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.