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Warren

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  1. New UI

    Holy Crap it looks bad in Explorer & FF Grrr   Switching to the default until I have a fix.   For those who use chrome you can still use this theme by selecting change theme in the bottom left and selecting New UE.
  2. The new and improved Umpire-Empire

    Absolutely!
  3. Memberships

    You may have noticed that Umpire-Empire is now offering memberships. Our partners have put together some generous discount packages which are only available to premium members. These discounts can easily cover the cost of membership over the year. Beyond discounts by our partners there will be some exclusive content for Premium members and a special forum where I will keep premium members up to date on premium offerings. Soon Umpire-Empire will be offering liability insurance through a toprated provider as a second level of premium membership. If you elect for premium membership and would like to upgrade to the option with insurance when it becomes available. What happens if I don't become a premium member? Don't worry you will still have access to the forum, many articles, interviews and all that you've come to expect from Umpire-Empire. But we hope you will want to become a premium member.
  4. We're Back! With completely new software which will give you a better user experience. Please play around in the site and test out some of the new features. Shortly I will be making video tutorials to help explain how get the most out of the site. We are proud to announce we have partnered with three great organizations who will further enhance your user experience. Ump-Attire.com, The Wendelstedt School & Mid-American Umpire Clinic. This partnership creates a stronger community with greater resources and an access to information important to you. Umpire-Empire now offers memberships which come with some great benefits. So be sure to check our our membership section. We're currently running an introductory special you can save $5 off your subscription for the first year by entering coupon code "intro" at check out. Visit our membership section for more information. Soon I will be offering an second membership level which will also offer an insurance option, so stay tuned for that. As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns please let me know.
  5. Interview with Jim Reynolds

    I recently had the opportunity to ask Major League Umpire Jim Reynolds (#77) a few questions. Jim is a 1992 graduate of Jim Evans Academy and had a particularly quick rise through the ranks and was added to the Major League staff in 1999. Since then he's worked the 2004 All-Star Game, 2005 ALDS between the Angels and Yankees, 2007 NLDS between the Rockies and Phillies, 2008 NLDS between the Cubs and the Dodgers, and most recently the 2010 ALCS between the Rangers and Yankees. Jim is also the Secretary/Treasurer of UMPS CARE Charities. Jim, thank you for agreeing to speak with Umpire-Empire. Warren: You have a pretty interesting story about how you became an umpire. Tell us a little about that. Jim: I was attending the University of Connecticut and in my freshman year and there was a fire drill. I grabbed my high school jacket and went outside. While waiting outside there was this guy wearing his high school jacket and it was from a rival school. We struck up a conversation and that's how Dan Iassogna and I became good friends. He later talked me into taking a 1 credit course on umpiring taught by UConn coach Andy Baylock. It wasn't an intense rules and mechanics course like pro school, just an introductory course. The first pitch I ever saw as an umpire was from Charles Naggy, who later had a great career with the Cleveland Indians, in the UConn batting cages. It was pretty much trial by fire. Through this I was able to start doing JV regular season games and varsity fall ball. I quickly found myself doing everything from 13-14 year olds to Legion. Dan then told me he was going to pro school to try and become a professional umpire and asked if I would go with him. We went to pro school and were both selected. We were also pretty lucky to be assigned together our first year. That made a lot of difference in going on the road together with your best friend. It was a great experience. Warren: In the introduction it really stands out how quickly you rose through the ranks. Making it in just 7 years is practically unheard of. Tell us what you think made you stand out and able to rise so quickly. Jim: It's not all about ability; there are a number of factors involved. One major factor for any umpire is timing. There are always a good group of umpires coming up who would be great major league umpires, but sometimes there just are not any openings. I was very blessed to make it in the timeframe I did. Warren: Tell me about the pressures you've faced and how you've dealt with them from your first MLB game June 4th 1999, to the 2004 All-Star Game, to your first post season appearance in 2005, your first post season plate appearance a year later and your appearance in this year's ALCS. Jim: Oh, there definitely is a lot of pressure for each one of these. The run up to the game is more stressful than the game itself. It's more self imposed pressure and anxiousness than nervousness. You're playing mental games and running through every potential situation which could happen and every sticky situation thats happened to you all season thinking that they're all going to happen to you in this game. Then you get in there settle in and the anxiousness slips away. I have such an appreciation for the guys who work the playoffs year after year and go through this and have been successful and are able to set aside the pressure and focus on the game. Warren: How did your crew help you or what words of advice did they give you? Jim: I was on a great crew and they all had some great advice for me. Fieldin Culbreth and I had a great conversation where he told me to treat it just like any other game. There's nothing that is going to happen out there which we haven't seen or dealt with before. Warren: In Game 1 when Sabatihia's pitch goes to the back stop. Posada recovers and throws back to Sabathia to tag Cruz. We had a lengthy discussion on this call at Umpire-Empire on how great this call by Davis was, not only in nailing it but the timing is and how it is both powerful and nonchalant. Seeing your partners'make a call like that, what's going through your mind? Jim: That was an incredible call. That call set the credibility for the crew for the series. At the time I really couldn't appreciate it. Afterwards when I did see the play then I could not only appreciate the call, but it emphasized just how good these guys are. That's why guys like Gerry Davis are constantly working the playoffs. Our crew had a few really good conversations about that call. Warren: In game 3 of the ALCS, when you had the dish, you had a phenomenal plate job. Even the TBS Pitch Track showed you were spot on. How did you feel after that game? Jim: I felt really good, but I was very fortunate that both Lee and Pettit were both pitching incredibly. Warren: Could you tell you had a really good game going at the time or is something you had to look back to realize? Jim: I felt that I was seeing the ball well. Walking off the field I felt that I had done a good job. I still haven't watched the game yet. Warren: The next game you had the right field line. Tell us a little about Robinson Cano's homerun in game 4. After the fact and reviewing it too many times your call seemed to be dead on. What did you see? Jim: This was really the ideal situation for why we use six-man crews in the playoffs. I was able to get out and get into position where I had very good look at the play. From my position I was able to see the depth of the ball as it went over the glove. Warren: Did the thought of replay come into your mind? Jim: No, I had an excellent angle to see the play and I was 100% confident of my call. In a press conference after the game, once we had the opportunity to see it, a reporter asked about the call. Gerry Davis replied to the effect of, "We did look at the play and the ball was in the stands, had we gone to review we would have ruled the same." Warren: Then, just two batters later Berkman hits one which was initially called a HR, what went through your mind in going to a review? Jim: That was another tough call, but the difference between the two was my confidence in making the call. I wasn't 100% sure on this call. There were a few factors like angle and lights which came into play giving me reason to. I knew one of my partners would have had a better view than me. Warren: Let's discuss your equipment to satiate our equipment junkies. Tell us about what you use for a chest protector, shins, shoes and mask? Jim: For a chest protector I currently use the Wilson Gold. I