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 > Little League Online > Learn More > Newsletters > Fairball Newsletters > 2010 > Fairball - November 2010 > The End of the Season

The End of the Season

Mike Messick

A LITTLE LEAGUE UMPIRE’S SEASON NEVER REALLY ENDS

At this time of year as I go out to run errands, I often run into people who say “What are you going to do with yourself now that the Little League season is over?” I smile and acknowledge them and think to myself “If they only knew.”

Even if you aren’t the UIC of your district or league, there is still a lot left to do to wrap up this season and to start preparing for the next season.

As soon as you have finished umpiring actively, one of the first things you should do is to clean and inspect your uniforms and equipment. When your uniforms have been cleaned, they should be inspected for any wear, damage problems or if they just need to be updated. If any damage is discovered that can be repaired, it should be repaired as soon as possible before the uniforms are put away for the season.

When your equipment has been cleaned properly, it should be thoroughly inspected for safety and wear. Your mask should be inspected to be sure there are no cracks or dents in the crossbars or the frame that could compromise your safety. The pads and harness should be inspected to make sure they are in good condition and not worn or stretched out and if so they need to be replaced.

Your chest protector should be inspected to make sure that the protective material on the front is in good condition and will protect you properly if you should take a foul ball off of it. The straps should be checked to make sure they are not stretched out and will hold the chest protector in its proper place when you are wearing it.

Your shin guards should be inspected to make sure there are no cracks, the pads are not worn or missing that could make them unsafe to use. The straps should be checked to make sure they are not stretched and will hold the shin guards in their proper place.

Your shoes (base and plate) should be inspected to make sure they are in good shape, that they fit properly and that the cleats are not worn so much that they will not provide good traction. You should polish them before you put them away for the season.

If you decide that you need to replace or update any of your equipment or uniform pieces, the end of the year is usually a good time to do this. A lot of the umpire supply companies will offer deals or discounts on these items, especially around Christmas time. So go on online or check their catalogues for any equipment you need or for any deals that they may be offering.

When you have finished cleaning and inspecting your equipment, you should empty out and clean and inspect your gear bag and everything that was in it. After cleaning and inspecting the items in your gear bag, you should decide if you really need all the items that you have accumulated through the season. By cleaning and inspecting your gear bag and equipment now you will insure that when your season starts and you open your gear bag for the first time, you will not be met by an unpleasant odor or equipment that is not safe or ready for you to use.

Another thing that you should do as soon as possible after your season has ended is to setup a meeting with all the umpires you have worked with in your league throughout the season. At this meeting you should discuss the past season; how the season went; were there any problems or concerns that need to be discussed; is there anything that you or the league can do to make the program, and especially the umpiring, better for all concerned. You should discuss how to recruit new umpires into your league; review any new rules or regulations that have come out or that anyone maybe having trouble with; and brainstorm for any suggestions on how to make the next season even better.

During the Fall and Winter, you should attend any district or league meetings to keep current on what is going on in your area; to keep up to date on anything that may come down from Little League International, and to be available to help answer any questions that may come up concerning rules or umpiring. If it is a Constitution review year or if the league is reviewing their local rules, you should volunteer to be a rules/regulations resource to help them make sure that they are abiding by all the rules and regulations of Little League.

During local league registration, you should attend and be available to talk to the parents about the possibility of helping to umpire in the league in the upcoming season.

The Fall and Winter months are good times to look into the possibility of attending one of the various clinics and schools that are presented by Little League International.

No matter how many years experience you have as an umpire, we can always use a refresher. If you cannot attend any of the training sessions, you can keep yourself up to date and ready for the season by obtaining the new rulebooks and reviewing them as often as possible. You can also help improve yourself by taking advantage of the training aides (LittleLeagueUmpire.org; manuals; Right Call; videos; etc.) that are available through the Little League International.

Through 28 years of umpiring, every time I attend a clinic or even put on a clinic, I always find something that I hadn’t thought of for quite a while or causes me to look at in a different way. We are never too old to learn and we can only get better as umpires by staying up-to-date, participating in clinics and sharing knowledge with our fellow umpires.

In early Spring, or before your season starts, you should set up a meeting or series of meeting with all the umpires who have umpired for your league in the past and especially for any new people who have offered to umpire for the coming season. At this meeting(s) you should review any new rules/regulations, go over the local rules, review any rules that you feel need to be addressed to help them with their umpiring, what uniforms your League will use and to present the mechanics (plate and field) that will help them to become better and more consistent umpires.

One last thing that I always recommend to umpires that I talk with is to start and stay consistent with an exercise program during the off season. This is a personal decision and choice and should only be started after consulting and ok’d by your doctor. If you are inactive for any period of time during the offseason due to weather or that you do not officiate any sports through the Fall and or Winter, starting some form of exercise program in this time period will make opening day and the start of the season much easier on you.

