion has completly changed. Today, I feel that instant replay is needed in baseball.

Why the change of heart? Well, it's simple, as an umpire, our goal is to get the call right. Instant Replay allows us to do that. There is no reason not to use the technology (most of which is already in place) to make sure that the game is being called as fair as possible. I also feel that if instant replay is good enough to tell if a ball is a homerun or not, why is it not good enough to help with fair and foul calls and close plays at the bag. There is no good reason anyone can give me that this wouldn't be a good thing for the game.

People are getting sick and tired of saying the missed calls are part of the game. I know I am. I want to see the calls made correctly, especially since everytime a call is missed, there are 20 angles of the play showing that they umpire was wrong. In football, sometimes you can't get the right view of a replay but at least they try. In baseball, I seriously doubt that there will be many plays that a camera won't show the correct call.

In this year alone, missed calls have cost a guy a perfect game, have allowed a player to act like he was just shot in the hand and get awarded first base and called a fair ball foul down the third baseline that would have ended the game if called correctly. These are just a few calls but in every one of these cases, if instant replay was allowed, the calls would have been overturned.

Umpires aren't perfect, not are any official. Mistakes happen but there needs to be a way to limit them.

Here is my proposition for instant replay in baseball. First off, balls and strikes are OFF LIMITS. That is one thing I am against changing. Why? Well, I honestly believe that umpires do a great job of calling balls and strikes. Plus (I may be wrong on this) I believe the camera that show the srike zone are not directly behind the pitchers mound do they are not 100% accurate.

Ok, Balls and strikes are off limits but everything else is allowed. Out/safe, fair/foul, catch/no catch. Everything. Each team is given two challenges a game. If you use the challange and get it right, you don't lose the challange. If you use the challenge and are wrong, you lose a challenge and lose a trip to the mound the next inning.

I feel that this would allow managers the option to use one early and not feel like they have to save it till the end of the game.

Also, I would add a 5th umpire to every crew (baseball can afford it). This 5th umpire (whoever it is each night) sits in the booth and would do reviews. I bet it would only take a minute on 90% of the calls.

Well, that's might opinion, what do you think?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tip of the day

When I first started getting serious about umpiring about 12 years ago, I attending my first camp. It wasn't anything special, just some of the local high school umpires helping the younger umpires in the area. It was here that I was first taught that when you are behind the plate and the catcher takes the inside corner, you should look at the pitch from directly over the head of the catcher.

This technique allows you to see the pitch and still see the outside corner; however, it leaves you wide open to get drilled by foul balls. This really wasn't a problem for me a few years ago but this past year, I went through a two week stretch where I had about 20 balls fouled off my mask in a two week stretch. It was really getting to be annoying.

It was then that I emailed a buddy of mine who is working AA ball right now. He told me that the minor league umpires are now being taught to go even further inside when the catcher takes the inside corner of the plate. When he first told me that, I thought he was crazy. How could you possibly see the outside corner from that position? Well, I tried it and to my surprise, I still was able to call the outside corner. Sure, it was a little more difficult at first, but once you get used to it, it isn't that much of an issue and most importantly, you aren't getting hit right in the kisser by a foul ball.

So, for all of you out there who are tired of having to wipe the ball marks off your mask, try this and I guarantee that once you get used to it, it will be no different from calling the pitch from over the top.

Stay consistent out there and remember that angle is more important than distance and never forget your......timing. PLAY BALL!!!

Get something off my chest

You know there has really been something that has been bothering me this year on the little league level this year. The players have absolutely no respect for the umpires anymore. They argue, they look back, they throw their helmets and just plain act like a bunch of fools and you know the worst part, most of the time the coaches and parents do nothing. Something needs to change.

When I was a kid, I played on the highest level in the county I lived in. It was very competitive but I can tell you, you almost never saw a kid argue with an umpire. It just didn't happen. If it happened, the parents and coaches would be all over the kid and he would mostly likely be benched. Sure, the coaches got into arguments from time to time but even that didn't happen too much.