use the Wilson Pro Shin Guards, I think they're really good. I wear the Wilson Dyna Lite mask, Reebok Magistrate Base shoes and Nautilus mid-cut plate shoes. Warren: What is your favorite piece of equipment and why? Jim: I'd say my mask. It has great protection, is light and is comfortable. Warren: What equipment changes do you plan on making if any? Jim: I may try the Platinum and see how I like it. I change up my equipment as needed. I'm not superstitious about any piece of equipment and am going to get something new when it becomes worn, damaged or just needs to be changed out . Warren: A lot of the MLB guys have been spotted wearing the Reebok Premier Road IV lately, which are not available to the general public yet. If you used these, what were your thoughts on them and how do they compare to the Reebok Field Magistrate's or other shoes you've used? Jim: I did not use the new shoes and continued with the Magistrates, just out of personal preference. But a number of the guys have spoken highly of them in terms of their comfort and traction. Warren: As I mentioned earlier, you are the Secretary / Treasurer of UMPS CARE Charities. Tell us a little about UMPS CARE, your role, and why it's important to you. Jim: UMPS CARE was formed 12 years ago by Larry Young. The purpose was to raise money to help retired umpires in need. In 2004 Mike Di Muro and Marvin Hudson founded Blue for Kids with an emphasis on helping children in need by visiting children's hospitals and providing tickets to foster children awaiting adoption. In 2008 the two charities merged to form UMPS CARE Charities. Today UMPS CARE Charities participates in four major programs. We are still assisting retired umpires in need. We do the hospital visits and give the children a wonderful Build a Bear experience and often times will take the local team's mascot with us and have a great experience for not only the kids but for us as well. Let me tell you, there is not much more in this world which can put things in perspective for you than when you are able to put a smile on these kids'faces. These children are remarkable. Some have faced such hardships and have shown more courage than most adults would ever be able to do. They're just amazing and it is an incredible experience. We also have the Blue Crew ticket program where this year we provided 750 kids the opportunity to go to a game and enjoy one of the great memory building experiences of a day at the ballpark that other children have, but isn't always available to children awaiting adoption. We provide these children with tickets, a goodie bag, a drink, Cracker Jacks, hot dog as well as some on the field pictures. Our newest program, which started this year, is the All-Star Scholarship. This program is for adopted children to help provide a college education to students who otherwise might not be able to afford one. There are a number of programs out there for scholarships for those who are still awaiting adoption, but often times those who have been adopted will need financial assistance, and that's where this comes in. Warren: Now you have the UMPS CARE Charities Golf Marathon coming up next weekend tell us a little about that. Jim: It is November 10th at Augusta Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, AZ. We'll be playing 100 holes of golf and have reserved the entire course for the day. It's a lot of fun, and one of our larger events. Warren: Jim, I want to really thank you for this opportunity in agreeing to speak with us and reaching out to the amateur umpire community. Jim: Thank you, and I want to let you know how much I appreciate what you all as amateur umpires do. It's not easy. Most of you guys work your full time job then, no matter what happened that day, you're then expected to go onto the field and be perfect.
  6. Umpiring and Social Networking I know a few things about social networking, after all in the grand scheme of things Umpire-Empire is a social networking site and in just over 2 years has grown to be one of the largest and most visited umpiring sites on the internet. This is a serious topic. In today's information driven society it is all too easy to inadvertently step on a landmine, one which can detonate weeks, months or even years later. Remember once something is posted on the internet it is there forever, even if it gets "deleted."So be mindful of what you post not only here but on your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter accounts or your own personal blog. Players, coaches, fans, and parents can find you, what you've said and more. So I've come up with this guide to help you avoid trouble. First, and foremost don't say or write anything you don't want to be attributed to you. Even using pseudonyms or usernames don't think you have complete anonymity. It could be easy to either figure out who you really are or narrow things down enough to figure it out.Choose an indistinguishable username. If you use your real name as your username you will be giving up your anonymity.Keep in mind your forum signature. You may have an anonymous username, but your signature gives your real full name and maybe some more identifying information. Keep this in mind when you write your signature. I'm not saying don't do it, but be aware.Don't go into too many specifics. If you want to tell about a game or situation you had don't give too many details which can follow you. Bad example of a post. "I ejected the Kennedy High School coach John Doe yesterday. He was being a complete ass arguing the hands are part of the bat."How easy is that going to be to find ad deduce who you are? A better post would be, "I ejected the offensive coach yesterday. He was being a complete ass arguing the hands are part of the bat."You point still got across, and there isn't anything specific enough to trace back to the actual situation. Be careful who you friend/follow/etc on the social networking sites. Here'sa perfect example: On Facebook there is a section that suggests friends to you in the top right when you are on your page. I will sometimes get a suggestion of a local varsity coach. Apparently, we have a few friends in common, but haven't crossed paths socially before. I would be a fool to add him as a friend, and that also goes to show how I need to be careful what I put as one of our mutual friends may inadvertently say something I put or even share one of my posts. It can even hurt if it is not about him but another coach or team. Keep your social networking pages private. All major social networking sites offer the ability to keep your posts/profile private from those who are not friends. Make sure you have some level of privacy enabled. I don't want to sound paranoid, but you should be selective of who can view your information whether you are an umpire or not.If you are contacted by someone about something that occurred on the field, respectfully decline to respond. Especially if it's somebody you are not familiar with. Don't use or give your partner's name either. We're all in this together, brothers in blue, by simply using your partner's name you may be inadvertently throwing him under the information super-highway. Be vague his name isn't important in the grand scheme of things. Here's a little test, open Google or your search engine of choice and enter: "Your first and last name"AND umpire. See what comes up. Searching my name I get 58 results from Google, 12 with WebCrawler, 9 each with Alta Vista and Yahoo and 8 each on Bing and Ask. Now because I'm more active online I probably have more hits than many/most other people. But it only takes one hit heading to the wrong place. One of the things I do on a regular basis is check what keywords people are using to find Umpire-Empire to help improve the site. You absolutely would not believe the number of hits I find of our members real names which bring people to Umpire-Empire, and I don't even know the vast majority of the members real names. Granted a recent article cited 57% of people have Googled their own name and this may account for a portion of this, but others may be Googling your name too. A disgruntled coach, player or fan can do this too and cyber-stalk you or even claim you have a bias because of something you have written. Even worse your assigner getting wind of something you've written and denying you a choice assignment. What you write can come back to bite you professionally as well. While hopefully this would not apply to anything you write about umpiring it is becoming more and more common for potential employers to look at your online profile. There have been numerous articles written about employers not hiring a certain person based on information they found about them on social networking sites. By no means am I saying don't share your passion for umpiring here or elsewhere, just be vigilant of what you write and as your writing something give a second thought about how anonymous you really are.
