Friday, October 7, 2011

Rules Question

This question was asked to me a week ago by one of my friends. I almost had this happen this summer. Let's see what you have for the call.

Batter hits a weak ground ball in foul territory down the first baseline. It hits something and starts heading back to fir territory. I comes to a rest up against 1st base in foul territory. Fair or foul?

Baseball Manager Epic Meltdown (139)

This ejecetion is worth watching. If you are ever interested in how minor league umpires are talked to, this is a good example. Every minor league umpire I know has a story of an ejection like this. WARNING.....THERE IS SOME SERIOUS LANGUAGE ON THIS VIDEO.

When is enough...enough?

Earlier this year, I ejected a coach for arguing balls and strikes. After the game when I was writ ting up my report, I was asked by a younger umpire where I draw the line when it comes to arguing the strike zone. It was a very good question so I thought I would share my thoughts on it here.

Arguing balls and strikes happens all the time and in all honesty, I don't have a problem with that. As a coach, I love to tip toe on the line when it comes to arguing the strike zone. As an umpire, I love to watch coaches tip toe the line. So, in many ways, I am a little more understanding when it comes to this than many other umpires.

Before I really get into this, let me tell you about the argument that caused the ejection. I was working the field and my partner was really hearing it from one side on his strike zone. They were making comments on pretty much every other pitch and he was just letting it go. Well around the 3rd inning, it was getting to the point where if he didn't say something, I was going to. They were being ridiculous. Finally in the bottom of the 3rd, there was a pitch off the plate, belt high the he called a ball. The coach start making comments. He walked down and told him to knock it off. The coach automatically yelled to his catcher, "Was that a strike?" At this point, I would have thrown him out. But my partner didn't. He told the coach, "Last warning. Not another word." If you are ever going to tell a coach not to say another word, you better back it up. Well, the coach kept on asking the catcher where it was. My partner started walking back to the plate. Well, at this point, the told the catcher to "freeze it for him for 5 seconds so he might be able to see it." At this point, being the senior umpire, I had to get involved so I walked over, told to coach to knock it off.

He wanted to argue that he could talk to his catcher whenever he wanted. I told him that he was showing up my partner and needed to stop. He kept arguing so after about a minute, I said, "I'm done, not another word about the strike zone or talking to your catcher, and I mean it." He looked at me for about 10 seconds and then said, "I can talk to whoever I want, whenever I want." At this point, I tossed him.

As an umpire, trying to figure out where the line is when it comes to arguing balls and strikes is a tough one. You don't want to make it seem like you are looking for an ejection but you also can't seem like a push over. When I am working a game behind the plate, I live by the following. If they are just moaning and groaning but then letting it go or asking the catcher where a pitch was on close pitches. I let that go. If they start making comments to me, I will let that go for a little while. If the comments towards me last for more than a batter or two, I will walk down the line and tell them to knock it off. At that point, what happens is in the coaches hands. As long as cursing is not involved and it isn't personal, I will not eject a coach for saying something from his dugout right away. I will give them the opportunity to decide what happens next.

I guess what I am saying is as long as the arguing is coming from the dugout, I will put up with it for a while. But if a coach leaves his position to argue balls and stikes, it's a completely different story. I do not have tolerance for that.

If a coach comes out of the dugout screaming about balls and strikes, you need to take a firmer stance on that. To me, I give one quick warning then toss them if they don't stop. If a third base coach says something to me quietly while walking back to the dugout, I might let that go depending on what was said.

The line is different for each umpire. Some of us have rabbit ears and others a oblivious to the comments. What we all should do, is try to find that place in the middle. Being soft is not a good thing but then again neither is being too much of a hard ass.

In the end, as an umpire you are going to be criticised, that's just part of the job. The question each of you have to ask yourself is how much you are willing to take.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How would you rule

I remembered this play while watching Jon Jay of the Cardinals run over the catcher.

Runner on 2nd, 1 out. The batter hits a line drive to center. The runner from 2nd rounds third. The throw is coming in. The runner is coming home. The ball is cut off but the catcher acts like he caught it and blocks the plate. The runner absolutely lights the catcher up. Do you make a call here?

This happened in a Frontier League game where I was behind the plate. Actually it was my first Frontier League plate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quick Tip for the Young Umpire

There are times as an umpire when a coach, player or fan can get you so upset that you actually just want to start screaming at them. Hell, there have been times that I have wanted to haul off and knock their teeth right down their throat. But as an official you need to learn how to rise above that.

When I was 16, I had a game where a coach put his hands on me. It was just a small shove but he still put his hands on me. Every instinct I had told me to shove him back but my partner had grabbed me and told me to walk away. Later, I was talking to my Dad and he told me that it is always best to kill them with kindness. As I have matured as an umpire, I have always rememebered that.

If you ever watch me umpire, I call everyone sir (even 12 year old players). I call the mom's Ma'am if they ask a question. If a coach starts an argument, I still call them sir. If we get into a screaming match with one another, I still call him sir. I know that there are times I am going to have to yell but I always try to be professional.

That is one tip I try to give every young umpire I work with. Sure there are times you are going to have to lay the law down when working a game but never ever lose your professionalism.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rules Question

Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out. The runner on 1st steals on the pitch. The pitch bounces off the plate, hits the umpire in the chest and then lands in his ball bag. What's the call?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rules Question

Ok, I had this last night. Let's see how you would rule it.