About two weeks ago, I was umpiring a 12 year old boys game. I struck a kid out on a pitch on the outside corner of the plate. I had called the previous two pitches strikes that were in the exact same spot. He looks back at me and says, "Are you freaking kidding me?" Then he kicks the dirt and walks off. I didn't want to throw a kid out of the game so I walked after him telling the coach that I am warning his bench that I am not going to put up with that. The Coach told me that wasn't my job. Really? Controlling the game isn't my job? Interesting. Now, if that had happened when I played, the umpire wouldn't have had a chance to chase me down because I would have been pulled out of the game right away.

Situations like this have come up all the time this summer and I'm not exactly sure what the answer is (outside of lining all the coaches and parents up and screaming at them). I am pretty thicked skinned but there is something about a 10-14 year old arguing with me that really gets me fired up. My philosophy from here on out will be to not put up with it at all from the kids. Maybe with I chuck a couple, they will calm down.

Anyways, if you have any stories about this or thoughts, please post them. I would love to know that I'm not alone in seeing this change.

Answer to yesterday's What's the Call

Dead ball, Balk. Runners each advance one base.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's the Call??

Runners on first and third, one out. Pitcher steps on the rubber and takes his sign. As he is coming set, he drops the ball. It rolls down off the mound and stops in fair territory. The runner for third breaks for home and is thrown out by the pitcher. The runner on first, tries to go first to third and is thrown out at third. What's the call?

Post your answers below and I'll post the correct answer later today or first thing tomorrow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back Again

It's been quiet a while since my last post. It has been a crazy summer and sadly enough, umpiring has not been at the forefront of my life this summer.

Back in June, I had the opportunity to work a Frontier League game in the field. It was AMAZING. It was a great game and from everything I was told, I did a great job. A few weeks later I had the opportunity to work another Frontier League game behind the plate.

The first three innnings were amazing. It was the easiest baseball I had every umpired. The pitchers hit their spots, the batters didn't really chirp too much. The fans were loud and into the game and most importantly, the catchers were big and caught everything. Well around the 4th inning, everything started to change. I started feeling weird and my mask started to feel like it weighed 50 pounds. By the start of teh fifth inning, I couldn't catch my breath. By the 6th, I couldn't move at all. I had to leave the game early. Turns out that my blood sugar was very high and I am a border line diabetic. I don't think it will be my last opportunity, but I will have to wait until next year.

On a positive note, since I found out about the high blood sugar, I have lost close to 40 pounds, I am in better shape than I have been in years and I feel great. I am starting to get back out on the field more for fall ball and plan on working with the Midwest Umpires Association next spring/summer. Hopefully, that will lead to more Frontier League games.

In the meantime, I will try my best to post as much umpire stuff as I can. Keep reading and PLAY BALL!!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Worst Baseball Call EVER and Manager Ejection

This teaches you a few things. Firstly, you have to get in a position to see the play. The umpire here was out of position. Secondly, you have to wait and make sure you see the play. Thirdly, don't let pride get in your way. If a coach/manager is complaining that a ball was dropped, go ask for help. And lastly, have a sign that your partner can give you if he/she sees something different than what you called. That way you know you should go talk to him.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A chance to prove myself

For the past 20 years, I have spent every summer learning the skills needed to become the best umpire I could possibly be. I even went to Daytona Beach, FL to attend Umpire School because I dreamed of being a professional umpire. Well, even though those dreams will never be realized, I just found out that on May 13th and 15th, my dream of umpiring a professional baseball game will come true.

I am getting two shots to impress the umpire in chief with the Frontier League. This is a big opportunity for me, wish me luck.

Friday, April 16, 2010


This post isn't quite as much about umpiring as it is about the state of little league baseball in general. Last night, I had two games. Both were boys 13 and both were somewhat decent games. In each game, the lack of hustle on and off the field was crazy. There were times that it took 2 minutes to get everyone on the field. That is just not right. When did it not become a priority for the kids to sprint on and off the field? It might just be me but it bugs me.