  7. This past weekend I took a trip out to Easly, SC; Cherryville, NC & Charlotte, NC part of my trip was to visit my family in the area, but I was also going out there to meet with Jim Kirk who was in the area visiting one of his suppliers. Meeting with Jim Kirk of Ump-Attire.com We were able to speak for a few hours about a number of things, but we spoke mainly about equipment. Jim brought a couple of masks for me to check out. The Diamond Feather Weight Umpire Mask - Silver Frame (#DFM-UMP-SV) mask was one of them. I'd heard a lot about this mask and was eager to check it out first hand. The first thing I noticed before even touching it was one good looking mask. Then Jim handed it to me and I was really amazed at how light it was. But for being so light it was also ironically substantial. By this I mean it didn't give me the impression of being flimsy. This was partly due to the thickness of the bars. The width of the bar as you're looking out are no thicker and are probably thinner than most other single bar masks. But they're pretty deep. I told Jim while this mask is light I psychologically feel comfortable with it because it looks like it is still very sturdy. Also it looked like the throat extension of the mask was slightly longer than many others and I liked that too. Looking at the things I didn't like about it, and they were minor, were the padding. Now I did like the Ump-Attire.com logo on the pad, but the padding felt flimsy. I would definitely change the padding if this were my mask. The next thing I didn't care for, and once again it was really minor, was the texture of the aluminum frame it wasn't smooth like I am use to. Just texturally different. Jim also showed me was the PRO-PLUS Gold Super-Xtreme Lightweight Face Mask. This is the mask made of magnesium and another mask I was eager to get my hands on, and when I did get my hands on it I was absolutely amazed at how light it was. It was even lighter than the Aluminum Featherweight Mask. I held one in each hand and this mask was at least an ounce lighter. I wanted to see just how strong it was I grabbed it firmly and twisted it and tried to get a feel for its strength. It did not flex a bit. I was amazed at how strong it was and yet so light. I told Jim I thought this would be a popular mask because there are a good deal of guys who will buy strictly due to weight. While I have little doubt about the masks strength and ability to protect, it lacked the psychological effect of providing protection. Meaning while I was not able to bend the mask when twisting and flexing it, I just wasn't able to get my mind around it being sturdy. This masks pads were also lacking. I mentioned that umpires are not going to like these pads. Jim also showed me pictures of next years Reebok Shoes. The good news is the logo is less pronounced than the current model, but it still will not satisfy those who want to keep the shoe as black as possible. Now the good news is, and Jim correct me if I'm wrong please, but Reebok is also coming out with an all black low-cut version of their shoe for 2010. I believe this will be a huge hit, but I also believe a mid-cut version will be a bigger hit when and if that is made. In my opinion if Reebok made the plate shoe in an all black, mid-cut model they would instantly dominate the market. The Wilson Shock Fx HSM has also gone through a bit of a make over. The titanium cage has been restyle to give what I feel is a more aggressive look and the top of the cage has been made sleeker where before at the top of the cage it just protruded out from somewhat awkwardly. I think this modification will be a popular one for this already popular mask. Jim and I also spent a fair amount of time discussing the future of umpire protection. As you know Jim has been on the forefront of the mouth guards for umpires issue. I mentioned in another post I had considered it a while back. I was in a sporting goods store and saw this mouth guard, which I thought I would feel comfortable wearing it as an umpire and was intrigued by the thought. But I didn't buy it and honestly didn't give it another thought until brought up by Jim in a post here asking if we would wear one. I read Jim's interview with Andy Fletcher and his experience wearing a mouth guard and it got me thinking. Then after speaking to Jim further about mouth guards and their potential for umpires I gave it a lot of thought. I've decided I will wear a mouth guard for the 2010 season. I have done a little research on my own and am now convinced that a mouth guard should be part of every umpire's equipment cache. Among my many points of reasoning is that in my time umpiring I've spent about $200 on plate shoes, but I don't think I've ever taken a shot to my foot that has really required anything more than what your normal street sneakers could protect me against. But I wear plate shoes not only because they're professional, but I know that one day I'm going to take that shot to my foot that I'm going to be thankful to be wearing real plate shoes. Same thing goes for the mouth guard. I've taken a number of shots to the mask, one even slightly denting my old +POS double bar mask and several completely knocking my mask from my face. Fortunately, I've yet to take one that places pressure on my jaw. But it's a reality that I'm going to take that hit at some point, and I'm going to want to be protected. I've selected two mouth guards one available readily online at a reasonable price and one a custom mouth guard which can be obtained through the dentist. I'm not going to go into much detail at this time on either mouth guard. But this is something I am going to discuss with my dentist at my next appointment in November. After getting a professional opinion from my dentist I will share my selection with Umpire-Empire. Another safety topic we discussed was flapless style batting helmets for base umpires. We both seem to agree that this is a direction that the NFHS will eventually head the question mark is on when. I personally do not feel batting style helmets are necessary for umpires. While every year many umpires are injured by batted and even thrown balls and we do not have any means to protect ourselves like the fielders, our paramount duty is to know where the ball is. This is our defense. We are paying the most attention to the ball of anybody on the field. Base runners and even coaches are not watching the ball intently and from a coaching standpoint base runners should not be watching the ball while running the bases. So the base runners should indeed wear a helmet. For the coaches I personally feel they should and this year have seen a Legion coach take one to the helmet who loudly joked, "Oh, that's why I have to wear this thing." I even say that umpires shouldn't be mandated to wear a helmet after seeing a dear friend and great umpire go down with a cracked skull after being hit by a thrown ball. He has made a full recovery and now wears a hockey helmet (not an HSM - he also is a hockey ref) on the bases. He will be the first to admit that this was a result of him turning before the fielder released the ball. His injury was preventable, but there are going to be injuries which are just unavoidable and that's a risk everybody involved in the game is at from the players, to the coaches, to the umpires. But there needs to be a balance of protection and practical. Now even though I am against wearing helmets as an umpire when the rule ultimately comes down I will wear a helmet. Begrudgingly, but I will wear it. Apparently, there are some umpires out there who are already wearing them Jim also showed me the collection of Oakley sunglasses he now carries for umpires. I know wearing sunglasses behind the plate is a topic of discussion on its own, but sunglasses are another area of protection umpires need to consider. Jim shared with me how not only are Oakleys among the most protective in terms of impact protection, and naturally UV protection, but the Oakley lenses are the highest quality in terms of distortion. I once had some nice Bolle'sunglasses that my brother gave me which I thought they were awesome. Unfortunately, after a game a few years ago I opened up my old truck to let the heat out I threw them on the seat while I got out of my gear and had a post game with my partner. I had forgot all about them and wasn't even looking when I hopped back in the truck and snap I broke the frame and lens and bent the hinge on one of the arms. They were trashed. I've since always swore I was going to get another pair of nice sunglasses but just quickly went got a pair of inexpensive glasses at Target. In that time I've probably lost or broken half a dozen other pairs of glasses. But after trying on the Oakleys, I'm reminded of the difference the clarity and uniformity of the vision that come with the nicer glasses. These are but a few of the topics we covered, but it was really nice to finally meet Jim face to face. Three things stood out to me from meeting with Jim. First, he truly is a nice person and the type of person you want to do business with. Second, he is passionate about his work, the quality of products he offers, and service. Finally, he really wants to make a difference. Whether it is proactively finding quality value priced products or whether it is raising awareness about concussions.
