Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

Major Leagues Searching for Pitchers in India

At first I thought they were talking about the Cleveland Indians and then I thought they were recruiting players from Native American reservations. I was wrong on both counts. Millions of people competed to see who could throw a baseball faster than all the others. With so many people in India, I guess the odds are much better than looking here in the states where the populations are spread out and the average citizen knows that they would have to be paid millions of dollars.

Check out the following CNN article.

Indians are First for America’s National Pastime

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/12/11/india.baseball.pioneers/index.html

It’s not about umpiring, but still interesting if you love the game of baseball. During my pro ball days, I umpired for Houston Astros teams in the Gulf Coast League and Texas Ranger teams in the Midwest League, Texas League and American Association. In one or more of those stops I spent some time around Tom House who now is the pitching guru of the major leagues. I remember him throwing a football during pre-game activities on the field and in the bullpen during games.

Dr. Tom House is also the answer to the following trivia question:
Who caught Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun blast?

Tom was in the left field bullpen and made the catch while Hammerin’ Hank was rounding the bases which most of us have seen numerous times.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary | , , | 4 Comments

A Rare Umpire “Feel Good” Article

Our fellow BULB (Baseball Umpire Learning Blog) blogger Steve Johnson regularly unveils and unearths baseball bits that continue to entertain, educate, and inspire many from all walks of life. Today Steve is sharing the article by Fay Vincent, former MLB commissioner, who speaks kindly not only about one special umpire, Bruce Froemming, but also about arbiters in general. Thank you Mr. Vincent for remembering the true resting place for the integrity of the world’s competitive sporting events.

At this same time, I must share a fairly recent experience with Bruce Froemming. Former Double A Texas League partner Mike Winters has been a regular member of Mr. Froemming’s crew since Mike arrived in the majors. I took my son Ryan to Fenway Park and wanted to get a moment to say hello to Mike as we (along with other crew member Dan Wickham) thoroughly enjoyed the spring and summer of 1983 in the Texas League.

After simply requesting a moment to say hi to Mike Winters in the hallway, Ryan and I were escorted to umpire dressing room to visit with Mike and the crew. During a brief hello and some fun reminiscing with Mike, Mr. Froemming donated his full attention to Ryan (age 13) asking about Ryan about his baseball involvement. An autographed ball from the crew was given to Ryan. Ryan left that locker room with a whole new respect for major league umpires.

When I told Ryan that umpire great Al Barlick continuously told everyone who would listen that Bruce Froemming should be the one selected to work the plate if there would ever to be the most important game in baseball history. Just that comment and an older gentleman’s caring way, placed Bruce Froemming in Ryan’s Hall of Fame. Bruce Froemming’s signature is every bit as important to Ryan and I as that of Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, and others that reside on baseballs in our home.

Thanks Bruce for all that you have done. I especially respect that you continue to manage your games despite the new direction that MLB has taken failing to demand respect for umpires and the game. It shouldn’t about the superstars and owners; it should be about the integrity of the game. No one is bigger than the game, but in our hearts Bruce Froemming is pretty darn close! Enjoy your fame and retirement Bruce, you have surely earned it.

Check out Mr. Fay Vincent’s timely and much appreciated “Opinion” article in today’s (7/9/09) New York Times, by clicking on the following link:

The Umpire Strikes Back by Fay Vincent

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/09/opinion/09vincent.html?ex=1

Froemming Passes Bill Klem

Umpire Froemming Speaks After Breaking Klem Record

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commendations, Commentary | 1 Comment

Naked Gun Umpire Dance

Now, here’s an old clip from the Naked Gun movie from many years ago. I first saw this sometime during my years in the Double A Texas League. Anyone who likes or hates umpires should enjoy this video. He lacks some basic mechanics skills, but he makes up for it in showmanship.

