Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

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Perfect or Perfunctory; What kind of equipment check do you carry out?

Last week in our area we had a potentially tragic incident take place that has made all us umpires who heard about it reevaluate our approach to the equipment check prior to the game. I hope it will do the same for you. Under Federation rules, umpires must inspect the bats and batting helmets before the game to ensure that both meet specifications and are free from dangerous defects.

During his last time at bat in a high school varsity game this week, the batter took a direct hit on the ear hole of his batting helmet. The batter did not go down, but his batting helmet had a big spider web covering the ear flap and there was blood on the side of the batter’s head. Examination later at the emergency room revealed a ruptured eardrum.

The helmet was a new one, complete with NOCSAE sticker as well as the warning label, but just imagine the further damage that could have been done if if the helmet hadn’t met inspection standards and its poor condition hadn’t been noticed during the pre-game check of equipment.

When we look at helmets, we need to see the NOCSAE seal stamped into the helmet as well as the warning sticker. The rubber compression pads cannot be born, deteriorated, or missing. Duct tape on a helmet is a dead giveaway as to the condition of the helmet under the duct tape. Nothing irks me more than to have a coach tell me, as I remove a helmet from play, “What’s the problem? The last umpire let us use the helmet that way.” That tells me that either we are not being thorough enough in our pre-game inspection, or that the coach has a substandard level of concern for the safety of his players. Neither of those two possibilities is acceptable.

The Federation makes coaches and umpires responsible for promoting safe conditions for play during the game. Let’s be sure we are doing our part to uphold that responsibility by being alert and discerning during the equipment check. That way we can be sure that we prevent noncompliant equipment from causing injury, or should an injury occur, we can be certain we did not exacerbate the injury by allowing an unsafe conditions to exist during the game.

May 13, 2007 Posted by | Equipment, Rules | 2 Comments

Keep your eyes on what matters

A couple of years ago when my large 3,2,2 ball/strike/out indicator began to lose its numbers from too much use, I decided not to spend money on a new one, but to fix the one I had. A fellow umpire told me how he had put notches in the wheel which were a lot easier to see than the fading numbers.

He started by marking the visible arc you can see on the white wheel when the “1” is showing, then when the “2 “ is showing and finally, when the “3 “ is showing on the ball wheel. Then he gently pried the two parts of the indicator apart, revealing the wheels.

Using a hacksaw and file. he just cut one notch on the wheel when the 1 is showing in the window, two for 2, and three for 3. Careful, the two and three are hard to distinguish with the thumb on the ‘ball’ wheel. The wheel doesn’t turn as much between numbers on the ‘ball’ wheel, for obvious
reasons, and it has the smallest exposed edge. .

Another benefit of the notches is that I can tell quickly without even lifting the indicator up or moving my head down, what the count is. The notches are easy to feel, and I can confidently keep track of the count with my thumb and finger while, at the same time, keep track of the ball with my eyes.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Equipment | 3 Comments