  8. Interview with Jim Kirk of Ump-Attire.com I'm glad to have the opportunity to ask Jim Kirk, owner of Ump-Attire.com, a few questions. I think you'll enjoy some of his insight as a supplier. Warren: How did you originally get into the business of being a supplier of officials'products? Jim: I wish I had some grand story, but it is one of those one-thing-leads-to-another stories. I was working on an MBA and feeling entrepreneurial when I decided to get into doing E-Commerce development for small businesses. I read a story in 2001 about a company called Ump-Attire, basically down the road from me that I had never heard of, who was manufacturing some products for umpires and had stated in the article they wanted to get more involved in Internet sales. Are you kidding? I mean could this have been more up my alley or what, especially with my background in baseball and as a former umpire? Well after a few phone conversations and meetings, we started working together. I saw a lot of potential with the company, and especially in this niche officialssupplier market. The company started to grow as did my involvement to the point that the owner, Beulah Hester, had a vision to sell the retail portion of the business to me while she would focus on her strength as a designer and manufacturer of products. So, I bought Ump-Attire.com in March of 2006, moved it to Louisville and soon began focusing on it full-time. We continue to have a close relationship with Ms. Hester where she not only provides us with our specialty items such as our Ultimate Ball Bags and Ultimate Shirts, she has been a great adviser and friend as well. Warren: I read somewhere that baseball umpires are the most difficult of officials to supply. Do you think this holds true? Jim: No, I don't agree with that. Most of our umpire customers are very easy to deal with. The only truth to that could be based on the fact that umpires have so many more items they need versus what is needed for let's say basketball officials. I will add that I am impressed with the level of knowledge umpires have when it comes to gear and apparel. I believe sites like yours at Umpire-Empire have been a big part of that. And the more educated our customers are and the more they know what they want, the easier it makes life for us. Warren: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in terms of umpire equipment over the years? Jim: Well, over the last 10 years, there is the borrowing from football their shoulder pads in the development of hard shell chest protectors and the borrowing from hockey their goalie helmets for umpire helmets. Then, more recently, there has been the move to lighter weight frames for masks. The titanium ups the bar here because if you have one of these you realize how much better visibility you get through its thinner bars and less contrast lighter color in its raw form. Plus, there are now more household brands making umpire shoes than ever before when you have New Balance and Reebok. The largest change, though, in my opinion, is the move toward performance synthetics. But it's not just under apparel or compression wear anymore, it's also shirts -an area where we have provided some leadership, pants, socks or even mask padding that have made life more comfortable and functional for umpires. Depending on these synthetics and how they are treated, you can obtain benefits such as moisture management, quick drying, wrinkle resistance, odor blocking anti-microbial agents, no picking or pilling and more. Warren: What changes do you see coming in the future? Jim: I think in the near future, you'll mostly see the industry improving on recent changes. For instance, companies will tweak their shoes. Reebok is already planning on toning down the white logo on theirs and there seems to be a small trend in incorporating a patent look on shoes without making it a completely harder-to-maintain patent. There will also be more hard shell chest protector options in the future once the Joe West patent expires in a few years where it vaguely appears now that virtually everything hard shell is a potential infringement. More options will provide some lower cost alternatives, especially for beginning umpires and perhaps some improvements. Performance fabrics will move beyond just ones that wick moisture. We've already raised the bar here with our new Ultimate Umpire Shirts that have additional features and have some other products in the works that will do so as well. Warren: You spent some time as an umpire, tell us about your umpiring experience. Jim: I got married right out of college, and I was looking for a way to earn extra income in addition to my full-time job. Having played baseball in college, umpiring high school baseball seemed like a logical choice. For a reference point, this would have been 1993-94 and that would have put me at 23-24 years of age. I umpired in the southeastern part of Kentucky. By year two, I felt I was a decent umpire as far as my demeanor with coaches, strike zone and calls on the bases -I really worked on playing that close play over in my mind before making a call. But, I honestly struggled with gaining a sense of satisfaction in being an umpire. I remember being given an important district rivalry game near the end of the year with the top two teams and teams with very good, but vocal coaches. I knew I was taking the plate and spent some time preparing myself mentally for the game. I remember having as many butterflies before the game then as I had before any game as a player. The game was very tight and came down to a close play at home. As far as I was concerned, I called a very solid game and managed the game and coaches in a highly professional manner. I would say it was my best game! But the fans were all over me for most of the game on both sides and the losing coach let me have it over the final call. I just remember thinking, "I just called my best game, and still no one is satisfied with me". So although I was doing well, umpiring just didn't fit my personality, which was to make everyone happy. I'd probably do better now that I'm older and wiser. So I quit to focus on a graduate degree. But I can tell you, I never yelled at a referee or umpire again after that experience. Warren: If it's umpiring or any other aspect of life, you need to have a passion for what you're doing. You've obviously found your passion withUmp-Attire.com. Warren: When you umpired what equipment did you use? Jim: Well, I know I skimped when I umpired. I did and bought things I wouldn't advise a beginning umpire to do now that I know what I'm doing. I didn't wear plate shoes, but fortunately was never hit on the foot. I had one of those ball bags where the brush goes on the outside and an Elbeco shirt I bought from Honigs. I hated that shirt. It was always coming untucked. Boy, could I have used a flex or ultimate belt. I also had a "The Ump"thin soft foam chest protector with no hard plastic inserts or anything hard. I really liked it a lot until I took a very hard shot once that shook me up, left me with a long-lasting bruise and with a realization I should have gotten something more involved. Warren: What equipment would you use today? Jim: I would definitely be upgrading my chest protector that's for sure. Depending on the game or weather, I'd go with either the Wilson Platinum or Diamond iX3. The platinum fits me better around the neck than the Gold, and I think the iX3 would be sufficient protection or me at the high school level or lower. For head protection, I'd err on the side of safety with a Shock FX Umpire Helmet. Great vision, not-too-heavy. Shin guards -Wilson Charcoal - I think they provide the best combination of comfort and protection without being too bulky. Shoes -New Balance for both plate and base-the new MF995 lows on the bases. On shirts, the Majestic