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Umpire School - Williamsport, Pa.

The following email was received from a recent student of the weeklong umpire school held in Williamsport, PA every spring.

Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 11:27:45 -0500
Subject: LL Umpire School evaluation

First off, let me thank you and my DA for giving me the opportunity to attend this event. I think it was a lifetime opportunity, and want you to know that I really appreciated it.

Here's a synopsis of my experience:

The class consisted of about 35 men, no women, from across the U.S., Guam, and Canada. A contingent from Puerto Rico never showed up because of some airline snafu. We had 6 instructors, and two instructors in training and each had a special part. We stayed in the dormitories that the kids stay in when at the LLWS, and that added a lot to the experience. The food was awesome, as good as any restaurant food, and the cafeteria staff was incredibly friendly. All of the guys I interacted with were great. The grounds are immaculately maintained as are the fields. The accommodations were great, clean and comfortable. One suggestion would be to make the dormitories wireless so attendees can attend to other matters that may come up during my stay. What I learned -

Before going, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't learn anything 'new', and that perhaps it would be boring at times. As it turned out, I learned a lot of new things, and re-learned a lot of things that I had learned in the past, but for some reason didn't practice. For instance, the 'pivot' - I had learned the pivot a few years back, but was never drilled on it like I was at the school. Now, I fully understand the importance of making a good pivot, and I now strive to practice it whenever I'm on the field (and sometimes when I'm not on the field, to my wife's dismay.) I also learned the importance of proper footwork, and how just one step in the wrong direction can lead to problems. I also learned that I didn't know as much as I thought I knew. Overall, my fears about being bored were never realized, as I was plugged in from day one.

Quality of instruction - The instructor staff was awesome. I am still amazed at the dedication these guys have to LL, how they 'pay back'. While all of the instructor staff was incredible, I clicked mostly with Jimmy Floyd. It was amazing to watch Mike Messick make his way around the field, almost like watching a dancer. His footwork is unbelievable. Roy Smith knows more about 60' mechanics than I could ever learn. The two cage guys gave me ideas about the slot and mechanics that I'd heard before, but never tried, and now I've changed my whole approach to my plate mechanics. Much bigger slot, with a hammer instead of a point.

How it was organized - I was very impressed with how the agenda was organized. Basic Six drills in the morning and afternoon, pivot drills throughout the week. I appreciated that we didn't spend a whole lot of time on the rule book. Most of our time was spent on the field learning. I totaled up the number of classroom hours vs. field hours:
We spent 22 hours in the classroom beginning Sunday evening and 24 hours of field work beginning Monday morning. The time spent in the classroom was fast-paced, as only the most important rules were discussed in any length. Not a lot of questions, but the ones that were asked were good.

What I'd change - I wouldn't change anything in particular, but I would add a couple of things: how to handle situations with Managers and Coaches, and sharing information on things like how to make a call on a banger at first, or how to focus on the ball on a close tag play.

Andy Konyar did a fantastic job of putting his staff together and coordinating this school. He didn't get in the way, and let his instructors do the teaching as he just observed. His sense of humor helped get us through the day, and his 'FROM THE TOP' will be etched in my mind forever.
This was an experience I will never forget, and will try to go back next year, time and money allowed. Please continue to offer these scholarships to deserving people. It has made me recommit myself to LL baseball, and made me realize that LL isn't just about playing baseball.....it's a vocation.