A few weeks ago, we flew to Japan to visit some friends who were finishing their six month stay as part of some work for the Navy. It was a whirlwind trip full of fun sites and tired legs but well worth the effort. I put together this Google Earth tour to share some of the sites and help you visualize where each one is. You can pause the tour at any point and click on one of the push pins to see a picture or read about what we saw. Enjoy!
So with two classroom sessions in the bag and a day of field training I thought I would try to umpire Linus' practice game.
The league guys were great. They helped me suit up: knee pads, chest protector, mask, cup (okay, they didn't help me with that). I will say that you feel pretty invincible with all the armor on your body. I was a stud!
The first thing I noticed when I started calling pitches was that it wasn't any easier to call a ball or strike from behind the plate than it is on TV or from the stands. It is a huge judgment call. I can completely understand how umpires develop a style and a zone for their calls and how it can vary between umpires.
Linus plays in AAA which is the lowest kid-pitch league (our league has a modified kid-pitch rule, but it's mostly kid-pitch). The pitches were all over the place and I kept trying to avoid the ball when the catcher wasn't going to catch it. This is not conducive to making good calls. One time I called a ball after the batter swung at the pitch.
We learned in class to make a fist pounding motion for strikes and to simply call a ball without moving. I forgot a couple instructions and was calling and motioning swinging strikes which really only require the motion. I also found that by holding the clicker/indicator in my right hand (the motion hand) I would forget to make the motion a lot of the time because I was trying to advance the count with that hand and my brain is not very good at multitasking.
We only played three innings, but we went through a lot of pitches. Sometime in the second I was feeling pretty weary and remembered some of the field training when they would talk about the fatigue you get in the 4th or 5th inning and start to lose track of things. I think it helps to make sure you move between pitches so you keep the blood flowing and maintain a little alertness.
I was fortunate one of the UICs (Umpire in Chief) was there to watch me and he provided some great feedback. He corrected my called swinging strikes. He also reinforced the need for me to stay put and not move in order to make the right calls. You have to trust your armor. Everything is protected and you just have to let the balls bounce off you. You almost become a part of the field at that point and have the catcher move around you to fetch the ball.
One other tip was not to wear your knee-pads outside your pants. It makes you look like a rookie.
Calliope loves baseball! She hated it for a long time. Thought it was a stupid game without any action. Could not understand why Seattle should pay for the Mariners' new stadium. Then some friends started explaining it to her and pointing out how handsome Dan Wilson was and what a great family man he was and she started to like this game called baseball. Fifteen years later and now she loves baseball. She's been to Spring Training and she gets very excited when the pitchers report in February.
A few years late, we finally enrolled Linus in Little League and Orpheus in T-Ball. We were not prepared for the all consuming pastime that is Little League Baseball. Calliope signed up for scorekeeping and is the official scorekeeper for the team. Another league rule requires your team to umpire as many games as your team plays. I signed my name on the umpire sheet and thought it was funny when they pricked my finger and asked me to use the blood to sign. I like these sorts of rules— something about the
socialism shared responsibility of it really appeals to me.
The league provides a lot of training to help you through the mechanics of being an umpire: where to stand, what to call, when to call it, etc. For every one of you who complains about the calls in MLB, you must attend this training to gain an appreciation for what the umpire has to do. And this was only for Little League!
This all began about a month ago when we met for family night and I learned about the umpire responsibilities. At first I viewed it as, "<sigh>Something I have to do for my son's team." I also thought, "Hmm, umpiring, how hard can it be? Ball, strike, safe, out. Easy Peasy!" After attending the training I'm thinking, "Who came up with these crazy rules?"
The training has been great! We have three 3 hour classroom sessions and we had a day of field training where we actually work on positioning ourselves to make the right call for all the different possibilities that may unfold during the play.
The classroom training was another case of, "Do I really need to attend 9 hours of training?" After the first class and the field training my thinking changed to, "I better attend those other two classroom sessions." I have a few baseball nerd friends (you know who you are) who have devoted at least a third of their cerebral function to the memorization of baseball statistics and rules. I am not one of these people. I played baseball until I failed to make the team in my 9th grade year, but I never knew all the rules and that there was a rule to cover just about anything that might happen during a game. And if something happens that isn't covered in the rules, they also have a rule for that. All this is to say that the rules are not coming naturally for me. After learning most of the rules I will offer this warning: If you mess up the batting order of a game I'm umpiring and I have to figure out all those whacky rules I will bring the full power of my umpiring position down on you!
In my neverending quest to add some substance to this blog, I thought it would be fun to share my experience here with you, my beloved readers. Maybe the search engines will pick it up and would be umpires will flock here to learn from my experience or laugh at my rookie mistakes. I'm looking forward to writing about my umpiring experience. I hope you'll enjoy it and get a laugh out of it too!
Linus has been very interested in making movies and would love to make a stop action LEGO short. In our "baby steps" mode of operation, here is the first one he's wanted to put on YouTube.