polo blue with black collar. I love the look at that shirt. But I'd have to say our new Ultimate Umpire Shirts in navy and powder blue for now and other colors when they become available later. Was that enough of a plug? Pants -Smitty. The ones from this year are a big improvement. Ball bag -I think you know that answer there. Warren: Does your experience as an umpire come into play as you decide what to carry? Jim: Well, I'm glad I have that background, but I would say not so much except for knowing what it's like to be a starting umpire with limited funds and that I won't be carrying the Elbeco shirts anytime soon. I'm much more influenced by listening to umpires who have much more experience than I have than anything else. Warren: As new products and new equipment companies enter and leave the market how do you decide which line of products for Ump-Attire.com to carry and how hard is it deciding? Jim: That's a tough question to answer because we don't have any set formula. Early on, it was much easier to decide because we had a lot of gaps in our selection. For instance, when we started we basically had no shoes. How could we be a serious contender in this market without shoes? That was a no-brainer, and now we have a pretty strong selection of something like 18 options in all sports. When things aren't so obvious, there are really a lot of things you could start carrying from your suppliers, other suppliers or that you could do yourself. So you have to weigh all those, listen to your customers and just determine what combination of new things just feels right without going completely overboard. It's a little easier to decide on new products already carried by one of our suppliers. Is it a quality item? Would we use it if we were umpiring at the level it's intended for? Is the price to us reasonable? Can we sell at a price where customers would find it as a good value? Does it fit well into our product selection where it's not too similar to something else? When you have an opportunity to buy products from new suppliers or some already out there, you ask some of the same questions. But it's important to get a good sense that a supplier is going to be easy to work with. If your early interaction with a sales rep or the company in getting more information or in getting set up isn't going well, and that happens more than you'd think, then it's highly likely it's not going to be worth the headache. Warren: We've all seen things like the radar gun type indicator, the belt hook to carry your mask on, and other such items. What are some of the more "interesting"things which have been brought to your attention or someone has tried to get you include in your product line? Jim: It seems like a year ago, we were being approached by some company or person every other month with something. One interesting item someone approached me with two years ago was a retractable umpire brush. Well, the umpire brush itself wasn't retractable, but it had a retractable extension that would allow one to brush off the plate without bending over. Just picture an umbrella but instead of the top of an umbrella it was an umpire brush at the end of a metal rod. That product was actually not made yet. It was sent to me as a drawing. The person who had the idea got the idea because his father was an umpire who had trouble bending over due to a medical condition. Obviously, we passed on the idea. Sometimes the best things are the simplest things. Warren: What do you think sets Ump-Attire apart from the other suppliers of officials needs? Jim: With out a doubt, openness. Whether it's sharing product information, good or bad, on the website or directly with customers, we try to be very open and honest. Just read any of our umpire gear buying guides or my Officially-Unofficial blog. You'll notice things we might say about products or about us that others might not readily want to share about their products or themselves. Most umpires are really down-to-earth. I believe they'd rather buy from a company they feel they know a little bit and trust will be even-handed with them rather than one who just slaps a bunch of products and prices on a website somewhere. Anyone can do that. Warren: How much in advance do you know about new products coming down the pipeline? Jim: With outside suppliers, such as Wilson, Diamond and Reebok, it's typically about 4-6 months. This time frame is usually when we book or place our orders in advance to have available at the beginning of the next season. We might hear a rumor here or there earlier on some things such as we did with the Reebok plate shoes. Or we might suggest something that might not be available until a year or so later. This was the case on the Diamond silver frame mask. Warren: Is there any product you are surprised hasn't/didn't do better in the market? Jim: Hmmm. Not really. Most products sell as expected or, when they don't, they'll sell better than expected. The only item that really surprised me on the better-than-expected end of the spectrum was the Diamond Ultimate Umpire Equipment Bag. I didn't think we'd sell many at $140 each, and at the time the most expensive bag we previously had was in the $40-45 range. And I was off, pretty far off actually, as the item has done really well. It truly showed me that umpires are willing to spend money on things that are of high quality and/or address a need. Warren: What is the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome in the officials supplier market? Jim: The market itself is pretty much uncomplicated. The customers are a target group that you can easily find and get feedback and ideas from. There is a narrow range of products to select from. And you can always easily find what your competitors are up to. Our biggest hurdle honestly has been managing our growth. I hope none of our competitors are reading this, but we've averaged in the ball park of doubling each of the last 3 years. So making sure we have the right amount of people, inventory, systems and training to keep up with this growth has been quite the challenge. A good problem to have as they say, but a challenge we're continually overcoming. Our ability in keeping it together is all a testament to the great crew we have here. Warren: Ump-Attire.com seems to be a good community citizen actively involved in various charities including Blue for Kids, UMPS CARE and more. Tell us a little more about your community involvement. Jim: Thanks for noticing. I am a big believer that businesses should give back. UMPS CARE, our largest charity, is a no-brainer for us. The MLB umpires and Samuel Dearth, the director, do all the work. We just lend our monetary support to them and do our part in promoting their events with our customers. All of this work is eventually for the benefit of children in hospitals or who are awaiting adoption. In May, I will participate in a hospital event in Cincinnati with umpires Ted Barrett, Greg Gibson and Andy Fletcher where we'll visit children and do Build-A-Bear workshops with them. I'm really looking forward to that. We've also been a sponsor for Wrestle for Autism and an educational partner for NASO, both the last 2 years. We even sponsor a local little league team in the Louisville area. Having said all of that, we can still do better and have some plans in the works for additional community involvement. But you know being a good community citizen is also good for business. Staff know we are a part of something bigger and not just a company who sells stuff -so that's good for morale. And I think our customers see it, too, and prefer to buy from us knowing we are giving something back. It's just a win-win all the way around. Warren: Jim, thank you for your time and also thanks for being actively involved with the umpiring community not only here but a number of other places as well.
