19 Smart Moves For The Baseball Umpires (11-15)

11.  Attend an umpire school or camp

      There are many excellent college and professional umpire schools and week-long and weekend camps available in all parts of the country.  Attend one of them every now and then.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn; chances are you’ll be learning the latest techniques being taught at both, the amateur or the professional level.
        A word of caution, though.  Remember that some schools teach umpire mechanics, interpretations and philosophies that generally apply to professional baseball.  That is OK.  Just be sure you have a good idea of what you can and cannot apply to whatever level you are working.  Also, professional schools are five weeks for a reason.  Candidates there are given hundreds of repetitions on how to take a pivot at first base, etc.  They are also allowed countless hours of time calling pitches in the batting cage.  When you attend a week-long or weekend camp, you aren’t going to get that kind of training.  What you will get is the correct way to do various things.  It’s up to you to get the extra repetitions on your own.


12.  Be positive with coaches and players

        Be alert for any opportunity to thank a player or coach for helping you administer the game.  Whether someone is getting a bat out of the way or bringing baseballs to you, say “please” and “thank you.”  As simple as that is, you’d be surprised how much game participants appreciate that little kindness.  The same goes for a coach who is taking care of a problem for you.  Remember, you’re not trying to be their buddy, you’re just showing some simple courtesy.  This technique is also useful to keep a player calm.  Say, for example, a batter is hit by a pitch and trots right to first base without glaring at the pitcher or practicing other theatrical items batters sometimes do.  Gently praise him for keeping his poise.  The same applies after a collision at a base on which a fielder takes a pretty good shot.  A well-placed comment can do wonders to keep a situation from getting out of control.

13.  Avoid amateurish behavior

        Some umpires do things on the field that immediately peg them as inexperienced.  Let’s run through some of them.  There is no reason to vocalize obvious plays.  There is no reason to loudly proclaim “Foul ball!” when a ball is fouled directly to the backstop.  The time to do something is when there is doubt as to whether the ball is fair or foul.  There also isn’t much reason to give an “out” signal on a routine fly or pop up.  The sound umpire mechanic of calling an out or a safe only when there is a play is what should be seen.  There are too many umpires that call safes when there is not even a tag attempt.  You don’t have to show them that you know a runner is safe and the ball has not even been thrown.
        Don’t let catcher or on-deck batters toss the ball to you.  Ask the catcher to always hand you the ball.  Tell the catcher that if an on-deck batter has the ball, he will toss it to the catcher who will hand it to you.
        Don’t hold your indicator up to your face and look at it like you’ve never seen one before.  Get a file and notch the wheels (preferably at “0”) and you’ll never have to look at your indicator again to start an inning.  How many times have you lost the count on a hitter?  Rather than having to mentally beg for a batted ball, try advancing your indicator while the ball is in the air back to the pitcher.  This is whether you throw it, the catcher throws it or a fielder throws it.  If it’s in the air, that’s your cue to advance your indicator.  Do that and you will cut down on lost counts immeasurably.
        Use proper mechanics to signal the plays.  Good, sharp mechanics give the impression you are right on top of things.  Lazy or sloppy mechanics give the impression you really don’t care too much about what you are doing, or worse, give the impression you aren’t too sure of your call.
        Put the ball in play after a dead ball, especially with runners on base.  Don’t leave your partner wondering if he should make an out call on a pick-off because he doesn’t know if the ball is in play or not.  This means you do it every time and not just when you feel like it.  Do it every time.


14.  Expect that participants will try to gain an edge

        Coaches and players have a stake in the outcome.  They do care who wins.  A player may fudge a bit on a trap to make you think he caught the ball.  If a coach can get you to start calling low strikes because that’s where his pitcher throws the ball, he may do it. The point here is, when a coach starts to get on you for something, or tries to rattle the opposing pitcher, or a player starts whining about your strike zone, consider the motive.  When a participant is trying to get the edge the reason to get upset is not because he’s doing it; the reason to get upset is if you’re not buying it and he continues.


15.  Take care of arguments

        When a coach comes out to argue, you should have a pretty good idea of why he’s out there.  It will probably be for only three or four reasons.  He may think you missed the play, he may think you misapplied a rule, he may be out there to prevent a player from being ejected and he may come out to show support of a player who is arguing a call.  In any event, there are some things you should remember.  Should a coach get in your face, your first response should be, in as a normal tone and level of voice possible, “Coach, back off right now.”  If he doesn’t respond immediately, eject him because he’s more interested in intimidating you than seeking an explanation of your call.  If he is yelling at you, remind him you aren’t going anywhere and you can hear him in a normal tone of voice.  That’s about as far as you should go in trying to control his behavior.  If he wants to yell, let him have his say as long as he’s not in your face.  It is very important to let him finish without interruption.  This may be difficult to do, especially if he’s totally wrong about what he’s saying.  Your cue to cut him off is when he starts repeating himself.  Regardless, give him a little time to get it off his chest.
        When he’s finished, it’s your turn.  That is why it’s important for you not to interrupt him, because he is now obligated to hear you out.  If he interrupts you, remind him that you listened to him and if he isn’t going to list to you, tell him the discussion is over.
        There are some effective responses you can use that will help calm the waters.  First, if he is incorrectly quoting a rule, you may say, “Coach, by rule, what you just said is wrong.”  Notice you are not directly challenging him.  Another effective technique is to tell him, “Coach, from where I had to make the call, I didn’t see the tag.”  This is much less confrontational than telling him, “Coach, there is no way he tagged him.”
        Another good response is, “Coach, tell me what you saw.”  You might say, “Coach, tell me your understanding of the obstruction rule as it applies to thisplay.”  (You’d better have a firm grasp of the rule before you try that one.)  Get the coach thinking.  Once he starts the thought process, it will normally make him to calm down.
        Sometimes you can tell a coach, “That was close enough to come out on, but I had a good look at it.”  Here, you are subtly complimenting him for coming out without inflaming the situation.  It’s a useful technique.
        One other item to remember is that a coach will often give you a parting shot as he leaves.  If it’s under his breath, it’s best to ignore it.  If it is loud, deal with it accordingly.  Remember that if a coach is walking away, it’s best to let him go.  If you eject a coach at this point, you will usually appear to be the aggressor.  Also, do not let a coach continue an argument while you are on the dirt.  Try to maneuver so that you are on grass.  This will reduce the temptation of kicking dirt on you.

News Flash

*NW General Membership Meeting - TBD 2020

You are here: Home Larry's Corner Amateur 19 Smart Moves For The Baseball Umpires (11-15)