This video brings back some fond memories of my years (1984-86) working for Carl Sawatski, Texas League President for many years. I was called up from the Single A Midwest League in the summer of 1984 and flew into San Antonio to work the AA Dodgers. Sandy Koufax was in the Dodger dugout. We shared something special–a love for the great state of Maine and, of course, workng our trades in the minor leagues. In the Texas League we would somtimes have to drive 10 hours from Jackson, Mississippi to El Paso, Texas after a night game. Jackson is famous for its warm temperatures and extremely high humidity. El Paso was the most fun on 10 cent hot dog nights when hundreds of Mexican citizens would cross the bridge for the evening games. The El Paso Diablo general manager always wanted us to start the game late to give more time for people to get through the border crossing. I doubt it is possible to simply walk across the border any longer.

I do recall working the plate on a drizzly night in El Paso while Ozzy Osborne was singing “White Wedding” in the local armory just over the left field fence. A little more rain and I would have had an even more memorable night that summer. Funny what we remember from our years on the road. Enough reminiscing, check out the video. This umpire performance would have gone over great on “10 cent Hot Dog Night” in El Paso.

For those of you for whom I continue to challenge your technology skills, this may be another new step for you. Just click anywhere on the link below to have the video load and play for you. It doesn’t save the video to your computer or put you at any risk. Turn on your speakers and watch closely to find a few moves that you can add to your plate job repertoire. LOL

Naked Gun Umpire Dance–Google Video

July 7, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary, Photo & Video | , | Leave a comment

Holiday Challenge–Multiple parts

Happy 4th! Unless you umpire professional baseball, you should have today off! I hope you get to spend time with family or do something special whether or not it includes baseball.

First of all check out the following picture. Does it make your mind spin envisioning all the things that must be processed by the base umpire? How well could he see the front edge of first base with the first baseman stretching toward home plate? What other evidence will an umpire use to help him make a close call like this one if he cannot see the leading edge of first base? Will there be contact? Who is at fault? Can you go to your partner, the plate umpire, for help on the potential interference/obstruction?

Stretch at First

Challenge #A

Now that I have you thinking, the challenge is for you to:

  1. write a script that would go with the video replay. You can write it from the umpires perspective or as a passionate baseball fan.
  2. describe the play at first base and share why an umpire must really be alert to the many possible decisions that can become part of this play.
  3. cover one or more of the rules that could come into consideration as this play unfolds.

 

Challenge #B

Write the script for either of the pictures below. Once again, I encourage you to be creative and have some fun with these. You know, I ought to find a sponsor to give out prizes for talent shared here. What an idea! Maybe the Taz man from down to Honig’s!?!

Play at Home Loose at 2nd Base

                                    “Play at Home”                                 “Ball in Dust”

 

 

July 4, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary, Photo & Video, Rules, Sharing Game Situations | Leave a comment

Timing

I have seen many umpires make a call too fast. I have been accused of being too slow.

Just in the past week – I have had 3 calls, that if I made a quick call (they appeared to be obvious outs – on a tag) I would have been wrong.

#1. A play at the plate, catcher catches the great throw from the outfield, and during the tag the ball is lost from the glove and goes to the backstop.

#2. Same game – I am covering third (I was the PU) and another great throw into the base. Runner slides in head first and there is a cloud of dust. Originally it looked to me like the runner has gone right over the glove. I waited a second – asked the third baseman for the ball – and surprise – it was gone.

So my thought to myself – see the play (the entire play) make the judgement in my mind – call the play.

May 18, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits | 2 Comments

“19th Century Baseball” Link

Unlike most of the other sports, I believe that baseball umpires overall share the strongest bond with their sport (especially here in the Maine where the first baseball is played between snowstorms with spectators dressed like football fans in Green Bay).  For this reason, I assume that our readers will enjoy learning more about the history of our great game of baseball.

Recently I received a copy of an email in which Steve Johnson, our local baseball affectionado, asked a prominent baseball historian how baseball arrived at the 60 feet 6 inch distance between the pitcher and the batter.  After reading the response, I could not keep myself from diving deeper into the history of America’s national pastime.