  9. Don't Be "That Guy"

    Don't Be That Guy Forward --I write this not to say I am the world's greatest umpire, or my partner sucked, because my partner called a good sound game. But I write this as a demonstration of how drastically game management effects the game. I initially I was going to title this article "Don't be a Smitty", but my partner is hardly a Smitty. He is an experienced guy, has solid mechanics, good rules knowledge, good hustle and great appearance. So he doesn't fit the "Smitty"label. He just lacks game management skills, which I feel is a strength of mine. My partner is a good guy, good umpire and probably able to use is more outgoing personality to diffuse knotty situations better than I would and I would definitely work with him most any time. I finally had my first paid games of the season and was really excited to get out on the field. If you've seen my posts here or any place else you probably know I live for umpiring. I just wish there would be a way I could make a living at it. You'd be hard pressed to find somebody who is as enamored of umpiring as me. I'd rather have a game with 2 terrible teams than no game at all. But I don't want to be out there on a game that is dragging out. So Sunday came my first three "real"games a AAU 13 triple header. In the beginning it was interesting because my partner was also a plate whore, so we had a little discussion on who would be working 2 plates. I actually ended up yielding to him because he is more senior than me. A choice I ended up regretting. Issue #1:My partner is very well known in the youth baseball community and a genuine grade A nice guy. One of the nicest guy's you'll ever meet. He is an umpire (obviously), a coach, on the board of one of local leagues, and knows virtually every coach, player and parent. Now my issue isn't that he is well known it is that he is too "chummy"with everybody and that takes away from his authority on the field in my opinion. To explain just a bit better he cannot just say hi to somebody he needs to have a full blown conversation with everybody, and because he knows everybody we get into the how's your brother, your sister... Issue #2:The pre-game. We were early enough that even including the socializing we were able to get to the plate and start our plate conference early, which was a good thing. My partners plate conference took at least 5 minutes. We went from potentially starting the game 5-10 min early to starting on time. Issue 2-A:He continued the socializing with both coaches at the plate conference. Issue 2-B. Balks Issue 2-B-i. He asked the coaches how they wanted balks called. This does not need to be discussed. That's what we are there for as umpires, to make the calls. Issue 2-B-ii. He asked whether the coaches wanted us to kill the ball on balks. This is an AAU game played underFEDrules. There is no option. Issue 2-B-iii. He then went on to explain to the coaches that underFEDthe ball is dead andOBRit's live. Issue 2-C. Ground rules Issue 2-C-i. He pointed out every nook and cranny in the field. This does not need to be done. If you need to denote lines forDBT then do that "We taking this opening 90 degrees pole to pole otherwise the field is well enclosed with everything behind the fence"is all that needs to be said. Issue 2-C-ii. We had a portable batting cage in foul territory up the left field line. This sparked another minute or two long conversation. My partner was asking how to handle that. If this were high school then ask the home coach before the plate meeting. Being that this was AAU and while one team used that field more regularly the term "home team"means much less so the umpire probably needs to be the one making the ground rules and taking control. Issue 2-C-iii. He then asked me as theBUif I had anything to add. The base umpire never has anything to add, don't ask. It may be out of courtesy or respect, but don't ask. Our plate conference went 5+ minuets already. I had glazed over, I wasn't going to add a peep regardless. Issue 3. Coaching My partner is an accomplished coach in the area and I would venture to bet that coaching is probably his true love over umpiring. This probably goes back to the "nice guy"thing as well. Issue 3-A. Balk. We had a balk we both called. We had the runner on 2nd breaking as the pitcher started his delivery. But while in his delivery wanted to make a play on the runner. The pitcher looked at me questioningly and I told him, "You committed yourself to delivering the pitch."He nodded and was ready to play. My partner came up to the mound and then began a +/- 2 minute pitching clinic. Complete with my partner toeing the pitchers plate and giving demonstrations of what he did and what he could have done. In the back of my mind all I hear is tick...tick...tick...I do believe pitchers deserve to be told why, but just the basics. In this case I gave my quick explanation and the pitcher seemed to understand and we nearly wrapped it up in 5 seconds. Issue 3-B. Batter wanting to warm up on the wrong side. This should have been quicker than the balk, but was even longer. My solution would have been, "On deck batter, I need you to remain on your side please. Thank you"without even calling time as he's attempting to go to the other side. Now I didn't see him get over there, but wasn't paying attention for it from the bases, but my partner calls time and begins walking him to the other side talking with him and apparently he offered him the opportunity to warm up behind the fence on the other side, which I wouldn't have done. He apparently didn't understand and started warming up behind the fence on his side, and my partner continues. And all I hear is tick...tick...tick... Issue 4. Booger picking. No, not finger to nose; calling unneeded things. We had a situation where it was obvious that the pitcher was taking his signs directly from the coach. The opposing team hadn't said anything, but my partner called time walked up to the mound to explain to the pitcher he had to take his signals from the catcher. Then walked to the coach telling him the same. Once again all I can hear is tick...tick...tick... Issue 5. Between inning management. Now on the positive side I heard him tell each of the catchers every half inning, "Send the 8th/5th one down."Which is great. Issue 5-A. He didn't do much to hustle the teams in/out. I did what I could from the bases clapping and giving some encouraging remarks as they go in or out, but that's about the most you can do asBU. Issue 5-B. When catchers weren't ready, he didn't say anything to get a coach or another player to warm up the pitcher. As for me, the first thing I do after the 3rd out is look in the dugout for my catcher and see what stage of ready he's in. If he's not ready I call for a coach to come warm up the pitcher immediately. Issue 5-C. Okay, I feel somewhat bad for putting this one in but I still want to include it. Yes, yesterday was an unseasonably warm day which hit the mid-80's. Plus he was taking 2 plates. Add to that last Monday we had snow and our high temps last week were in the mid-20's it was a drastic change. But my partner would leave the field and go behind the backstop to get his water and cool off in the shade. We all have different temperature tolerances and while I wouldn't call him old he's got a few more miles under his belt than I do. I just felt it was probably more frequent than needed. I probably wouldn't have cared/noticed if it weren't for other factors. Putting this all together the first two games took about 2:30 each to get 6 innings. Our second game started about 40 minutes behind schedule and our third game started over an hour behind schedule. Well I had the plate for the third game and as I'm walking onto the field the coach tells me that on Sundays they're not supposed