Friday, April 23, 2010

Toughest Call -- Your Phobia

Among my umpire group, each of us has admitted to having a “toughest call” -- the calls that are difficult for each of us, for whatever reason. Think of it like a phobia where I’m not scared of snakes (and you are) but I can’t be anywhere near a clown but you aren’t bothered at all by them.  By the way, clowns and I are A-OK.

One of my colleagues fights with the low inside pitch. Another really dislikes making the catch/no-catch call on shoe-string attempts. Mine is a tricky one: In “B” or “C” position, with the throw to 1st from SS or 3B. It may be something about the runner going from my right-to-left while the ball is coming from behind me, over my shoulder.  That seems to be one of the times where I get most of the grief from players, coaches and fans.

I find myself hoping to get more of my “phobia” situations because that’s the only way I’m going to get comfortable – and more confident. In one recent game it seemed as though I got banger after banger after banger. Another game, nothing was close at all. You take what the game gives you.

Let me know about your toughest call…

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.

Monday, April 19, 2010


One of my favorite aspects of umpiring is the camaraderie. During my son’s high school game the other day, four umpires (just us dads sitting in the stands as fans) began a “what would you do” discussion that continued into the week, creating a very long email string. It really helps keep you sharp.

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…”