Runner on third, two outs. Pitcher throws a pitch that bounces before home plate and the catcher knocks it down. It rolls about 5 feet away. The runner from third breaks for home and the catcher gets the ball. When going to tag the runner, the batter backs up into the catcher causing him to have to stop and go the other direction.

Whats your call?

A Decent Night at the Ballfields

Last night I had the opportunity to work a game with a Double A umpire. Ian started umpiring at my association when he was 18 and half way through his first game, the Umpire and Chief and I told him that he needed to go to umpire school. Well, long story short, he went and now at the age of 24 he is a double A umpire. Pretty cool.

Anyways, when he season is over, he always comes back and works a few games with us. Last night, I got to work with him and he is an amazing umpire. Unfortuanetly, the game, was not a very good game. He didn't have much to do in the field but it was nice to watch his positioning and mechanics. I took a few notes, asked a lot of questions and for once I enjoyed a 16-1 blow out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where has the fun gone?

Excuse for a minute while I pull out my soap box because I have something to get off my chest. When did little league baseball stop being fun? This past summer I have really noticed that it doesn't seem like the coaches, kids, fans or umpires are having nearly as much fun as they used to. The other night I was umpiring a boys 12 fall ball game. It was between two fairly good teams. One team had a coach who didn't say one good thing the entire night. There was no constructive criticism. There was just yelling!! If I was a parent of a kid on this team, I would have pulled my kid off the field. At one point, a kid hit a screaming line drive to the center fielder. He crushed it but he hit it right at him. The coach started yelling at the kid for not getting around on the ball quicker. Really? Are you kidding me? What happened to a pat on the butt and telling the kid "Nice stroke, keep your head up." I don't understand when the mentality of little league baseball change. When I was a kid, I played National Blue which was as high as you could play in our league. We were a pretty good team. We took it seriously. We wanted to win. But it was fun. Our coaches understood that it was their jobs to teach us the fundamentals of the game and get us ready for high school. Winning was nice but it wasn't the most important thing. Sure, if we didn't have our heads in a game, we would get yelled at but it wasn't nearly as brutal as it is today. As an outsider looking in, I am nervous about my son playing baseball when he is old enough. I am all for tough love but the coaches today are so focsued on winning they forget that their main job is the fundamentals. Not to teach a 10 year old to throw a curve ball. And even though there is a time a place for coaches to yell, there is no place where are kid should be asked if he is stupid for making a mistake. As an umpire, I have to remind myself at times there as long as the coaches don't physically harm the players there is nothing I can do. If the parents want to put their children in that type of situation, who am I to say anything about it. But I will tell you that I have been around little league baseball for my entire life. Kids are not having as much fun as they used to. Sure, I think the kids still like the game but not with the same zeal we did when I played as a kid. When I get to the point where my son starts playing baseball, I am going to coach. Not because I think I know the most about the game. I don't. But I can teach the fundamentals as well as anyone and I really think that, and having fun, are the most important aspects to little league baseball.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rules Question

Well, I am in the thick of fall ball and have been doing a few games here and there. Even though most of the games aren't very competative, I enjoy fall ball. It gives me a chance to work on new plate mechanics or to sharpen up things that need work on. It is also, for the most part, a much more relaxed atmosphere than the summer.

I have three games this week so I hope to have some stories by the weekend but now is a good time for a couple rules questions.

This play I saw earlier this summer. I know I got the call right but the coach didn't agree. Let's see what you come up with.

Runner on first. The first baseman is playing in front of the runner. Batter hits a line drive past the first baseman and it hits the the runner. The 2nd baseman hasn't moved. Whats the call?

I'm sure all of you will get that one. I sure hope so.

Well, I am going to try to come up with some really good rules questions over the next few weeks. Until then, remember that the tie does not go to the runner and PLAY BALL!!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011


It's been a long HOT crazy summer. Unfortunately, my primary job has made it very difficult for me to umpire over the last month but with fall ball right around the corner, I plan on geting back on the field real soon. In the meantime, I am working on some training posts and rules questions posts which I hope to have up soon.

Until then...PLAY BALL!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I dare you to forfeit this game

Today, I got to talking to an old friend who I used to umpire with all the time and for some reason, this story came to mind.

About 8 or 9 years ago when I was running the umpires at our association, my buddy and I put ourselves and a very good 12 year old game. It was two of the top teams in the area. We usually put ourselves on these games because they were great games to umpire.

I was working the plate and the game started without an issues. Then about the third inning, I called a kid out on a pitch on the inside corner. He turned and started complaining. I did what I always did and told the coach to tell his player to knock it off. Well, it was the coaches son who was complaining. He told me that if I called strikes that were actually strikes, his players wouldn't complain. Well, obviously, I didn't take that very well and we got into an argument. We went back and forth for a minute and then I just walked away thinking it was over. (Now would be a good time to mention that he and his son were black. Yes it actually has something to do with the rest of this story).