to have the lights on past sunset. I ask him if that means no lights at all or we can use them at dusk. He said he was not sure and had never thought of it that way. I told him if he works with me, and can give me the lights during dusk, I can get the game in before sunset. He smiled and got on the phone to ask about the lights. After the first he told me as long as they're off by sunset we're good. Maybe it's just me and my typical egotistical, self-serving, big-headded self, but I truly think that by keeping the game moving the way I did everybody was more into the game. The coaches, players and fans seemed to have an extra spark of energy and were much more into the game. There was much more chatter and cheering while the level of play was the same. I did not have a coach question one call or play the entire game. And believe me on this field you do not need rabbit ears to hear every word coming out of the dugout because of the positioning of the dugouts and the plate. These same coaches were giving my partner a bit of a time for anything they thought didn't go their way and my partner called a sound game. Did I call a better game? No, my partner called a fine game; I managed the game better. I think the coaches didn't say anything to me on the few pitches that were close when they did say things to my partner because of my presence on the field and the way I managed the game. We got a complete six inning game in just over 1:30. As I'm giving the balls back to the coach, he said, "I did't think you'd be able to do it, but you weren't kidding."I was back in my street clothes and on the road before sunset.
  10. Interview with Bob Bainter

    Interview with Bob Bainter I'm pleased to have the second interview in our interview series with Bob Bainter former AAA umpire and founder of the Oceanside Umpires Training Seminar(OUTS). We spent a quite enjoyable few hours on the phone recently discussing Bob's career and umpiring in general. Warren: Bob, start out by telling us a little about your umpiring career and your progression through the ranks. Bob: I was hired in 1995 and went into the Gulf Coast League. I was fortunate enough to earn a playoff spot in my first year. I'll never forget the game I had the plate was an incredible game final score 0-1 and we got it done in 1:57. The next year I went to the Northwest League after extended spring training. I got to work the championship game that year which was another great experience. After that I went to the Midwest League. I also got to work the championship game that year, but one of the even greater events was getting to call a game near my hometown. My first game there I must have had between 50-100 family members there to see me. 1998 was probably the toughest year of my career. I was promoted to the Florida State League. On top of that I was being evaluated probably once a week. That year everything seemed to happen to me rather than my partner. I had 13 ejections at the All-Star break and 22 for the year, but I still got to the playoffs. In 1999 I was promoted to the Class AA Eastern League and was the only rookie assigned to the playoffs. I was promoted to crew chief in 2000 and worked the championship series. In 2001 I was promoted to AAA before mid-season, and that ended my string of playoff appearances, but I couldn't complain with the promotion! I worked in the International League and made the playoffs in 2002, 2003 and 2004. I was also selected to be Crew Chief in the All-Star game in 2004. Also, a little piece of trivia I was behind the plate for 2 perfect games. In 2000 I was behind the plate when Pete Zamora had one in a 7 inning game and Bronson Arroyo in 2003 which was a 9-inning game. Both were great thrills. Warren: That's quite an incredible journey. What were some of your best memories of your career? Bob: Hands down my best experience was working the All-Star game in Pawtucket. It was just a perfect combination of the game, the festivities surrounding the game, the fans, the complete environment, and my performance. It may have been one of the best games I ever called. Warren: Tell us a little more about the environment and festivities there. Bob: One of the greatest things they had was a round table discussion with Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr. They were sharing their memories and I would still be sitting there listening to them if I could be, they were just amazing. Also the city of Pawtucket went all out too. Everything was just incredible. Warren: And how about the game? Bob: The game was perfect. We went into the 10th inning tied 1-1 and the announcer told the crowd that by rule this as the last inning and the game could end in a tie. The crowd didn't care too much for that rule. The top of the inning went 1-2-3. The bottom went 1-2 and Andy Phillips digs into the box. As he's digging in I asked him, "Have you ever hit a walk off home run?"He just grinned. "You'd better do it now."I said jokingly to him, and what do you know; he did. Warren: What umpires influenced you the most in your career? Bob: There are too many to name, but on the list would definitely be Justin Klemm, Matt Hollowell, Mike Fichter, Mark Carlson, Pat McGinnis, and David Riley. I just learned so much from them. Also, I'd have to include guys like Tim Timmons; he's kept me sane. Rob Drake is another; he has the appearance and presence you have to have as an umpire. I have to mention Greg Chittenden. He is just one of the finest guys around. He's calm and one of the greatest balls and strikes umpires I've ever seen. I'd say I don't think he's ever missed a pitch. Then I'd have to say Tim Tschida as well. He's a super nice guy and I've admired his mechanics and even tried to duplicate his strike three call. I could really keep going forever. I've been really fortunate to have so many great influences. Warren: Going back to the beginning, how did you start your umpiring career? Bob: I started like so many other guys with some 7-8 year olds in a coach pitch game. I then did my first big boy game when I was 16. I was told at the end of the season I wasn't good enough to work the next level. Which was actually the truth at that time. But at 18 I worked the classic C State Championships. Warren: Now all umpires have great stories about event's they have been involved in what's one of your craziest stories? Bob: It definitely has to be when I was in the Northwest League and went to Medford for a Timberjacks game. One game I was on the bases and between innings the mascot of the Timberjacks comes out carrying a foam rubber mannequin dressed in a Northwest League Umpire's uniform and has some words with my partner. The mascot then begins to body slam the dummy repeatedly and just really crossed the line. My partner ejected the mascot. A few weeks later we went back to Medford, and this mascot was earning a very bad reputation among the umpires for his acts. Well we arrive really early and while at the stadium the see the mascots uniform. So we took the head and hid it. The game went smoothly and no sight of the mascot. Well then he must have found the head of his costume and between innings sometime around the 6th inning comes out from behind the outfield wall driving an ATV which is dragging his umpire mannequin by a noose. He was promptly ejected again. That ended up being the last game of that mascot's career as the league took action. Bob: I also have another story about my worse experience. We were leaving one city and heading to another and as is the policy we call the GM of where we are going to confirm everything for the game. I spoke to the GM and was told the game was the next night at 7:00 which was the standard. We got into town checked into our hotel. Then about 5:15 when we were just heading out to the field we got a call asking