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What Can I Expect If I Attend Umpire School?

As Lead Instructor at the Little League Umpire School conducted at Little League International in South Williamsport, I am often forwarded e-mails or asked: What Can I expect at Umpire School; and the follow-up: “Is it worth my time, effort and money to attend?”

My first response is: Anytime you can attend a training session, it can only benefit you in your umpiring career and will be well worth the time and cost. It has been said and is very true that you can always learn something whether it be a new mechanic or interpretation; pick new ideas or tips; or to just update and refresh your previous umpire training. You will also meet some new umpires from all over the country and walks of life that can become lifelong friends, while having a great time.

Since I teach at the Headquarters School, and have not personally attended all the Umpire Schools held at the various Regional Centers, I will only talk about and reference our program at Little League International. But no matter whether the Umpire School is held at the Regional Centers or in Williamsport, our overall program is staffed and run by experienced and dedicated instructors. We are all using the same syllabus/curriculum so that no matter which School you attend, you will receive the same training and interpretations.

For a nominal fee, you will receive lodging (in our case it is the same dorms the players stay in during the World Series); five days of training; all the training materials/manuals/handouts and meals. On our evaluations, the food has been complimented as being worth the fee alone.

In April, we hold a week-long (Sunday through Friday) School. Most umpires are already well into their regular seasons, so typically, the biggest question is: “Why can’t you hold it earlier in the year?”

We know and understand this, but due to weather considerations (we have a lot of outdoor activities), we cannot hold the School any earlier than April. As for your league needing you, we understand and respect that, but if you can arrange it, your league, the children and you personally will benefit greatly by attending.

When you return home, you will be more confident and a better umpire. These changes will be noticed and appreciated by everyone, especially the children who we are doing this for.

I try to relate to everyone, that if you would have an illness or emergency and could not umpire for a while, could and would your league be able to get by until you return? So this is a similar situation, that if they can spare you for a few days, it will be well worth it to everyone because of the improvement in your umpiring which can only help your league.

Our training program and the mechanics have been developed; over the past 20-plus years. All our field mechanics have been developed and field tested so that with the least amount of movement, the umpire can be in the best angle, distance and position to make the best call possible.

So whether you are an umpire just starting out; an umpire who has a few years experience and wanting to try and advance to higher levels; or a seasoned umpire, who is experienced and wants to make sure he/she is up to date, our program is designed so that there is something in it for everyone.

In our Little League International program, we limit class size to a maximum of 45. There are six instructors (who have been through our program and had at least one World Series assignment) and myself. We stay on site so that we are accessible if there are any questions or someone needs further information/training after hours.

So what really happens when you arrive at the School?

The following is a brief overview of the program. Our program runs from Sunday afternoon through Friday at lunch. Everyone arrives on Sunday afternoon and we start with a Staff meeting at 2 p.m.; a welcome and orientation for everyone at 3 p.m. followed by dinner at 4 p.m. After dinner we go down to the fields and go through the Basic Six Drill, which is proper way for an umpire to make his/her signals during a game. After the Basic Six Drill, we return to the classroom for a rules session and retire for the evening at 7:30 p.m.

Our daily schedule, Monday-Thursday, starts at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and from 8-to-10 a.m. we have rule sessions. The class is divided into three equal groups and we head down to the fields for the mechanics’ drills on either the 60-foot, 90-foot diamond or the batting cages for plate mechanics.

After lunch, at 12:15 PM, we return to the fields for another Basic Six Drill and split into the three groups for two more field mechanics sessions. Dinner is served at 5 p.m. and then we have another rules session in the classroom until 7:30 p.m. After we have finished the formal sessions for the day, the instructors stay around to be available for any question/answer sessions or to help the students with any rules or mechanics problems that they may have.

On Friday after breakfast, we meet in the classroom and the students take a rules test. This test is not just a pass/fail situation but it gives the students and the instructors an idea on what they need to improve/work on to better themselves and our program. After the tests have been corrected and returned, there is a brief ceremony to present the certificates, qualification cards and umpire patches. We say our “thank yous,” collect the evaluation forms, serve lunch and say our “good-byes.”

So you can see it is full, exciting and rewarding week and by the time the week is over, you will have dissected the entire Rule Book; had at least six (6) hours of practical experience of field mechanics on the 60-foot, 90-foot diamond and plate mechanics.

Every day there is something new to learn and we build on what was presented the day before. During the course of the weeks’ training, we cover all aspects of baseball and softball. You will have had an opportunity to have any and all your questions asked and answered, because we always say that if you come here with a question or problem and we did not fully answer or take care of that, then we did not do our job. I will guarantee you that you will have a fun filled, educational and enlightening week and will return to your League and umpiring career as a better, more confident, better informed umpire to better help your League and the children of your community.

Mike Messick
Little League 2010 Volunteer of the Year