Anyways, I was walking back to my partner when I heard the following line, "Maybe if you weren't a racist you would call balls and strikes the same for my son as everyone else." At this point, my partner and I both at the exact same time turned and threw him out of the game. Well, he wouldn't leave. He just kept yelling, "I'm not going anywhere." After about two minutes of this, I told him that he had one minute to leave the field or I was going to forfeit the game. He looked at me and said, "I dare you to forfeit this game." Well, my partner and I looked at each other and walked off the field.

That game was one that I have never forgotten. I received about 20 phone calls about it within an hour of making my decision. To this day, I stand by our decision. As much as I hated not letting the kids play, I think it was the right call.

You make the call

This happened the other night in a game I was working. Let's see how you would have ruled.

Runner on first. The pitcher comes set and the runner leaves early. Without stepping off, the pitcher spins and throws to second to make the play on the runner. Is this a balk for throwing to an unoccupied base?

You make the call.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back At It!!

After a couple weeks off for various reasons, I am back at it tonight with two Boys 14 games. It will be nice to get back on the field again. This summer has been pretty crazy with work and my kids starting to get involved with their own activities. But it's always nice to be able to get out there and work a couple games.

Friday, June 17, 2011

You make the call

This question caused quiet a bit of discussion the other day. Let's see how you would rule.

No runners on. The batter hits a sharp groundball to the first basemen. The first basemen makes the play but them falls over as running to first. He see's he won't have time to get up but he also can't reach the bag so he takes his hat off and touches the base with his hat before the runner touches first. What's the call?

By the way, this happened on a game earlier this year. I wasn't on it but I was watching. Interesting conversation after this ruling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How would you call this

I had this the other night. Let's see how you would call it.

Pitcher pitches and it's going to hit the batter. The batter, doesn't turn his back into the ball, instead he turns into the ball. The bat doesn't leave his shoulder until he realizes he is going to get hit in the gut. At that point he bring his hands (still holding the bat) down the block the ball. The coach start screaming that he broke the plane. I ruled that he was protecting himself and I didn't rule a swing. Was I right or wrong?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rule Question

I'm sure most of you will know this but I'm tired today and this is all I can come up with.

Runners on first and second. The runner on first gets his signs mixed up and steals. The runner on 2nd does not. They both end of standing on the base. The fielder, tags both of them while they are both standing on the base. Who's out?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rules Question

This happened to me about 9 years ago and it came up in a discussion the other day. Let's see if you know the answer.

Runner on first. Runner steals on the pitch, the catcher goes to throw him on and hit's the plate umpire on the backswing of his throw which causes him the throw the ball into center field. The runner ends up on third. What's the call?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Code of Conduct for Umpires

In my last post, I recieved the following comment:

"just had an umpire yell at a 14 yr old kid, 2 inches from his face like he was going to beat him up because he drew a line with the bat to connect part of the batters box that was scrubbed away. is there a conduct rule for umpires in Little League?"

Here is my response:

I believe that in little league and in all levels of baseball there is a definite code of conduct for umpires. Umpires need to be professional at all times. Sure there is a time to yell and show that you are in control of the field but even then, you do it respectively and stay in control. When I get into an argument with a coach, no matter what he says to me, I still call him sir. If a kid gets on me, I might go talk to coach or say something to the kid but I stay in control. I don’t lose my cool. As an umpire, you are a representative of your league, your complex and every umpire that works with you.

Getting in a 14 year olds face is not acceptable. There is nothing that a kid could do that would make me do something like that. The way I look at it, if the offense warrants getting in the kids face, then he should be thrown out of the game anyways so I would just do that. I have two ways of handling a situation with a player. The first is that I pull the kids aside and calmly talk to him and explain that I’m not going to put up with it. Or I talk to the coach and let him deal with it. The only time I might really raise my voice at a player is if he argues balls and strikes but even then, it’s something simple like knock it off or that’s enough. I never get in a players face. Actually, I think in my 22 years, I have only been in three arguments at the little league level where I was in someone’s face and in each situation, the coach was the one getting in my face.

Hope that answers your question.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where's the Respect Part 2

This season has been a pretty decent season. I have had a chance to umpire some really good baseball but I have to tell you, I am getting to the point where this isn't fun anymore. The lack of respect towards umpires by coaches, fans and players is amazing. This was stuff that didn't happen 6-7 years ago, let alone when I played.

I'm an umpire. Arguments are part of my job. I understand that they are going to happen. I know I am going to tick some people off and they are going to get in my face from time to time...I'm ok with that. What I am not ok with is the blantent lack of respect for us. I will give you a couple examples. The other night at my complex, a mom followed one of the umpires to his car after the game screaming at him the entire time. I had a kid turn around a tell me I was crazy on a strike three call a week ago. Two nights ago on a play where a kid tagged a player with his glove while he was holding the ball in his throwing hand, a kid threw his glove in the air and yelled, "you have got to be kidding me" Now, I am one who doesn't like to throw players (or anybody to be completely honest with you) out of games. But it has gotten to the point that starting tonight, I am going to warn all the players before the game that this won't be tollerated.

You know, I am making it sound like I work at the worst ballpark in America. I can tell you that I have seen in everywhere. I was in Chicago a few weeks ago and 11 year old kids were yelling at the umpire on the visiting team. A scorekeeper cussed out the umpire after the game. At the fields near my house, I stopped by to talk to someone and I saw three fans ejected from the park in a matter of 10 mintues on three different fields. This is something that has to stop.

