2009 Fall Baseball Letter #9

Fellow colleagues,

Since I am going to be gone next week, I am sending out more e-mails this week and you won't have any from the July 25 through July 29.

This is information is about what some call intangibles and I have entitled this document Umpiring Intangibles but they are not just intangibles but real-life ideas about how to approach this great job of being an umpire.  I hope you agree.

A reminder is in order again for those that have not yet accepted their fall umpiring or evaluating assignments.  Please go into www.arbitersports.com and accept the assignments that are listed for you.  Thank you, LG.


Larry Gallagher


February 21, 1987

Revised January 25, 2008

Revised July 19, 2009

I.                    DESIRE TO IMPROVE – Don’t just go through the motions of umpiring and be classified as a “summer vacation” umpire.  Bear down on every pitch and play.  My advice to you is NEVER TAKE ONE PITCH OR PLAY OFF.  IF YOU DO, IT WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU IN THE ASS!!!!There is very little recognition in umpiring – you will have to really like the job as well as show some natural ability before you will become a successful one.  Lon Warneke, a former player that became a major league umpire after his career, summed up umpiring as “All jeers and no cheers!” 

A.      RULES KNOWLEDGE – Never feel that you know the rules well enough that you won’t need your rulebook.  Learn to depend on it and read it often.  However, never bring it on the field during a game.Keep your head in the game.  Watch every play and even though it is another umpire’s decision, retain the play in your mind and interpret the rule that covers the play to yourself.  Be prepared to give a decision if called upon by your partner.Rules are difficult to learn and interpret.  Sit down and read the rule book, one rule at a time, visualizing the plays and trying to understand why the rule is the way it is.  Regardless of how many years you have umpired, continue to review the rules and discuss them with your fellow umpires.  Don’t get hung up on the technicality of the rule, but rather its intent and purpose.    The umpires that nitpick and look for trouble will be bound to find it.Don’t ever think you are too old or too good to change or learn.  When you come to the realization that you need to continue to learn, you are on your way toward wisdom. 

B.      ATTEND CLINICS – NW Umpire clinics, umpire schools, weekend camps, and any possible learning situation beyond your present situation.  NASO Convention, MSHSL Clinics. 

C.      ASK TO BE EVALUATED – Partner, Mentor, ask to be evaluated in our fall umpire program or become an evaluator, etc.  I have learned more about umpiring by trying to teach it to someone that does not have my experience or knowledge of the game. 

D.     SELF EVALUATION – you will need to set some goals and then try to reach them.  Once you do reach them, make sure you set more goals to continue to reach to help you improve. 

E.      UMPIRE STUDY – Referee Magazine, Umpire Manuals, Umpire profiles, biographies, autobiographies, etc. 

II.                  EARNING RESPECT 

A.      PERSONALITY – Don’t be overbearing.  Go along with the players and let them have their say.  Don’t be over-zealous and abuse the use of your authority.  Be approachable.  Don’t try to be like a god.  Show some humility.  Also, show some humanity.  Don’t have a chip on your shoulder.  Only as a last resort do you eject players or coaches from a game.  Remember, any umpire can throw players out of a game – it takes a good umpire to keep them in the game.  Be cooperative.  Try to take into consideration the temperament of the managers or that emotions are running high because of the type of game, or because of a series of bad breaks.  Try to sell all close plays with more motion than routine plays.  Don’t use profane, obscene or vulgar language in any manner at any time.  Deal with people in a civil manner. 

B.      ATTITUDE – If you can instill in the players and coaches that you are there to help them play the game and be its impartial judge, you have gone a long way to gaining their respect.  The “I am God, don’t tread on me” attitude has no place in umpiring.  So many coaches have told us, “I don’t like so and so as an umpire because I can’t talk to him.”  You will get complaints as an umpire because this is part of your job.  Once you accept the idea, you will have a better chance to earn their respect.  If an argument is presented in a reasonable manner, listen.  Once the point has been made, simply say, “Coach you have had your say, I called the play the way I saw it, now it is time to play ball again.”  If he continues to argue or gets carried away, he leaves no alternative except to remove him for the day.  Be firm but not belligerent.  Be firm, forceful and yet polite.  You don’t need to make a big scene when you eject a player or coach.  This only puts more fuel on the fire.  Don’t threaten people.  Such as, “One more word….” Or “Shut up!”  Don’t invade their territory.  Stay at the plate or ask the coach to come to you.  Explain in a low speaking voice that you will not tolerate any more from the dugout or whatever the situation is.  Don’t yell.  Try to develop a rapport with the players, especially the pitchers and catchers.  Don’t have a predetermined opinion about a player, coach or team.  Your job is to umpire the acts that occur in the game that you are doing and not previous games.  Do not be like an elephant, forget past problems.  Don’t hold any grudges.  Life is too short for these types of animosities.  Remember, just in life there are great characters and not so great characters.  As umpires, we don’t have like a player to still be fair.  We have to umpire the play as it occurs and sometimes the not so great character wins that play.  Sometimes the great character wins the play.  You must stay neutral. 



The longer I live, the more I realize

the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude to me, is more important

than facts, the past, education, money, circumstances, failures,

successes, and what other people

think or say or do.

It is more important than

appearances, giftedness, or skill.

It will make or break a company, a

church, or home.

The remarkable thing is, we have a

choice everyday regarding the

attitude we will embrace for

that day.

We cannot change our past…

We cannot change the fact that people

will act a certain way…

We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can change is

our attitude. 