As far as the umpiring goes, today I want to talk about communitcating with your partner. And I don't mean talking in bewtween innings. During the course of a game, there are various signals that umpires give one another to make sure they are on the same page.

The first one is simple, signal how many outs there are after each out. Make sure you each have the smae number of outs. If you don't, trouble will soon follow.

Second is the infield fly signal. When the infield fly rule is in effect (runners on 1st and 2nd or 1st, 2nd and 3rd with less than two outs) either touch the bill of your cap of your chest with your left hand and signal the number of outs with your right hand. Make sure your partner sees it because in a perfect world, you are both calling infield fly.

Third is more verbal but just as importand. If there is a runner at first and the ball is hit and there could be a play at third, the plate umpire should come down and make the call at third to save the field umpire some running or getting caught with the ;play actually going to second and him being behind the play. In this case, simply yell "I GOT THIRD!!" Sounds simple but needs to be done.

Four, and the last one I will talk about today, is the timing play. If there is a runner one 2nd and there are two outs. The plate umpire simple holds two fingers out and then hit them on your wrist, like you are pointing to your watch. This signals that you are going to stay home, in case there is a tag play in the field. This is extremely important because in those situations, you have to make sure the runner scores BEFORE the tag is made.

Ok, that's all I got for now, until next time, have fun out there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Foul Tip

This is going to be a short post today. Last night I was umpiring Boys 14 Select. It was the Gold division. In the second inning and a runner on first, this play happened. Pitcher pitches, runner stole second. The batter swung and tipped the ball into the catchers glove. No throw. Kid safe, no problem....right. Wrong!! The third basemen started yelling it was a foul tip, the runner has to go back. Then the coach started yelling, then the fans.

I was in the field, so I let the plate umpire deal with it at first, who explained that a foul tip is a live ball. The coach looked at me and asked if I agreed with that. I said yes. He said, "Since when?" I said, "Well I have been alive 32 years and I can tell you that for at least 32 years that has been the rule. I then told him to go read the definition of foul TIP in the rule book in section 2.

In case you haven't read it, the definition is, "A FOUL TIP is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught. It is not a foul tip unless caught and any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play. It is not a catch if it is a rebound, unless the ball has first touched the catcher’s glove or hand."

It amazes me how many coaches don't know this rule, I mean seriously, this is the simplest of rules.

I advice to the new umpire is to learn this rule and be able to quote it when this comes up and I'm sure it will.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Day of the Season

I am less than 9 hours away from taking the field for my first game of the season. I am pumped. Hopefully, the equpiment I ordered from Gerry Davis Sports will arrive before I leave to I can break in my new shoes and jacket tonight.

This is my favorite time of the year. Last night I went through my yearly routine of getting everything together and cleaning my gear and polishing my shoes. This is when my season begins every year.

This is my favorite time of the year but this year might even be a little more special than the others. On top of working at the little league complex, I am also getting back into high school and college plus, I am getting a "try out" with the Frontier League. I am going to work the plate during an exhibition game and, hopefully, get a chance to be one of their local umpires. This would be a dream come true.

Well, since it is the first day of the season, I think today is a good time to give one of my tips. This really isn't as much of a tip as it is just a clarification on a rule.

Remember when you get out there this spring, a balk is not a dead ball, it is a DELAYED dead ball. This means that if you call a balk, but the pitcher pitches before you kill the play and it's hit, you let the play run out. If the batter runner and all runners advance one base, then the balk is nulified. If that doesn't happen, then you bring the batter back to bat and enforce the balk.

My tip for balks. When you see the balk, call it right away, go back to a set position and then if the pitcher hasn't pitched, kill the play. Remember, calling balk does not mean that the play is dead, you still have to call time.

Ok, that's my tip for now. I might think of something else in a little bit but if not, have fun this season and hopefully, you stay away from walkathons!!!