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Importance of Looking the Part

Over the years, I’ve seen countless articles on this very subject and I think that the message is always the same. I’ll be doing my best in the following paragraphs to add to the wealth of stories outlining the fact that if we don’t look top notch on that field that we might as well be stepping in the box with two strikes.

I’ve been pretty lucky with this hobby, and have learned some interesting things from a lot of great umpires. I can tell that I ‘ve learn something new every time I step on the field, but I also learn something new every time I step in the locker room. The “something” might be as simple as a new way to shine my shoes, but the point is, I learn a new way to do it. My message here is that looking the part starts in the locker room, extends to the field.

A great example of this comes from a Big League game I was watching towards the end of the season. There was a two-man crew working the game, and on my very loose uniform standard scale I would have given one umpire an 8 for his dress and the other a 4. I know what you might be thinking and that’s the 4 got in trouble and the 8 came in and saved the day. In fact it was quite the opposite, the 8 called a hitter back to the box after being hit by a pitch for not making an effort to get out of the way. The 8 made a decision and stuck to his guns… good for him, as you might expect the hitter was unhappy about the fact that he was still standing in the box and not safely on first base.

The next pitch came in and he popped it straight up to the pitcher and was retired. Upon leaving the dirt circle he had some choice words for the 8 who had some back, this caused the manager to make an appearance and things got ugly, with both the player and manager getting ejected. In this case, both ejections were heated and the 8 needed some help. The 4 came in to do his best to diffuse the situation and had a real hard time in his black pants old powder blue button up shirt and dress shoes.

My message with this story is that by not looking the part you’re doing your partner(s) a disservice

Don’t forget that we’re on the same team and it starts in the locker room. Be aware of the level of ball you’re working and be ready to go on any field at any time. In my example above its pretty basic and was quite obvious that the 4 was going to have a hard time when he came down the line to help.

However, it could be as simple as walking on the field with the wrong patches on your shirt. You never know what might get a manager or the fans going. Your best approach is always to go on the field looking the same as your partner(s) as you never know what will happen when that first pitch comes in and you want to be ready for whatever it is.

Here are a few quick tips to make sure you always look the best you can


II can stress this enough, umpire organization starts at home. Set aside an area in your house that is just for your gear. In this area, you should have enough room to hang up all of your shirts and jackets, if you do a lot of different baseball you’ll have a lot of umpire clothing. This area should have some type of shelving system for your shin guards, mask, hats etc. It should also have drawers or organizer boxes for things like black socks and undergarments as well as indicators and brushes

The next step is how your equipment travels. I know lots of guys that have combined their home organization system and their vehicle organization system into one. If that works for you then great, if you looked into my car on game day, all you’ll find is my equipment bag packed with everything I’ll need for the bases and the plate. You’ll also see my garment bag with all of the appropriate jackets, shirts, and pants for both the bases and the plate. In my case I take everything out of the car every game and reset it all. This is what works for me and I know I won’t forget anything.

At the end of the day, your system has to work for you. Know that once you get to a certain level your partner(s) will expect an equal level of professionalism when you show up for your game. Your first chance to make a good impression comes when you arrive at the park, and if your fishing in your trunk for your hat that comes out crumpled and dust covered you will not be instilling much confidence.

Call Ahead

Give your partner an email or a call during the day of your game or night before and make sure that you both have the right uniforms and know where the game is etc. Also let one another know if there might be an issue getting to the field on time. It is always a good idea to organize a meeting spot at the field. If there is a locker room this is easy, but one of the things that bothers me the most is searching the parking lot for my partner, or waiting around the back of my car with the trunk open hoping that my partner notices it when they drive into the lot.

Here are some helpful hints and tips:

  •  Hats should match not just in color but in symbol (even the plate umpire)
  •  Each umpire should have the same color undershirt
  •  The collar of your undershirt should fit snug to your neck and not be frayed.
  •  Umpire shirts should all be the same color, and have the same patches (pay attention to the trim on the cuffs and collars, especially with powder blue shirts)
  •  Belts should all have the same buckle and all be the same width
  •  Pants should all be the same shade of grey, and be aware that if your pants are more than a year or two old there’s good chance they’ve faded a little.
  •  Clean your ball bags, most are machine washable and it’s amazing how many umpires don’t do this
  •  Make sure you have pants that are sized for plate work.

    By Brad Johnston
    Canada Region UIC