The “Off” Season
The season has ended and you are sitting there with time on your hands. This is the perfect chance to reflect on 2010 and prepare for 2011.
The key here is to evaluate, honestly, your accomplishments and your pitfalls from the past season. Take a pad and pencil and make two columns. On the left, jot down everything that you did in 2010 that you were satisfied in your performance. In the right column, do the same for those aspects of your game or situations that you could have handled differently.
The key here is to be honest with yourself.
Could you have avoided a tough situation? Could you have defused a controversy by applying a different approach? Being honest with yourself can only improve your umpiring.
Take time to read one rule a week and thoroughly understand all aspects of it. No need to memorize, just understand and form a picture of what is being defined and interpreted. Relate this rule to anything that you came in contact with in 2010.
Stay in shape. No need to join a gym. Walk, bicycle, and make sure you are physically fit for the upcoming year. A thorough physical can be your best friend.
If you own a full length mirror, don’t be a stranger to it. Stand in front, go through your mechanics and be satisfied with what image you are trying to promote. Sometimes, with continued use, we tend to develop bad habits and a simple evaluation in front of a mirror can make you aware of things you do not want to do on the field.
Finally, don’t forget to reassess the quality of your equipment. The last thing you need is to sustain an injury because of faulty equipment.
Enjoy the off season by preparing yourself for the one to come.
If the site of the game is new to you, get there early and walk the field with your crew in order to ensure that there is nothing that will require an additional ground rule.
Make sure that all equipment is checked, particularly check bats for roundness and dimensions and catcher’s equipment for extended chest protector (Majors and below), masks with dangling throat protectors, and helmets for cracks and proper labeling.
It is a good idea to ask the Tournament Director or Game Director, and the Managers, who is NOT eligible to pitch in the game. Have this clarified before beginning the game.
We should, once the game has begun, verify pitch count each half inning in order to eliminate any surprises later. In addition, remember, any person who has played the position of catcher for any part of 4 innings, is not eligible to pitch.
In the event that a manager questions a rule interpretation (not a judgment call); we are required, if asked by the manager, to call Regional Headquarters for a clarification of the disputed rule. The call should be made by the Tournament or Game Director, BUT, you as an umpire must be present at the location of the call. In almost all situations, you are the one that the Regional Representative will want to speak with and clarify the dispute.
Let me just give you a heads-up on what to expect when the call is made. You will be asked for a phone number where you can be reached in case the call is disconnected. In addition, the Regional Representative will want to know what level of play you are in, if the tournament is single, double elimination, or pool play. Where is this game in the tournament, who is playing, what inning, what is the score, who is on base, what is the count. All this information is recorded before the particular situation in question is discussed. BE PATIENT, it is just as difficult for us, but definitely needed.
When the situation is resolved, you will return this information to the teams and directors and the game will be resumed. REMEMBER: the call must be made before any pitch or play after the protest. You cannot continue the game and call later. Make the call immediately and suspend the game until the situation is resolved. Any alteration of this will nullify the protest. It is your responsibility to bring the corrected ruling, if necessary, to all parties involved. Do not relinquish this duty to anyone else.
When the game is completed, and this year, all games will have to be completed, except 10 run rule situations, do not leave the field/playing area until you are sure there are no further protests imminent. At that time, leave the field as a crew. Once you have left the playing area, whether it is through a gate, around a backstop, or under restraining ropes, protests due to ineligible pitchers, mandatory play violations, etc. are not going to be considered.
Lastly, you do make the difference, enjoy the experience!
Mike 'Doc' Lantiere
East Region Assistant UIC