I think the problem is that people are forgetting that little league baseball is about getting the kids ready to play high school baseball and to have fun...that's it. It's not about how many games you win, it's not about playing in tournaments all over the country. WHile that stuff is fun, it's not the most important thing and I think that has been lost with parents and it is carrying over to the players.

Anyways, I figure I can get off my soapbox now. Weather permitting, I have two tonight. Hopefully, they are event free.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rules Questions

Ok, you all better get these right.

The other night, I have both of these happen and the coahces actually argued with me, I was amazed so I am putting on here to prove to myself that some people at least know the rules. Don't let me down.

Runner on second, 1 out. The Batter hits a line drive that is caught by the SS. The Runner is caught WAY off the base. The SS turns and fires the ball to second base but throws it high. The second baseman jumps, catches the ball and falls down on his back right on top of the base before the runner gets back. He never steps on the base or puts his glove on the base. What's the call?

Runner on second, 1 out. The batter hits a ground ball to the SS who runs right at the runner who is caught off 2nd. He has the ball in his throwning hand and tags the runner with his glove. What's the call?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rules Question

I had this come up the other day. Let's see how you would rule it.

Runners on 1st and 2nd, one out. The pitcher steps off the rubber and throws the ball to first in an attempt to pick off the runner. THe ball goes over the first basemens head and goes out of play. Where to the runners go?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rules Question

Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out. The batter hits a fly ball to deep right field. Runners on 2nd and 3rd tag up and move up one base. The ball goes back to the pitcher who steps on the rubber and then steps off and appeals the runner leaving early at second. The umpire calls the runner out of leaving early for the third out. Does the run score?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Perfect Game*****

I put a lot of asterisks next to the title because it was only a 5 inning game but last Thursday, I umpired my first ever (shortened by still impressive) perfect game. 15 up, 15 down, 12 strikeouts, 2 ground out and one pop up. The kid just dominated from the first pitch and was pretty much untouchable. For me, it was a pretty boring game, I didn't do anything besides watch one team run around the bases and the other strike out but it was cool to watch.

I have had a bunch of rain outs lately. I am scheduled to work again this Thursday and it looks like the rain will hold off. I hope so because it would be nice to be out there more.

On a personal note, my 5 year old daughter played her first softball game last week. I put her in coach pitch instead of t-ball for her first year. Anyways, she had a lot of fun with her first game but my favorite part was her first at-bat. She made me so proud. She was scared to death and missed the first two pitches but then stepped back took a deep breath and hit the third. Then....she ran to third base. It was great. Anyways, it's nice to be on the parent/coach side for once. Above is a picture of her first game.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tip of the Day - Working Solo

A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago to visit my sister in law and her family. While we were there, we went to their kids baseball games. Both of these kids play on select teams. One is 12 and the other 11. In each of these games, they only had one umpire. In watching these games, I was reminded of how hard it can be to work a game by yourself. I thought it might be a good idea to throw a couple tips out there to help you out.

1) Completely give up distance for angle. When you are umpiring by yourself, there is no way you are going to be in perfect position for every call. So do what you can to get the rigth angle on the calls and don't even worry about distance.

2) Hustle. Every time the ball is hit, you need to be out from behind home plate. On a play at first, you should be as close to the pitching mound as possible. You need to get out from behind the plate and give yourself the best chance you can get at seeing the play. Coaches will give you the benefit of the doubt if you hustle.

3) Be loud...SELL EVERY CALL!!

Umpiring by yourself is not fun and I don't think it is something that should happen very often but when it does if you follow these steps, you'll be ok.

Back At It!!

Well, it seems like it has been a while since I have posted anything. Actually, it seems like it has been a while since I have umpired. I guess a week full or rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes and a trip out of town will do that to you. Well, in about two hours, I get a chance to get back out there. Today, I have a middle school recreational game. I usually don't do these games but as a favor to the lower school athletic director at my old high school, I have agreed to do it. I get to work with one of my favorite partners so it should be a good day.

I'll post on the game if anything exciting happens. My next good games are Thursday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A very soggy night

Last night was doomed from the start. About an hour before the game, half of the state of Missouri was covered in heavy rain so it was only a matter of time before it got to us in St. Louis. We were able to get in the first game, barely, but we did not get the second one in.

Last night I worked a Boys 12 Select Tournament game. It was a very well played game. I worked the plate and called a good game. I am trying to get back into working the box behind the plate instead of the scissors. When I was at umpire school, they wouldn't allow us to do anything other than the box but I was always more comfortable in the scissors. However, the more and more I work the box, I am finding that I am better able to see the outside corner of the plate in the box and I am better able to "lock in". By lock in, I mean that when the pitch is thrown, an umpire should not move his head at all. He should follow the pitch with only his eyes, moving your head, changes the strike zone.

Anyways, there really wasn't anything exciting in the gameplay of the game, however the rain made the game interesting. One tip I will give all young umpires about playing in the rain is this, if you think for any reason that the field is become unsafe because of the rain, stop the game and see if you can fix it. Last night, it was raining pretty hard but the field wasn't getting too wet but the bases and pitching rubber was. I had two kids slip running across home plate and three fall over trying to round a base. I stopped the game so we could take a look at the field and get the bases cleaned off. It made a big difference until the top of the 6th when it started pouring. Now, in this case, there were two outs and the tying run was on 2nd so I finished the at bat because we were close to the end. If that batter had gotten on, I would have ended the game.

