Tips to Keep the Game Moving, Amicable, and Under Control
Now that most of us are nearing the end of the season, umpiring a game seems like more of a chore, than an enjoyable experience.
In most parts of the United States, the weather is getting warmer … heck, it is down-right hot! As The games drag along to an eventual conclusion, we start drifting off, wondering when the game is going to end, what’s for dinner, and what troubles lie ahead tomorrow at work.
It’s been a long season, and it’s not over yet. Coaches are getting frustrated. Grand mom is screaming that we need glasses, and not the type with a cool drink inside!
There are some things that we can do to stay focused and make the games move along faster and smoother. Here are some things that usually work for me.
A. Ground Rules: During the ground rules discussion with the managers, introduce yourself and try to remember their names. You should meet them no later than five minutes prior to game time at home plate, with the field cleared of all players. Keep this discussion brief. Get assurance from the managers that their players are legally equipped, and discuss any special ground rules pertaining to the field. Remember that this is for ground rules, not a clinic or a mass warning session. You do not have to warn the coaches about everything that could get them or their players ejected. This sets a bad tone and will lead to aggravation for us later. I will tell the managers that if they disagree with a call, they should ask for time, go to the umpire who made the call, and ask for an explanation. Of course, balls and strikes are off limits. This shows an aura of cooperation, and that you are approachable. These conversations should take no longer than a few moments.
B. Game Time: In the top and bottom of the first inning as the first batter is coming to the plate, introduce yourself to the catcher. I tell him, “Hi. My name is Jim. When he looks at you like you’re nuts, say, “May I please have your name?” Try to remember his name. I then tell him, within earshot of the first batter, “Keep the glove still. Try not to frame the pitches, and give me a good look at the pitches. If the pitcher is close, I’ll call strikes. If you want to check on a swing, ask me and I’ll always ask my partner for you.” Again, this shows cooperation and lets the batters know they should be swinging.
C. Checked Swings: Always appeal to your partner when asked, or appeal yourself if not sure. With two strikes on the batter, especially with runners on base. Appeal to your partner if you think there is any possibility that you will be asked. This is critical in Junior Senior and Big league with a dropped third strike situation. Don’t leave the batter, runners and catcher out to dry. This will cause all kinds of confusion, and more importantly, add about 10 minutes to your game, sorting out the circus event that just occurred.
D. Balls: Keep at least two balls in your ball bag at all times. Nothing slows a game down more than waiting for a ball to be returned after being batted out of play. Give the pitcher a ball as soon as possible. If a foul ball is rattling around the backstop, let the catcher retrieve it while you give the pitcher one from your bag. Caution: Make sure the pitcher is ready for the ball.
E. Between innings: Remind both teams to hustle on and off the field. I like to stand about a quarter of the way up the foul line of the team that’s coming to bat. (I’m afraid to stand on the other side because of the warm-up balls coming in) Give the pitchers eight (8) warm-ups in the first inning, or a new pitcher. After that, limit it to four (4). By rule, they have a minute, but I don’t time that. If the pitcher and catcher are slow to come out, start dropping warm-up pitches. If a warm-up pitch gets by the catcher, give him one out of your bag. Retrieve the one that got by after warm-ups are complete. Your partner can help you count the pitches while you’re looking for a cool drink, and help get the fielders to return those warm-up balls that are flying around.
Try these tips and I’m sure you’ll shave some dead time off of games, and your games will go smoother.