The areas that usually affect umpires are the knees; legs; backs and stamina, so if you just concentrate on these areas or just do a general overall program, anything is better than nothing. From personal experience, I know that if you wait until just before the season starts to try and get yourself in shape for the season, the first couple of weeks can be pure torture. So if it is just taking walks a couple of times a week to starting a full blown exercise program with a trainer, it can not only help you in your daily life but also help you in your umpiring.

So when someone asks “What are you going to do now that the Little League season is over?” I’ll just smile and know that when the season starts that I will be ready and prepared for whatever happens.

As the teams are being selected, starting their practices and preparing for their tournament games, we as umpires should also be preparing for the upcoming tournament games.

The first thing we should do is to go over, inventory and check all our umpire equipment. We should make sure it fits properly; check it carefully to make sure it will protect us; make sure it operates correctly and make sure it is clean and neat. If there is anything that needs repair or should be replaced then do it immediately before you take the field.

Secondly, we should check and go over our uniforms to make sure they are in good order and ready to go. Our pants and shirts should be cleaned and inspected to make sure that they do not have any rips or tears in them and that the proper patches are in the correct place on the shirt. We should inspect and polish our shoes to make sure they are in good condition and that they will protect us if the need should arise.

 We should check our hats that are going to be used during the tournament to make sure they are in good condition and not all sweat stained. It does not look very good when an umpire goes out on the field with his/her uniform in a sloppy or ragged condition with his/her shirt and/or pants wrinkled and/or dirty; with his/her shoes not shined and have sweat stains on his/her hat. Going out on the field in any of those conditions will give the impression that the umpire does not really care, or is untrained and it can cause the umpire to lose creditability and respect from all the people involved with, or are at, the game.

Third, and probably the most important aspect to being prepared for the tournament is, to review the rules, especially those that pertain solely to the tournament; any new rules or changes to the rules that may not be in the rule book and for any rules that may have given you trouble during the season or that you may not quite understand.

You should pay particular attention to the rules that are different or are changed from regular season to tournament season. Some of these are the mandatory play rule; substitution rules and the protest procedures to name a few.

If your district or local area has a tournament umpire’s meeting or clinic it is a good idea to attend and meet with other umpires to discuss rules, interpretations or situations. Now is the time to clear up any problems or situations that you are not sure of before you get on the field.

After these three items it is now time to contact the Umpire-In-Chief for your tournament games to receive your game assignments. Make sure you receive all the information you need such as the location of the game; time of the game; who you will working with in the game and any other information you feel is important.

If it is a game site that you are not familiar with, make sure you get good and precise directions to the field. After receiving this information you should check in advance of the game as to what will be the easiest or quickest way to get to the field. After you have found out who you will be working with, you should contact them, especially if you have never worked with them before. Introduce yourself and check with them concerning what uniform you will be using for the game.

Little League does not have an “official uniform,” but all the umpires working the game should be match as far as shirt and pant color. During the tournament season I always carry different color shirts in my vehicle to make sure that in case of a miscommunication or not being able to make contact with my partners, that I will have a shirt that matches the other umpires who will be working that game.

Also check with your partner’s to see if it will be possible or easier to car pool or to travel separately and what time you will meet at the game site. On game day you and your partner’s should arrive at least a half an hour before game time, it is highly recommended that you arrive sooner, but knowing that sometimes that isn’t possible, you should allow enough time so that you are at the game site at least the half hour before game time.

When you arrive at the game site you should find the Tournament Director, introduce yourself and ask him/her if there is anything you should know prior to the game starting. You should ask the Tournament Director to check the affidavit to see if there are any pitchers who are ineligible to pitch that day. You should also ask if there are any ground rules or specific problems that you should be aware of. Local rules/ground rules can only be something that is particular to the physical aspects of that field such as dead ball/live ball territory, local curfew, etc., and these rules cannot change or supersede the rule book.

Everyone involved in tournament play must understand that the Little League Tournament comes under a different authority and jurisdiction from that which was normally observed during the regular season and that there can be no resorting to local rules or variations.

After talking with the Tournament Director, you should walk and inspect the field for safety; check for areas where balls could get trapped, caught under or go through and to make sure everything concerning the field is ready to go. After inspecting the field it is time to get ready and dressed. Have a good pregame conference (concerning areas of coverage, responsibilities, rotations, etc.) with your partners, whether you have worked together for years or if this is your first time to work together, and then head out to the field to meet the managers and start the game.

If you follow these suggestions and ideas you should be well-prepared for the tournament season, and hopefully you will have a good and enjoyable tournament season.

Mike Messick
Little League 2010 Volunteer of the Year