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I had a game one afternoon where I was actually embarrassed for my partner. Not because he blew a call, no my partner looked like crap going out to the field. Gentlemen, we talk about “selling the call” and a huge part of that is your presence and appearance of authority. The issue of appearance of authority begins the minute you step not just onto the field, but you leave your car for the field.
My partner’s clothes were so wrinkly it looked as if he threw his uniform in his trunk wet and set it under his spare tire. I offered him one of my shirts to wear, unfortunately I couldn’t have offered him one of my pairs of pants but as his waist was 6-8 inches less magnificent than my own. Nevertheless he declined my offer. I asked him, “How can you go out on the field like that?”
His reply was, “Oh, it’s fine, the wrinkles will work themselves out.”
Just because we are amateur umpires does not mean that we are we do not need to look our best or be at the top of our game. Umpires who appear sloppy tell me that they have little or no respect for themselves, their avocation, their umpire association, or baseball as a whole.
When you leave the umpires’ locker room, err… parking lot you should be neat and clean in your appearance which includes clean, ironed or pressed clothes and polished shoes (yes, even if you’re the base guy). Walk to and on the field with your shoulders back, chest out, chin up and a confident smile giving the image that you are in control. While I don’t have anything more than anecdotal evidence, I firmly believe that those umps who carry themselves in a more confident manner have less problems even with the most unruly coaches and fans. Please note, if you carry your confidence too far to arrogance you get the opposite reaction.
Build your uniform collection up. I actually have a few uniforms I only wear for scholastic or championship games and a few uniforms for rec ball (which were former scholastic ones). This keeps me looking sharp on the field.
Once in March doing a HS game it was unusually cold. My partner wore his plate coat and I must say looked very sharp. Before we even held pre-game conference we could hear both players and spectators commenting on my partner. One made a comment to the effect of, ‘look at these umpires they really sent us the good ones.’ We hadn’t even met with the coaches and this was the impression we made. That’s exactly what you want.
While I’m ranting on this topic I want to discuss the umpire crew being uniform, not in uniform, but uniform.
Here in the southeast where the daily forecast from June to mid-September is temperature and humidity in the mid-upper 90’s and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. We turn to our powder blue shirts to give us some relief. There are at least 4 variations of the light blue shirt each with different trim on the cuff & collar. If you both are not wearing the same shirt as your partner, including the trim, you are not uniform and may as well be wearing different color shirts altogether. The association I belong to is specific about which one we are to use and even gives 2 of the vendors item numbers, yet so many of the guys have the wrong one. One time I wore a different light blue shirt from my partner and felt ridiculous. I won’t do it any more.
There is no excuse not to be uniform. Even if you do an out of town tournament not scheduled through your association they will usually specify the uniform, if not ask the tournament director.
Here are some things I have seen which are also not acceptable:
- Steel toed work boots
- Grey Dickies rather than umpire slacks
- Man’s dress belt vs. 1.5+”baseball belt
- Nylon mesh hats
- Stubble – A five-o’clock shadow is fine, but a 2 day growth is not
Take pride in yourselves and your work and you’ve won half the battle.