It was a good night at the park. I would have liked to have gotten both games in.

Ok, before I end this post, I need to get on my soap box again, last night in my boys 12 games, I had kids throwing a TON of curve balls and they were taught to do it in a way that is really going to hurt them. As a parent of a 2 year old, if my son ever becomes a pitcher and his coach (most likely it will be me but if it isn't) tries to get him to throw a breaking ball, I'll pull him off the team. Today's youth coaches are so interested in winning that they forget that their job is to teach the game of baseball to the kids and to help them learn the skills that will make them successful at the next level. In this case it would be high school. Learning how to throw a curve ball is not doing that. Teaching them the proper pitching mechanics is. It drives me crazy that parents allow coaches to do this to their children.

Ok enough of my rant....have a good weekend everybody...hope it stays dry.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back at it

After almost a week off, I will be back on the field tonight. As of right now I have two Boys 12 select games but I am sure that will be changed before the end of the day.

I'm looking forward to getting back out there. It's been too long.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quick Question

Last week I had two boys 11 games. In those games, the pitchers were trying curve balls. Can any coaches out there who might be reading this please tell me why a 11 year old (10 in some cases) need to be throwing curve balls.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two Games on a Perfect Night

There are some night when being at the ballpark is an absolute joy...last night was one of those nights. The weathers was perfect, the games (even though not all that competative in the first game) moved along quickly and there were no problems to speak of.

Last night I had two boys 13 games. I had the plate duties for the first game and it was the perfect type of game to have behind the plate. The pitchers were around the plate, the batters swung the bats and we were done in an hour 20 minutes. I love it when you have don't have to rush to get ready for your second game. The game itself wasn't that exciting. The final score was 14-4 and it could have been a lot worse. I did get a chance to umpire a couple kids who played on the soccer team I coached last fall so that was fun.

The second game was another boys 13 game. This was a pretty good game. The pitchers did a great job of staying around the plate in this game. I had three or four close plays in the field to keep me awake. We had three infield flies and a few balks but once again, there really were any situations that came up. We did have another balk call where the kid actually hit the ball. This time it was caught by the left fielder so we enforced the balk. The funny thing was, the coach came out about 3 batters later to ask why we enforced the balk. It was pretty funny.

It was honestly a very easy night at the ballfields last night. Now that I have said that, I'm sure next Tuesday will be a difficult night but that's ok...sometimes those nights can be fun too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Games, Two Ejections

There was a time in my umpiring career (I use that term loosely) that I really enjoyed getting into arguments and throwing people out of games. As I have gotten older, I have felt that if I had to throw somebody out, I wasn't doing my job correctly. That isn't always that case but in my mind, it is. It had been over two years since I had thrown anybody out of a little league game but last night that changed.

The first game was a Boys 11 select Gold (Top Division) game between two really good teams. I was behind the plate and I was working with another experienced umpire (I thought it was a younger umpire but I was mistaken). My game behind the plate was the best game I have called all year. The kids were around the strike zone and the batters wanted to swing the bat. My field umpire had a few tough calls but there were two at third that really got the coaches on the losing team upset. Now, I have no idea if he got the calls right or not. Both were tag plays and on both of them, the ball beat the kid to the base by a mile. However, the tag was behind the fielder so I was blocked and couldn't see it. Both calls were safe.

On the first one, the coaches started yelling but calmed down almost instantly. On the second one, the game was tied and their team was starting to fall apart. When this safe call was made, four coaches came flying out of the dugout to argue. The head coach to his credit, told them to sit down. Then the scorekeeper (another coach on this team) started screaming his head off. He was out of the dugout and just going nuts. I told him to calm down but he didn't hear me so I yelled pretty loudly for him to stop and sit down. He went and sat down but after about two seconds, he threw his score book on the ground and started yelling again. At that point, I had no other option and I threw him out of the game. He didn't argue, he just got his last few words in and left.

In the second game, the coach got thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. My partner called a decent game. The coaches got upset because the ball was being caught right down the middle but it was CROSSING the plate high. They didn't understand that it doesn't matter where it is caught. Well, they started making comments around the 2nd inning. It started with things like, "The catchers glove didn't move, how is that a ball." We both let it go. Then in the 4th, they started blowing a 12 run lead and they really got upset. On two straight pitches, they didn't like the call. They started yelling at the plate umpire. He called time and walked toward them and told them to knock it off. They continued. He told them that he didn't want to hear one more word, they continued. He warned them again, they continued. At this point, I stepped in and told the head coach to knock it off. He looked at me and told me that he was talking to his catcher. I said, I didn't care, the umpire said his peace, it's over. He argued. I told him to knock it off. He argued. I told him to not say another word and sit down. He was quiet for about 5 seconds and then he yelled, "You can't tell me who I can talk to." At this point, I ejected him.

Even with the two ejections, we had two well played games.

