Motivated to improve aptitude and execution on their local fields, 20 Little League® volunteer umpires visited Little League International in Williamsport, Pa., for the fall 2018 weekend mechanics clinic.
The intent of the clinic is to expose attendees to the proper home plate and base mechanics, based on the Little League Standards. Throughout the two-plus day training session, all umpires received a thorough explanation of plate and base mechanics for both the 60-foot and 90-foot diamonds, using a two-man system.
The attendees, who traveled to central Pennsylvania from as far away as Washington State and Canada, were instructed by 10 veteran volunteer umpires, many with World Series experience. Tom Rawlings, Little League Director of Umpire Development, guided the weekend’s learnings.
David Brown, from Pennsylvania District 22, has attended previous Little League mechanics and rules clinics and admitted that his perspective of the clinics has changed from his first time, but that is what experience does for you.
“Going to my first clinic, I thought it would be intense, and it was, but I found out you get to learn the nitty gritty of what is in the rulebook,” Mr. Brown said. “After my first clinic, I was even more motivated to put the rulebook into reality. Being on the field, and able to see what I should be doing and how I should be doing it, makes this a great opportunity to learn regardless of how many years you’ve been umpiring.”
While most of the clinic is conducted on the practice fields and in the batting cages, topics including pre-game and post-game meetings with your partner(s), plate conferences with the managers, and the look of an umpire are also discussed in a classroom-type setting.
On Saturday, the students were introduced to an intensive, interactive explanation of the Basic Six; the A, B, and C positions for base umpires, including proper timing when making calls; and the standard mechanics used by the plate umpire, highlighted by a thorough description of the “The Slot.”
17-year old umpire Joshua Petrie, out of Maryland District 2, is a veteran of four Little League seasons and this year attended his first umpire clinic. “I started umpiring my brother’s games when I was 13 and really loved it,” Josh said. “This was my first official training, so I expected to learn a lot of new things … certainly I did.”
Each session provided the students with several repetitions in a small-group setting. The interaction with instructors allowed for critiques and questions to be addressed in the moment, making for an effective learning environment. At the end of the training segments, students were encouraged to ask questions while self-assessing their performance.
Sunday’s activities were remedial, with more work on the Basic Six, plate work in the batting cages, and base umpire explanation on the practices fields at Little League International. Also on Sunday, all students received a thorough explanation of all mechanics associated with the uncaught third strike.
“I came to this clinic to better my mechanics,” said first-year umpire Jonathan Kawulok from Canada District 2 in Edmonton, Alberta. “I learned to take my time when making a call. Slow down, see what happens, and then be confident when making a call.”
After receiving his graduation certificate, Josh added, “I feel I am a better umpire, and when I go to another clinic I will get even better. You learn a lot and it’s fun too.”
Little League International’s fall mechanics clinic is one of a series of training opportunities that are hosted throughout the year, including a weekend rules clinic and the week-long school. Similar clinics based on the same curriculum are conducted at each of the Little League’s five regional centers in the United States.
“Absolutely, I would recommend attending a clinic,” said Mr. Brown. “I go back to my league and district, and explain the experiences here and what I have learned. It is critical to get your boots on the ground so you can do right by the kids.”
“If you love the Little League game, come here,” said Mr. Kawulok. “It is fascinating to see how (the mechanics) are properly done. The instructors were once where I am now, and look how far they have moved up. I am hoping one day, who knows, maybe I can be there. The key is believing in yourself and sticking with it.”
The clinic dates for the 2019 Little League International clinics are March 8-10 (rules); March 29-31 (mechanics); and the week-long school is scheduled for April 23-28. More information will be available soon, at: LittleLeague.org/Umpires.