Spring tickles my senses:
When I was younger and still in school, my favorite season was definitely Summer! After all, I had really no responsibilities because there was no school. My number 1 priority was finding a way to get to the baseball field in order to watch, play or umpire a baseball game. My mother never really worried about me because if she needed to find me, all she needed to do was to go to the nearest baseball field and I was almost assuredly to be there. Since those childhood days have passed and since I have grown into the person that I am today, no season is more appealing to me than Spring! There is so much that comes with springtime and some of things that are most prevalent in my mind are the smells and sounds associated with the season. One of the most distinguishable smells of spring is the unmistakable aroma of a leather glove. To me, there is something about that smell that takes me back to a time in my life when things were pure and I was stress-free. Along with that smell was the unique sound of a cow or horse hide covered baseball finding its way into the pocket of that glove. The pure and unequaled smack of the leather popping as the ball comes to a sudden stop as it is enveloped into the surrounding light brown colored and beautifully woven hand made piece of art! Hmm, the sound resonates in my head as I write this! Smelling that leather and hearing that popping of ball meeting glove says that spring is here and that a full day for me will end in some way with a baseball game.
Umpires are humans:
As the fans begin to fill the stands at any baseball game, there seems to be an excitement in the air. People who may not know each other engage in conversations about who is pitching on that day or what their team needs to do to win. Some even have a little fun with visiting fans. Many times I have been in the stands at a ball game and have noticed several “boos” rain down when the umpires take the field or are being announced as part of the pregame introductions. Umpires are a part of the game and are definitely needed so, when I hear those boos I think to myself, those men and women have one of the toughest jobs out there. The umpires are not the ones who throw, hit and catch the ball. The umpires are humans who have to be in the right position, at the right time, to see a play that happens in a fraction of a second and then, immediately process what they just saw and deliver a definitive call! Think about those times in your life when you had to do something immediately after seeing or hearing something. What went through your mind? I can tell you from experience that what goes through my mind on any pitch or play is, I saw what happened and now need to make a call. That brings me to my first point in this post; no matter what that person just saw and regardless of the call that they make, there are going to be some who vocally display their displeasure with the call. Another thing to think about when watching the home plate umpire is that he/she is equipped from head to toe with hot gear and they do not get to take a half inning off and sit in the dugout. Additionally, the home plate umpire sees 200 plus pitches during any single baseball game. The best hitters in baseball get a hit once every 3 times at bat. Some of the best home plate umpires get the balls’ and strikes’ calls right over 90% of the time. What does that mean for the umpires? Well, to me it means that they are damn good at their job! It also means that out of those 200 pitches during the game they are going to get about 20 calls incorrect. If our kids get a 90% on a test, we are very proud of them! If we take into account that these men and women are doing their job at better than 90%, then we need to also appreciate them for the incredible job that they are doing.
Experience and Control:
Over the years, I have experienced several disagreements with coaches, fans and players while I have been an umpire. Not all of those experiences have ended the way in which I would have liked to see them end. I have grown to understand that the best way to avoid any argument regarding calls made during a baseball game is to: 1) Hustle, 2) Be in position to see the play, 3) Make the call, 4) Have fun, 5) Know the rules, 6) Communicate openly with the coaches and 7) Admit when you make a mistake and work with your partners to get the call right, when you are able to. Number 7 is probably one of the toughest ones to do because it is difficult to admit when we are wrong. Let’s go back to the above section where I stated that “umpires are human”. Humans make mistakes and that is how they learn and grow. One specific example that I can give regarding how my experience as an official and understanding what I was able to control happened to me recently while I was umpiring in tournament for 10 year olds. I was behind the plate and was working with one other umpire who was responsible for making the calls on the bases. There was a lot of chatter from the fans who were sitting behind home plate and adamantly opposed to some of the calls that I was making and were making their feelings well known to me and to everyone else who was in attendance. Experience told me to ignore what I was hearing and to control what I was able to control which was 2 things. 1, continue to make the calls as I saw them, emphatically and immediately and 2, communicate with the coaches in between innings. What did I say to the coaches in between innings? Easy! I said to them that I was still in search of making zero mistakes during a game. When I communicated this to the coaches, their reactions were pretty good. One coach said to me that he was still trying to coach the perfect game and the other coach said that I was doing a great job. Control! It is an interesting word and an even tougher concept especially, when you have some people who feel that they are in a better position to see a play and make the correct call than you are. Control over decisions that you make and over how you react to situations is something that I believe that we all have the capability to do and over the years as a human in blue, I have been able to learn and use control.