A couple points I want to bring up. As an umpire, if you ever say, not another word, you better be ready to back it up. Also, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have said that. Because what would I do if he said, "hi."? I should have told him that if he wanted to continue arguing, I was going to throw him out. Also, when you are behind the plate and they are arguing your strike zone, you can't stand for that. Sure a comment here or there is ok but if they really want to get on you about your strike zone, then tell them to knock it off. You are asking for trouble if you don't. These were coaches that were used to younger umpires that they could intimidate and that's not what they had.

On a good note, I had an interesting play that I haven't had in a while. A pitcher balked in the first game. I called it and the pitch was thrown. The batter hit the ball to the second basemen who booted it and the runners advanced and the batter runner reached first base.....whats the call?

Tonight I have two more games. This time they are boys 14. I am looking forward to it.

More posts to come...until then....PLAY BALL!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beginning of Another Week

Tonight I get back on the field with two younger games. I have a Boys 11 behind the plate and a Boys 12 in the field. I also get a chance to work with one of our younger umpires which I always enjoy.

Should be another great night at the ball fields.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rules Question

This play happened on a boys 13 game I was watching last night.

Bases empty, one out. Batter hits a gapper in right center field. As he is rounding first, the first baseman is caught watching the ball and is right in the way of the runner. They run into each other. The runner doesn't fall down but he looses his balance and almost comes to a stop. He gets going again, rounds second and is thrown out at a close play at third. The Umpire, who was signaling obstruction, called him out.

Was he right?

I heard the argument and will give you my opinion in a little bit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Distance or Angle

Whenever I work with younger umpires, I always ask them this question, what's more important, angle or distance? Never fails, most of them automatically say distance. I then go into about a 10 minute discussion about why you couldn't be more wrong.

When umpiring, angle is the most important thing to making the correct calls. Distance is important also, but only to a point. I have had coaches that have complained that I was not right "on top" of the play. They want me to be about two feet away watching the tag at second. Well, if there is one thing I have learned from umpire school and all the games I have done, it's that being too close can hurt you. Let me give you a few examples.

Example #1:
Bases empty. Play at first. I watch the foot and listen for the catch but I tend to stay far enough back so I can use my peripheral vision to help me see when the ball gets there. If you are right on top of the play, you can't do that. Plus if you have a weird play where the throw pulls the runner off of the bag and you then have to look for a tag, well being too close makes it very hard to see that play.

Example # 2:
Runner on second steals third. You are in the C slot (to the right of the pitcher if you are behind him). If you care about distance you are going to run directly to third. This will put you in a position behind the runner. How can you possibly see the tag? If angle is what you are looking for, you are going to move to the 45 ft line of the third baseline and get the correct angle to see the tag.

Example # 3:
Runner on second, ground ball to second, who throws to first. You sprint over to first to get about 3 feet away to make the call. The runner going to third is really slow (I have seen this happen) and the first baseman fires a throw over the third. Assuming your plate umpire isn't helping you out, how are you going to make that call.

These are just three examples of how being right "on top" of a play can actually put you at a disadvantage.

One thing I truly believe. If you have the right angle and a decent set of eyes, distance should matter at all. Obviously, you want to move towards the play you are calling but if you don't have to get 3 feet away from the play either. Angle is one of the most essential components to being a good field umpire.

One very important thing to understand, most likely, in youth baseball you will never have more than two umpires on a game. Actually, all through high school you will most likely only have two umpires on game. In a two umpire crew, it is impossible to get in perfect position for every call...especially when the kids start throwing the ball all over the place. You need to remember that even though you might not be able to get the desired distance you are comfortable with, it is much easier to get into a position that gives you a decent angle on the call. And even if you get caught out of position, hustle. Do as much as you can to get into position and the coaches that know anything will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Perfect Night for Baseball

Last night was a perfect night to be at the ball fields. Couldn't ask for better weather.

I had two boys 14 games last night and like I mentioned in an earlier post, I umpired with a fellow Umpire School Graduate so that was a plus as well.

I had the plate my first game. The pitchers were around the plate and the catchers blocked almost everything. I felt like I called a very good game. I felt very comfortable back there last night and I think my zone was pretty much rule book. It's always a good feeling to call a good game behind the plate. I punched out a bunch again. I guess the kids aren't ready to swing yet.

The second game was in the field and thank goodness the weather was good because for the second game in a row on the field, I had nothing to do. I have yet to have a close play in the field this year. The only time I did more than signal a call was when I called a balk. Other than that, none of the calls were close enough to justify doing anything more than make that hand signal. That is kind of frustrating.

We did; however, have our first complainer of the year. The assistant coaches on one of the teams was a little intense. He was pacing outside of the dugout before the game even started. I wanted to go over an remind him that stress can cause some serious health issues. He didn't have anything to say to me but anytime a close pitch went against his team, he would throw his hands up. Now, I must say, my partner called a very good game but this guy, I can already tell, is going to cause issues during the year. He never got loud enough for us to say anything but I am sure that will change as the season goes on.

Anyways, I am supposed to have two more tonight if the rains holds off. Can't wait to get back out there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is it Infield Fly

Here is a rules question that I use on my rookies every year.

1 out, runners on first and second. Batter hits a high fly ball to short left field (we will say about 20 feet outside the infield). The shortstop is camped under it but for some reason the left fielder calls him off and makes the catch. Whats the call?