C.      APPEARANCE – An umpire that looks like he knows what he is doing immediately commands more respect.  A clean cut, neat appearance and sharp uniform can help start your day off on the right foot.  One thing you never get a second chance in life is first impressions.  How you present and carry yourself will go a long way toward that first impression.  The image that you present to the teams is important.  Do you look and act like you’ve been there before?  Do you look like you played the game?  This all adds up to your credibility. 

D.     RESPONSIBILITY – Many coaches complain to us about umpires that either show up late for a game or not at all.  There is no excuse to ever miss a game.  Plan your day to provide ample travel time, even if you have a flat tire, car trouble or even an accident.  Should the worst happen and you can’t make the game, call the school and speak to someone in authority:  the principal, vice principal, athletic director or a baseball coach.  Never rely on a student or a clerk to pass the message along.  With this in mind always take your plate gear with you, even if you are the base umpire.  If your partner does not show, you are the plate umpire. 

E.      LOYALTY TO YOUR COLLEAGUES AND NORTHWEST ASSOCIATION OF UMPIRES – If you are working with a partner, work together.  Don’t complain to other umpires about another umpire.  This is not your job.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.  Try to direct your partner into a self evaluation session or a discussion of the problem.  Go along with your fellow umpire on his decision.  Don’t be guilty of criticizing or interfering with his decision.  If you are in the stands watching another umpire work, you are not at liberty of giving your opinion of what you think the correct call should have been.  Stay out of this kind of discussion.  Any backstabbing that you do will hurt you more that it will hurt the person that you are trying to undermine.  Don’t forget if you are not working together, a house divided against itself will fall.  When you accept an assignment, it is your responsibility to make every effort to appear.  Try to cooperate and go wherever the assignment secretary needs you to go.  We service many leagues.  Some only a few minutes from your home or place of business.  Others are quite distant.  If all of us do our share of long hauls, no one will be inconvenienced to a harmful degree.  Try to be fair to all of us.  If a manager protests the game, announce to the opposing manager that the game is being played under protest.  Make a complete report to our assignment secretary and grievance chairperson and/or the league in question.  On the field you have a direct responsibility to NWAU, Ltd., as you are our official representative.  Any good or bad that you do will naturally reflect on all of us.  If you think the success that you have reached was done only by you, you have already failed.   

A Poem about self-importance: 

Sometime when you’re feeling important,

sometime when your ego’s in bloom,

sometime when you take it for granted you’re the best qualified in the room,

sometime when you’re going would fill an unfillable hole. 

Just follow this simple instruction and see how it humbles your soul. 

Take a bucket and fill it with water. 

Put your hand in it up to the wrist.  Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining is a measure of how you will be missed. 

You may splash all you please when you enter. 

You can stir up the water galore,

but stop and you will find in a minute that it looks quite the same as before.              

The moral in this quaint example is to do just the best you can.           

Be proud of yourself but remember there is no indispensable man. 

F.       Politics – The best thing you can do about this is to stay out of them.  Your integrity is more important than trying to do favors for those people in power.  If you are a good umpire, your name will come forward.  Taking coaches out to the local bar will only get you into trouble. 

III.                CONTROLLING A GAME 

A.      PREVENTING PROBLEMS – Make your decision look good.  Even if you are an inexperienced umpire, don’t give the impression of being confused. 
Don’t be caught “looking out the window”.  Watch every move made with the ball and bear down constantly.  Keep the field and benches clear of anyone that does not belong.  Have a pre-game conference with your partner.  Check the field out prior to the game for unusual ground rules.  Conduct a professional meeting at home plate prior to the game.

B.      HANDLING ARGUMENTS – Stop the players from charging you.  Don’t let the whole team gather around you.  If your decision is protested, listen to one man, captain or coach and wave the rest back on the bench or onto the field.  The quickest way to lose control of the game is letting the players charge you.  Partners can be of help in getting everyone back to where they belong.  If someone is yelling and screaming at you, don’t answer them until they run out of gas.  The louder they yell, the lower you speak.  Don’t fold your arms.  This is provocative.  When they stop talking, you can explain your call or the situation.  Yelling back will only let them know that you are out of control. 

C.      HANDLING PEOPLE – A good umpire has to be a psychologist.  Each individual in the game is a different personality, so you will find that you will have to change your own personality in accordance with the managers and players that you are dealing with.  Control your temper – a good umpire doesn’t attempt to get in the last remark.  If a player is going away after an argument, LET IT DROP.  Enforce the PLAYER’S CODE OF CONDUCT at all times. 

D.     CONTROLLING YOURSELF – The ability to think under pressure and make sound decisions is easier when you have controlled yourself.  If you are fuming, you need to calm yourself down before you speak or act.  Don’t try to be a ballplayer’s umpire.  Be an umpire’s umpire.  Don’t give anything and don’t take anything.  You are not a bank – you don’t owe them anything.  If you have a “weak stomach” when the pressure is on, then you shouldn’t be an umpire.  Remain calm in a tight spot and be on top of every play.  The ability to control your temper and remain calm under trying conditions is the mark of a good umpire and also a mature person.  One of the traits that a good umpire possesses is the ability is “to take” a lot and not lose his head.  Don’t hold grudges.  Once an argument is finished, forget it.  Don’t take disagreements as “personal” attacks.  They are part of the game. 

Poem –   If you think you are beaten, you are. 

If you think you dare not, you don’t. 

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t, 

It’s almost certain you won’t. 

For out in the world you’ll find, 

Success begins with a fellow’s will. 

If you think you’re outclassed, you are. 

You’ve got to think high to rise. 

You’ve got to be sure of yourself, 

Before you ever win a prize. 

Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. 

But sooner or later the guy that wins is the guy that thinks he can.

News Flash

*NW General Membership Meeting - TBD 2020

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