After a quick search and a couple clicks in my web browser, I discovered that Eric Miklich has produced a wonderful website where the world can learn about baseball’s opening century.  Being busy as always wearing and wearing so many different hats, I have just scratched the surface of the available information, but I anxiously await the opportunity to learn more.   19th Century  Baseball http://www.19cbaseball.com/ has separate content areas (with pictures and sketches) about each of the following: the game, the field, the equipment, the rules, the leagues, the players, and the legacy.  I am simply amazed at the details provided about baseball in the 1800’s.

The site also provides an opportunity to purchase baseballs produced matching the specifications throughout early baseball history.  I may become more interested in the baseballs as I learn more, but the game is so much more than the ball alone.

As a side note, I cannot help myself from sharing that one of our own, a renowned, local umpire and historian, has a precious and rare “Doubleday baseball”.  Maybe this fellow umpire will be interested to share some of his vast knowledge here in the blog for others to enjoy as part of our “Baseball Bits” category.

May 6, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits | 7 Comments

Resource for Pro Rules Situations

Late last night I stumbled upon another umpire website that might be useful to some of our readers. Unlike this blog, there is a forum for questions/complaints and game situations are discussed relative to professional rules. What I like most about this site is the online professional baseball rulebook. Just click on “Rules” in the left sidebar.

Check out BaseballUmpires.com by clicking here: http://baseballumpires.com/index.cfm

Remember: This site focuses its attention on pro baseball rules and situations for minor and major league baseball. For those of you that work college baseball, this may be helpful as professional rules and NCAA rules are very similar. Also, those of you around the country that work Babe Ruth baseball can benefit also. Babe Ruth uses professional rules with a small collection of its own rule differences.

The “General Questions” area in the “Forum” seems to be active enough to be a benefit for those who really enjoy talking and thinking about rules. Remember–professional rules (MLB) rule this web resource. I have also put the link to BaseballUmpires.com in the Blogroll (list of links) in the right-most sidebar below the “Blog Stats”.

April 28, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Knotty Problems, Rules | 3 Comments

When someone believes in you, you can’t be stopped

As an adoptive parent as well as a professional foster parent maintaining, along with my dear wife, a foster home for kids diagnosed as having Reactive Attachment Disorder, I go to educational conferences each year for help improving my parenting skills. This weekend I am privileged to be attending a conference whose keynote speaker is Deshawn Patrick. For those of you who are not Mariner fans, Deshawn came to that club in the same year as Junior Griffey, 1987. They were both outstanding athletes who could run and hit as well as any players in the majors. The two of them got to the majors through two very different routes. We all know the story of Junior, who had a world class baseball-playing father to guide and support him thorough his formative years. Deshawn Patrick, on the other hand, was in foster care from the time he was one, bounced from home to home to home. Considering he was signed by the Mariners when he was 19, there had to have been something more than the non-existant doting dad to help Deshawn achieve the baseball success that he did.

I asked Deshawn what happened in his life to allow him to avoid the pitfalls of foster care (75% of today’s prison population has spent at least six months in foster care). His answer was quite revealing.

“One of the things that foster kids hate the most is the fact that they have a thick file that follows them wherever they go. The minute they get into trouble at school, the principal reaches into the file cabinet to pull out their thick file. And you know what? That file never says ‘Deshawn has the potential to be a great baseball player, or a prolific writer, or a dynamite artist’; instead, it says ‘ Deshawn never completes his work, is a distraction in the classroom, and is a social misfit.’ No one reading that file would ever give me any hope for achieving something good.

“Baseball, and the coaches who said I could be a great baseball player, my ton of friends, and my grandmother who always loved me, gave me the passion to endure all the foster homes could give out. I made up my mind that I was going to make myself proud. I knew that everyone one expected me to be a troubled foster child with a checkered past and a doubtful future, but I knew differently. I knew that what was inside no one else could see unless they looked past my foster home files. No one, not even my closest friends, could comprehend how it felt to come home from school and not know if the state had decided to place us in another foster home or if my foster parent had thrown in the towel. It was hard to concentrate on the ABC’s and 123’s when I didn’t know where I would be living one day to the next.