Tonight should be fun

Oh my!!! I can not wait to get to the fields tonight. It is going to be in the 70s with a slight breeze and, I will be umpiring with a fellow Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School Graduate. It will be nice to be able to work a style. I have two boys 14 games. Both are part of the wood bat league. It should be an interesting night of baseball.

On a side note, one of the coaches absolutely hates me. He thinks that I am the worst umpire in the world. In all fairness, he has had some wacky plays occur while I have been working his games but the icing on the cake was last year, I tossed him for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. Now, before you assume I baited him, I warned him four times before I ejected him so I think he had enough opportunities to knock it off. I won't be looking for any trouble but there is a good chance I will have a good story for tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Reminder about Timing

This weekend, I help run a training session at my local ballfields for all our rookie umpires. In this session, we had the umpires take turns working a practice game. They got a half inning behind the field and then they moved out to the field. For 14 and 15 year olds working a pretty good 12 year old game, they did pretty good but I did have one play that came up that I wanted to discuss.

I wish I would have been video taping this because it would be a great training tool. With no runners on, a ground ball was hit to the shortstop. The throw took the fielder off the bag, but the fielder recovered themselves in time to step on the bag for the out. The umpire, signaled out right when the first basemen caught the ball, then realized they were off the bag and signaled safe and then had to signal out when the play was actually completed. Everyone had a good laugh when it happened but if this had been a real game, that kid would have gotten an earful.

Timing is important in every call you make. It keeps you from making mistakes like that. Remember as an umpire, there is no rush, nothing can happen until you make the call so take a second and think before you act. I always tell everyone to see the play, think the call in your head and then make the call.

There are two main reasons timing helps. First, it helps prevent you from making mistakes like the one descriped above. Secondly, it allows everyone the time to look from the play to the umpire to see that call. Think about it, on close plays, the eyes will be on the play and then you about a second later. By having the correct timing, you will allow everyone to see the call.

Hopefully, this little tip will help you as you get out there.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Still Cold but at least it's not windy

Last night I had two game. Both boys 14. The first game was out silver division. I had the plate and called a much better game than the night before. My timing was better, my zone was consistent and I just felt a little better back there. The game itself wasn't much to talk about. 12-0 and should have been much more. For whatever reason, the kids just didn't want to swing the bat. I punched out at least 10 kids in 3 and a half innings. Other than that, there really isn't much to report.

For the second game, the starting temperature as a warm 38 degrees and it felt like it dropped quite a bit as the game went on. This was our Gold division. An interesting side note, this year, our top division (Boys 14 select Gold) use Wood bats. IN the cold temperatures, I was prepared to dodge some broken bats during the game. This was a very well played game. The score ended up being 5-0 but it was a much closer game than that. The kids are still trying to learn how to swing the wood bats so offense was sparse but there were some signs that they will get it.

Defensively, they keep me moving. Both catchers had guns and we firing the ball all over the infield trying to pick runners off. I liked it because in the cold temperature it was nice to have something to keep me on my toes. I had a couple close calls but no arguments on any of them.

Both coaches and teams were the best behaved I have seen in a long time. When we first got there, the home team manager came up to shake our hands and thank us for coming out. I have never had anyone say that before. After the game, he told us how much he appreciated us working his game and he was a losing manager. So despite my post last night, it's nice to know that some managers still teach and have respect.

Thats it for tonight. As of right now I am off until next Wednesday. Hopefully it warms up before that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where has the respect gone?

There has been a trend the last couple of years that has really started to bother me. 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old kids are showing no respect at all towards the umpires. Last year, I almost threw an 11 year old out of a game for arguing a strike call. ELEVEN!!!

I'm 33 years old so it has been a while since I played but when I was playing little league we played at a very high level. In all the years I played, I don't think I ever argued with an umpire. I might have shook my head on a strike call I didn't like but I NEVER looked back or said anything. The reason was because if I did, my butt would have been on the bench for the rest of the game. My coaches always told us that if it was worth arguing, they would do it for us.

Today, it's not like that. Players not only show little or no respect for officials, the coaches say nothing to them about it. I will give you a perfect example. Last year I was umpiring a 12 year old boys game, non-select. I was in the field and I had a play a second that was a bang bang play. I called the runner safe. The second baseman looked at me and yelled, "You have got to be freaking kidding me!" I told the kid to calm down and then went and spoke to the coach after the inning. I told him that if it happened again, I was going to toss him, the coaches response, "Yeah, he's competative but what are you gong to do?" Really? I'll tell you what you do, you sit the kid down and tell him to knock it off, your the coach...right?!!

Anyways, I'm sure a lot of people who aren't officials won't see this as a big deal but I believe that to us, it is. I don't mind being yelled at by the coaches, I don't mind being yelled at by the fans. That really doesn't get to me. But a kid trying to show me up, that's where I draw the line. Now, if a kid wants to ask me a question about the call, I'm fine with that.

Anyways, that's just an observation I have made the last few years. How about all of you? Have you noticed it too?

Opening Night

Man, it was a cold one last night. I doubt the temperature was around 36 the entire night. I was scheduled to do two Boys 14 games. I ended up only doing one, the second games was canceled. I was behind the plate for the first game.

