Tuesday, May 4, 2010
At this age, the defensive players seem to know a few things. They should all yell, “Pickle!” (and they all do), and they run to either side of the rundown. If the runner can keep himself from being tagged, it takes about seven seconds before the field umpire finds himself and ten players (!) between one base and another. You’re looking for interference and obstruction, who is in the baseline, where your partner may be, all the while listening to coaches and fans get very loud. If the play continues too long, everyone actually begins to laugh, including the players. Oh, that’s just with one runner.
As always, let me know about your strangest plays!
Posted by JJ Shea at 8:18 AM
Thursday, April 29, 2010
There was an umpire at our park that showed up a few years ago. I was coaching my son, maybe we were in the 10U age group. This guy began umpiring many of our games and he would even come up to the park when he wasn’t working, just to see how our team and a few others were doing. He didn’t have any kids of his own playing ball at the time and he really enjoyed the baseball atmosphere. His name was Tom Hutton and we all called him “Hutt”. I had never considered becoming a youth baseball umpire before I met Hutt.
That first season ends and my son moves on to play football. I’m on the sidelines as a coach and who do I see running down the sidelines after a play, wearing the “zebra” outfit (shorts and all) but Hutt. “You referee football, huh?” “Got to keep busy,” he told me. I came to find out that he also dabbled in a little basketball as well.
A season or two later, Hutt was asked to accompany a local team to Cooperstown and serve as their official umpire. Sometimes a team is simply looking to fill the responsibility but in this case, the players really wanted Hutt to travel with them. He could not have enjoyed the trip more, being among fellow umpires and youth baseball, and the parents from the team made him feel like one of them.
It came as a shock to everyone when one day Hutt, who was 47, died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. He was a guy that, when he was gone, left a void. For a long time umpires would scratch out his name in the dirt before they began a game and coaches, after lining the field, would use the white chalk to write “Hutt” near an on-deck circle.
A few folks at the local youth athletic association decided to do something about the void. Field #2 at our local park, the field where Hutt worked most often, was dedicated this year to Tom Hutton and renamed “Hutton Field”. Those that were able to get this done would tell you that it was a small token of appreciation but it’s a lasting tribute to a guy that really loved being at that park.
Just yesterday a 12U player noticed that I was wearing my green “Hutt” rubber bracelet on my wrist. “You still have yours, huh?” he asked. I told him I did and that I had another just in case I lost this one. “You know that field over there?” he asked me, “that’s named after him.” I nodded and smiled, thinking of my friend Hutt.
Posted by JJ Shea at 1:50 PM
Friday, April 23, 2010
UPDATE: After a game this weekend, I've now tried to change the angle of this call. Rather than simply hold my position and allow the throw to come from behind me, I was able, on a few plays, to shift to my left, almost taking me back to the "B" position. This gave me a better look. I find it to be a tough call but that helps.
Posted by JJ Shea at 12:27 PM
Monday, April 19, 2010
For those that are not umpires at the youth level, I’ll let you in on a secret: We’re not all experts when it comes to the rulebook. Have you ever read the real, unabridged baseball rulebook? It’s packed with information, written in an odd type of legalese and it sometimes contradicts itself. We read it, we know it but we don’t know it all, completely.
I believe that since we know so much about the rulebook, we understand how much we don’t know – if that makes sense. In my experience I can tell you that we know it better than many of the coaches out there. I say that with a bit of humility because when I coached, I thought I knew the rulebook. That’s why we talk to one another...often.
We do more than our fair share of research. We peruse websites, take online tests and read the rulebook for fun…for fun! In our small group, we actually have access to a MLB umpire who has encouraged us to email him with questions. He’s a great guy that instructs at an annual camp we attend and loves the game.
My umpiring relationships remind me of something I learned in college. You can study all you want but study groups can really help. It’s such a benefit for a fellow umpire to arrive and say, “I had a situation yesterday…”
Posted by JJ Shea at 2:35 PM