Deshawn became emotional when he talked about the support his grandmother gave him and by the time he had finished talking about how powerful it can be when someone believes in you there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. As I drove home this afternoon I thought long and hard about what I was or wasn’t doing to empower my children to become the very best they can be. Those thoughts took me to my passion, baseball umpiring, and made me take a long hard look at what I do to empower players, coaches, and my peers to be the very best they can be. I’m not sure what the answers are in either arena, but I do know I can’t wait to get back to Day 2 of the conference tomorrow, whose theme is based on Deshawn Patrick’s book, And Some Rise Above It. Maybe Deshawn’s insights will help me find those answers.

April 27, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commendations | 3 Comments

Head Position when “Working the Plate”

There are lots of different ways to “work the plate”. However, you need to know why you see every pitch the way you see it. It cannot be a game of chance. You need to know where the ball crossed the plate area so you must see the ball the exact moments when it crosses the plate. It you don’t, adjust your head postion. Your eyes have to be in the right place so put them there.

Check out the following picture and its caption in the photo gallery if you want to think even more more about your plate mechanics.

http://picasaweb.google.com/ShawnKball/OfficiatingBlogPics/photo#5056680258687107362

WORKING THE HIGH SCISSORS

This classic plate mechanic/style can be even more perfected by using the “ol’ balloon”. Umpire balloon protectors offered the utmost of protection. The big “ol’ balloon” did have a way of getting in the way though.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Mechanics | 5 Comments

Jim Evans Baseball Prospectus Interview, May 2003

I came across this interview as I was looking for good umpiring resources online. I thought that some of you would like to read some of Jim’s responses in this interview.

Click here to access the article written by Jason Grady of Baseball Prospectus: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1856

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Sharing Game Situations | Leave a comment

Dressing for success

From my vantage point at my work, I have a clear view of many of the hopeful candidates waiting for their turn to be interviewed for a job at my company. No matter what their sex, creed, or national origin, they all share one thing in common. They come dressed for the occasion, hoping that a freshly ironed shirt, pressed slacks, and polished shoes will help create that positive frame of mind in their interviewer towards them. They come with a purpose, and they want their preparedness to show.

How many of us approach our games with the same zeal that potential new hires exhibit at my workplace? I mean, it’s the same thing, isn’t it? We want to have the balance of the positive mind set tipped in our favor the minute we stride out on to the field for the pre-game meeting. Don’t you think for a minute that the coaches and players aren’t sizing you up, based on how you look in your umpire uniform. How much confidence do you inspire in coaches and players when you are wearing the same shirt you threw, balled up and sweaty, into the trunk two days earlier? What do you think the reaction is to your heather gray slacks that have wrinkles on top of wrinkles up and down the pant legs because you didn’t take the time to wash them after the last game? You lose a golden opportunity to create a favorable first impression from the start when you show up on the field, not dressed for the part. Unfortunately, you don’t get a second chance to create a good first impression. Do it right the first time!

Coaches and players don’t care how good a game you called yesterday. They are only interested in how good a game you are going to call today. Their perception that they will get a good game from you will be heightened by the non-verbal message you send when you conduct that pre-game conference in a freshly ironed shirt, clean and pressed pants, and shoes shined to military inspection standard.