All in all it was a pretty good game. Nothing really exciting happened. There was one close play at home but I didn't hear anything about it. My strike zone wasn't perfect but it was pretty good.

In all honesty, the games never should have been played last night and I am a little dissapointed with the association. It was way too cold. That is how kids get hurt.

Two more tonigth but I doubt we will play, it rained all night.

Monday, March 28, 2011

One More Day

Well, tomorrow is the beginning of my 21st season as an umpire. As always, I am very excited and even a little bit nervous to get back on the field. I know that there will be many times during the season where I complain about coaches or players but it really is an honor to officiate baseball. There is nothing about it I don't like.

Tonight will be my normal pre-opening day routine of shinning my shoes, scrubbing my gear and ironing my uniform. I can't wait for tomorrow night.

Going forward, I will try to post something after each game that I do. Hopefully, I will have some good situations that will help the younger umpire. So, for all of you who are about ready to start your baseball season, have fun and PLAY BALL!!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Did you really just say that?

About 5 years ago I was umpiring a Boys 13 select tournamnet game. I was the umpire in chief for the tournament but I had a umpire no show so I had to work the game. I was in the field and one of my middle of the road umpires was behind the plate. He was a decent umpire but his strike zone was rather large...consistent but large.

Anyways, the coach for the home team start making comments after the first inning. He was bad about it, he would just say stuff on his way back to the dugout. He honestly just didn't like the size of the zone. Well as the game went on, he got more and more upset. Mainly because his kids couldn't get the idea in their head that this was going to be the strike zone so you needed to expand your zone.

Around the 5th inning, he walked by and started in on the plate umpire the senior umpire I told him he needed to quit and walk back to his dugout. He started arguing with me and I simply said, you can't argue the strike zone, you said your peace now go back to your dugout. He turned, walked up to me, got right in my face and said, "I poop on that strike zone."

It took me a second but I said, "Excuse me." He repeated himself. I smiled and told him to get back to his dugout. He said it again. I just looked at him. Was he trying to get thrown out of the game?

I told him to please go back to his dugout so I wouldn't have to write in my ejection report that he said I poop on that strike zone. He then yelled, "POOP POOP POOP POOP!!" To which I threw him out.

To this day, I don't know what the guy was on but later in the tournament I had him again and he claimed it never happened and I was talking about another coach. I really hope the parents realized that their kids coach was insane.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


As the season gets closer and closer, I have been racking my brain trying to think of ways to really help the youth umpire. To anybody that is or knows a youth umpire...if I were to post some video's on positioning and situations, would you find that useful?

Let me know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Way I Know to Say Goodbye

This past week a coach/tournament director and all around good guy passed away. Rick Cox and I had lost touch over the last 6 or 7 years but we go way back. When I was 16 or 17, I had my first experience umpiring him. I can tell you that we didn't get along. I had rabbit ears and he wanted every call to go his way. Over the years, we battled each other over and over but we also built quiet a bit of respect for one another.

When I was 19, I took over the umpires at our local association. Later that year, Rick got signed up with Super Series Program and started running some small local tournaments. At the end of the year, he ran a huge week long tournament at my complex. He was told by the main people at Super Series that he shouldn't use a 19 year old to run him umpires for this tournament but he decided that he would stick with me. That always meant a lot to me.

The week was a hectic week and the weather was awful. We had two full days rained out but Rick and I figured out how to get almost all of the games in. We actually played the championship of the 14 year old boys at 3:30 in the morning. It was a blast.

After that week was over, Rick and I continued to work together in tournaments and argue with each other on the field. It was a great couple years.

After a few years, Rick backed away from the game (I have now found out it was due to health issues) and we lost touch. But I have never lost the respect for the man that really cared a lot of youth baseball in the St. Louis area. He was a very intense man, but he was also a very knowledgeable baseball coach and tournament director.

I have learned that the last few years of his life were not very pleasant. At least now, Rick is finally at peace and hopefully, kicking it with Babe Ruth and the rest of the greats.

Rick you will be missed and you will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace!!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's Almost Time Baby!!!

You know, I hate the winter. The snow, the cold and this winter...THE ICE but there is one thing that helps me get through the winter, and that's knowing that baseball is right around the corner. Next week, my associations young umpires will report to our annual training sessions. This is the mark of the beginning of the end of this harsh cold. This is the light at the end of the tunnel. Baseball is coming, and it's coming soon.

This summer will mark the 21st summer I have been an umpire. A lot has changed since I was a scared little 12 year old strapping on the gear for the first time but, in many ways, many things have stayed exactly the same.

In my 21 years, I have worked just about every level of baseball you can work. I have done little league, high school, college and this past summer, I worked my first pro games in the Frontier League. I am not a perfect umpire. If I was, I would be able to make a living out of it. But I am a good umpire who works as hard as he possibly can to call a fair game.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to post my tips to the young umpire. I have posted them before but I believe that these are all extrememly important so I am going to do it again. I am also hoping to be able to put some video up this year so I can better explain positioning and situations. For those of you that read my blog...thank you, I am honored that you take the time to read it and please spread the word.

Ok, I think that about covers it for today. Until next time, remember that ties are outs and the black is NOT part of the plate......PLAY BALL!!!!!