Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

Keeping Sharp During the Off Season

What do you do to keep sharp during the off season?


I’m lucky this year I’m teaching the new umpire class for my high school board so I’m in the book creating PowerPoint’s.

October 10, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Your new umpire class, embuaumpire, is extremely lucky to have you at the podium next spring. I envy them.

    Because of my work schedule (11:00 AM – 9:30 PM) MTuWF and my foster parent responsibilities, I have only one day a week available to umpire. That poses a problem for the men who assign my games because working only one game per week means that I don’t stay sharp. My strike zone is inconsistent and my calls are too hurried. No assignor in his right mind will give me any games to work (unless there is absolutely no one else available) until I improve in those categories.

    That having been said, since there is no winter baseball here in Maine, I save my vacation days and my cash to go to Florida for 10 days in April to umpire high school and D-3 spring training games. My hope is that with 35 games under my belt before the Maine high school season begins, the assignors for both high school and later, American Legion, will give me a shot on my days off.

    Keeping sharp in the off season means I use the ARS Baseball disk fifteen minutes a night to keep the rules fresh in my mind, and review the NFHS Baseball Umpire manual daily, as our ratings are tied to how close we keep to the mechanics described in that publication. I have always enjoyed reviewing Referee Magazine’s three volume set on baseball mechanics as well as the PBUC mechanics manual because each time I do, I learn something new.

    There are also several good baseball mailing lists on line that offer interesting insights into the decision making process that umpires are forced to call upon many times during the game. I try to stay sharp by checking in with them a couple of times a week.

    Finally, I use e-mail to pick the brains of minor league umpires I have come to know through my local association and spring trips to Florida and use their guidance to help me overcome my deficiencies so that I can get assignments come next spring and summer.

    This game means everything to me and it hurts a lot when I don’t receive assignments on days I am available. That is not the assignors’ problem; it is totally mine. I need to make myself better before they, in good conscience, can use me. I am hoping that my game plan for next spring will bring about the desired results.

    If any of you have other suggestions on how to stay sharp in the off season, I’m all ears.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | October 11, 2007 | Reply

    • its refreshing to get in the clinic setting at times to discuss umpring at all levels and have a little fun billly DOUGHER #32 msbl cbua mabl naba

      Comment by billy dougher | March 23, 2014 | Reply

  2. I use the time to rest after a busy season. I will work with the Little League umpires during the off-season doing machanics as well as rules. I will try to attend at least 1 camp for it too.

    To stay in physical shape, I strap on the skates and take out my frustration with a hockey stick –

    Comment by Troy | October 15, 2007 | Reply

  3. I have some advice for any umpire with little “seniority” in their organization …

    You may feel that your mechanics, presence, judgment, rules knowledge, etc. is superior to some old-timers, which may be true, but …


    Just nod your head in agreement.

    I say this because of my experiences down here in Florida. I umpired over 430 games last year (Good second job, huh) ranging from a few minor league workout games down every level through youth.

    This past week I went to a mandatory field clinic where I was getting evaluated by guys who ump maybe 25 games a year. I had guys commenting how strong I looked behind the plate compared to the “1s” in the clique of the association.

    However, I do not carry a big ego. I welcome criticism and rules debate any chance I get. I feel it only helps everyone involved. Boy was I wrong.

    It started at the clinic, when a clinician at the plate did his instruction and finished early and asked, “Does anybody have any question or comments?”

    I thought this clinician left a lot out and there were guys in my group that were green as snot and won’t see anything higher than 12 yr old majors if they are lucky, so I felt as though I should chip in.

    So I put it in the clinician’s hands by asking him “what should we do on a dropped third strike in the dirt with 1st base unoccupied or with 2 outs?”

    He responded with “point to the ground and say its on the ground.”

    I didn’t challenge his mechanic, but chipped in that the major league mechanic changed after that crazy play in the world series a few years back and now plate umpires give a safe sign in that situatiuon.

    That jerk off said I was wrong in front of everyone, when in fact he was. Anyway, I let him save his ego and said nothing.

    Fast forward to last night at our meeting … 2 man rotations came up and I asked why our association doesn’t rotate like mlb mechanics with regards to the backdoor play at 3rd (Runner on 2nd and on a ball that never leaves the inf. the 2nd play is at 3rd). I wasn’t sure if it was a HS mechanic or why they didn’t want us to do it.

    I got my head ripped off and they got the minions in the association to nod their heads in agreement that yes the earth is indeed flat.

    It was ridiculous. I went home thinking that maybe I had the HS mechanic totally wrong compared with MLB mechanics … lets face it … mlb rules and mechanics can be way different than H.S. or LL or Pony or MSBL or anything.

    So I go home and dig up a 2006 NHSF mechanics book and BAM! Page 46 says U1 rotates up to 3rd when the ball doesn’t leave the inf and a runner is on 2nd if the 2nd play is at third (if fielder throws to 1st then Base ump gets in position for throw to 1st and plate ump rotates up to 3rd to get the backdoor).

    I was right.

    However, all I get is nothing except a sorry BS private school game while these pompous egos get the elite games.

    Want to get some pull in your association? Shut up until you are fat and have grey hair then you get respect and some pull.

    Comment by eric | February 5, 2008 | Reply

  4. If only I had a quarter for every time I came here.. Incredible article!

    Comment by Zane Jorgensen | May 28, 2010 | Reply


    Comment by BILLY DOUGHER /FLW /MSBL /MABL /CBUA | September 28, 2011 | Reply

  6. umpries are not biger than the game ego,s shouldnt come in to play work as team confidence in your self is alot differant than a egos

    Comment by BILLY DOUGHER /FLW /MSBL /MABL /CBUA | September 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. a winter umprie clinic at aindoor batting cages ect frozen ropes for local umprie group are alot fun /// plate work mec are great

    Comment by BILLY DOUGHER /FLW /MSBL /MABL /CBUA | September 28, 2011 | Reply

  8. work together to better your assoc billy dougher msbl cbua naba umprie32 35yrs experance at all different class of baseball

    Comment by umprie32 | September 1, 2014 | Reply

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