I laughed when Shawn wrote about polish keeping the rain out of your shoes, but he is right. Not only will liberal amounts of polish do just that, but it will preserve the leather a lot longer and will make you next shoe shine a breeze. I remember watcing Shawn’s post-game ritual with his shoes 17 years ago in the parking lot following a college game. First, he took the time to pry out the chunks of dirt from the crevice between the leather and and sole before brushing the rest of the shoe off. The next step was to slip shoe trees into place before sliding the entire shoe into an old large sock. Finally, the dressed shoe was placed carefully in his equipment bag until that moment when he would take the shoes out for a good polishing prior to the next game. The sock trick is a good one; it keeps the dirty shoe from mucking up the rest of the equipment bag and it keeps the polished shoes from getting black blotches on the other gear in the bag.

You are proud of the work you do as an umpire. Share that pride with the rest of the world by always assuring that you come to work each time properly dressed for success. You’ll earn the respect of everyone around you and your game will be better for it. Opening day looms; will you be ready?

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary | 4 Comments

Inclement weather frustrates anxious umpires

It is Wednesday of spring break and under normal conditions we all would have had at least three days of pre-season games under our belts by now here in Maine. However, the snow is finally leaving the ground, aided by the 50 mph winds and rain that have buffeted us for the last four days. We’ve had no games thus far and “the outlook isn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine” for the rest of this week into the next. Some of us have been looking at pitches during indoor batting practice at the local high school; others have been poring over their case book and rule books, looking for the justification for the right answers on their Part 2 Federation exam that was handed back last week. Still others run their Jim Evans Balk video for the umpteenth time, trying to commit to memory the pictures of what constitutes balk and what that will look like in real time. In the homes of those umpires who will do both high school and college games when the fields become playable. a dog-eared copy of Chris Jaksa’s and Rick Roder’s Rule Differences Edition of their monumenal treatise Rules of Professional Baseball, a Comprehensive Reorganization and Interpretation provides easy-to-comprehend verbage that clearly delineates the differences between the NCAA and NFHS codes.

No matter what the activity, the driving force behind them all is the same, boredom coupled with rising anxiety. We’re bored because of the same-old, same-old monotinous empty motions of waking up in the morning, checking the weather forecast, catching a bit of Mike and Mike in the Morning, all culminating in the obvious truth that there will be no games today. We’re filled with rising anxiety because we hark back to Doug Harvey’s words (I think that he is the proper person to which to attribute the sentiment) “Baseball is the only profession where we are expected to be perfect on opening day and improve from there.” Golly, wouldn’t it be great just to be given the chance to get out there to practice being perfect!

Hang in there, guys. Our day is coming. And when it does, you are going to be good. And you’ll be good not because you just lucked out. Vince Lombardi was renown for admonishing his Packers, “There is no such thing as luck. Luck is what happens when preparation and opportunity meet”. You are going to be good because your preparation reviewing old exams, rewinding the balk DVD, and getting Jaksa and Roder down pat will serve you to the utmost when your first and the succeeding game opportunities presents themselves. Carpe diem!

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary | 1 Comment

Baseball History Rises Above the Other Sports

Did anyone else tune into the Dodger-Padre game on Monday afternoon? The entire league was honoring #42 Jackie Robinson. The Commissioner and Mrs. Robinson spoke about Jackie’s contribution to the game of baseball. Television showed us clips and told us several stories. Oh, what Jackie withstood to play a boy’s game in front of bigotted, unappreciative fans! Watching Frank Robinson and Henry Aaron throw out the first pitches made this an even more memorable event.

I told my son that he would someday tell his son that he watched this 60th anniversity of Jackie Robinson’s first major league game. To which he responded, “Dad, you and Mom stood and talked with Hank Aaron while you played shuffleboard years ago during spring training” (at West Palm Beach, Florida). It reminded me of how lucky I was to step on the same field with so many Hall of Famers.

Even though legends challenged my judgement wishing calls to go their way, I knew that I carried the integrity of the game in my hands. No one ever extensively argued balls and strikes with me behind the plate–even Hoyt Wilhelm, Gary Sheffield, or Bucky Dent.

As you can see, I welcome the opportunity to talk baseball beyond umpiring. Hopefully you will find my stories interesting.

April 17, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Commentary | 1 Comment