Preparing for the Tournament Season
As the teams are being selected, starting their practices and preparing for their tournament games, we as umpires should also be preparing for the upcoming tournament games.
The first thing we should do is to go over, inventory and check all our umpire equipment. We should make sure it fits properly; check it carefully to make sure it will protect us; make sure it operates correctly and make sure it is clean and neat. If there is anything that needs repair or should be replaced then do it immediately before you take the field.
Secondly, we should check and go over our uniforms to make sure they are in good order and ready to go. Our pants and shirts should be cleaned and inspected to make sure that they do not have any rips or tears in them and that the proper patches are in the correct place on the shirt. We should inspect and polish our shoes to make sure they are in good condition and that they will protect us if the need should arise.
We should check our hats that are going to be used during the tournament to make sure they are in good condition and not all sweat stained. It does not look very good when an umpire goes out on the field with his/her uniform in a sloppy or ragged condition with his/her shirt and/or pants wrinkled and/or dirty; with his/her shoes not shined and have sweat stains on his/her hat. Going out on the field in any of those conditions will give the impression that the umpire does not really care, or is untrained and it can cause the umpire to lose creditability and respect from all the people involved with, or are at, the game.
Third, and probably the most important aspect to being prepared for the tournament is, to review the rules, especially those that pertain solely to the tournament; any new rules or changes to the rules that may not be in the rule book and for any rules that may have given you trouble during the season or that you may not quite understand.
You should pay particular attention to the rules that are different or are changed from regular season to tournament season. Some of these are the mandatory play rule; substitution rules and the protest procedures to name a few.
If your district or local area has a tournament umpire’s meeting or clinic it is a good idea to attend and meet with other umpires to discuss rules, interpretations or situations. Now is the time to clear up any problems or situations that you are not sure of before you get on the field.
After these three items it is now time to contact the Umpire-In-Chief for your tournament games to receive your game assignments. Make sure you receive all the information you need such as the location of the game; time of the game; who you will working with in the game and any other information you feel is important.
If it is a game site that you are not familiar with, make sure you get good and precise directions to the field. After receiving this information you should check in advance of the game as to what will be the easiest or quickest way to get to the field. After you have found out who you will be working with, you should contact them, especially if you have never worked with them before. Introduce yourself and check with them concerning what uniform you will be using for the game.
Little League does not have an “official uniform,” but all the umpires working the game should be match as far as shirt and pant color. During the tournament season I always carry different color shirts in my vehicle to make sure that in case of a miscommunication or not being able to make contact with my partners, that I will have a shirt that matches the other umpires who will be working that game.
Also check with your partner’s to see if it will be possible or easier to car pool or to travel separately and what time you will meet at the game site. On game day you and your partner’s should arrive at least a half an hour before game time, it is highly recommended that you arrive sooner, but knowing that sometimes that isn’t possible, you should allow enough time so that you are at the game site at least the half hour before game time.
When you arrive at the game site you should find the Tournament Director, introduce yourself and ask him/her if there is anything you should know prior to the game starting. You should ask the Tournament Director to check the affidavit to see if there are any pitchers who are ineligible to pitch that day. You should also ask if there are any ground rules or specific problems that you should be aware of. Local rules/ground rules can only be something that is particular to the physical aspects of that field such as dead ball/live ball territory, local curfew, etc., and these rules cannot change or supersede the rule book.
Everyone involved in tournament play must understand that the Little League Tournament comes under a different authority and jurisdiction from that which was normally observed during the regular season and that there can be no resorting to local rules or variations.
After talking with the Tournament Director, you should walk and inspect the field for safety; check for areas where balls could get trapped, caught under or go through and to make sure everything concerning the field is ready to go. After inspecting the field it is time to get ready and dressed. Have a good pregame conference (concerning areas of coverage, responsibilities, rotations, etc.) with your partners, whether you have worked together for years or if this is your first time to work together, and then head out to the field to meet the managers and start the game.
If you follow these suggestions and ideas you should be well-prepared for the tournament season, and hopefully you will have a good and enjoyable tournament season.
Little League 2010 Volunteer of the Year