where we were. We casually answered we're on our way to the field now. Well the game was scheduled to actually be a double header and started at 5:00. We rushed out there and got the game started at just before 6:00. Well after the game one of the league officials came to the locker room to read us the riot act. Even after the GM confirmed to him that he told us 7:00. We were handed 2 brown envelopes as the league official left the locker room. We were each fined $100 for being late. That really hurt. Warren: I want to find out about your equipment. What do you use? Bob: I use the West Vest Gold chest protector. I've had it for probably 10 years. It was actually given to me by Joe West. A group of us umpires were in a restaurant in Florida with Joe and having a great time talking with him and learning. At the end of the night as we were leaving he brought us to his truck and pulled out a number of the vests and started passing them out. I also use the heavy duty West Vest shin guards, I think they are an absolute must. And the West Vest Mask. For plate shoes I use the Gerry Davis patent leather ones. Warren: What are some of your favorite ball parks? Bob: I definitely have to rank Pawtucket number one. The fans are crazy Red Sox fanatics and they pack the house nearly every night and are really into their team. I'd also have to say Portland, Maine. The people who run it are the top of the line. I really want to move there. Then there's also Memphis. It's just a great city a great location and just two blocks off of Beale Street. Warren: How about the other side of the coin, what's your least favorite? Bob: I'd have to say WPA field in Clinton Iowa. The fans there are just relentless on umpires. They could be winning and they are still malicious. Warren: Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about umpire training and OUTS. As an instructor what is the number one piece of advice you can give regarding base and plate work? Bob: I see too many guys selling the obvious like the can of corn to the center fielder. I also see a lot of timing issues which some effort can be corrected. Then come some of my biggest pet peeves; hustle, appearance and guys who call being the 3rd base umpire the rocking chair. Hustle is easy, being out of position is not as bad as not hustling out on the field. Appearance, this is easy too, I don't understand guys who go out on the field looking sloppy. Appearance and hustle are the two things somebody who knows nothing about umpiring can take notice of and still accurately judge an umpire. Then calling the 3rd base umpire the rocking chair; that tells me right off the bat what their attitude is going to be for the game. If the three man mechanics are done correctly, that is a very active, responsible position. Warren: What made you stand out from your peers and rise like you did and get all of the post season assignments? Bob: The great thing about what I feel made me stand out is that anybody can do it. The first thing was the way I handled odd situations. I earned a reputation of being neither a red ass nor a politician. The coaches knew and respected that and so did my evaluators. I also have to go back to what I said before, hustle. I had a home run which was hit up the left field line and was really a trouble ball in terms of fair foul. I made it to the third base when I stopped and made my call. The third base coach commented to me how nice it was to see an umpire get out there and hustle. And maybe most importantly, I enjoyed every minute of it. This just wasn't a job for me I took it very seriously and still enjoyed it. Warren: How did you get the idea to start OUTS? Bob: I'm currently working as a conductor on the BNSF Railway and a guy I was working with who is a baseball encyclopedia about both players and umpires. We were talking about how in most training umpires don't get the opportunity to call live games being video taped and deal with real live situations. I thought that is a down side. So I got to thinking and then bounced it off of Jeff Biddle, the athletics director of Cocoa Expo, about training umpires in his live games. He liked it and that was the start of it all. Warren: Is OUTS going to focus on more two man mechanics or three man mechanics? Bob: I originally thought we'd only have 2 man mechanics, but then there was so much demand for three man what we decided to do is offer a break out session for those who were interested in three man where they could get what they are seeking, while still giving those who don't have any interest in three man all the same instruction they originally signed up for. I think this will be a great way to give everybody what they want. Warren: How many students will you have at OUTS? Bob: We're capable of having 100 students. Some will be one week students some will be 2 week students. We're really excited because we have students registering from all across the country. I honestly don't expect to reach capacity our first year, but I think with our concept of training revolving around live game situations will be very popular. As the word spreads we'll fill it up. Plus our staff is great and offers a tremendous amount of experience students will be able to learn from. Warren: Bob, thanks for joining us and giving us some great insight. Also, good luck with the inaugural year of OUTS. Be sure to let us know how it turns out. ______________________________________ Since this interview was completed OUTS has been required to change their name. They are now Oceanside Umpire Training Seminar. Apparently the state of Florida has some regulations on naming an organization "school"
  11. Game Journal: Your tool for self evaluation and improvement I wish I could remember who gave me the idea for a game journal or where I got the idea from. But as they say the memory is an imperfect tool; which leads me directly to my point!If you actually want to improve your game as an umpire you need a way of tracking and monitoring your progress. A game journal is a great answer. If you are evaluated at all, how frequently do you have the same evaluator, or even the same partner who will take interest and monitor your progress for you? Not frequently enough. While subjective, keeping a game journal is a great method of improvement. But please note: a game journal is completely useless if you can not take an honest look at yourself. As a human resources professional by day one of my many duties is managing the review process for the firm I work at. Inevitably, there will be at least 1 person each cycle who gives their self superlative marks across the board, but their supervisor has quite a different view. When someone is incapable of honest introspection it negates any benefit which can be gained from self review. Can you remember your game on Saturday March 1, 2008? I can't either, but looking in my journal jars my memory and I can see that I noted that I had a sloppy move towards first on a pickoff attempt. Then thumbing through the journal I see a later I noted my move to first on a pickoff attempt was "mechanically sound but slow because I was consciously thinking about my mechanics."Fast forward a few more weeks I can see I wrote "I'm getting there, just a bit slower than I'd like to be."I also see the very next game I reverted and "just opened the gate pivoting on my left foot."With the game journal I can see where I've been, what my trend is and plan where I'm going. First, your game journal doesn't have to be anything complicated. I just use a mini notebook (about 5x7) I got for free from some seminar somewhere. I keep it in my car so after the game and my post game with my partner I jot down what went on and other issues. I am pretty brief and only write quick notes. I try to focus around the 18 criteria the evaluators use to evaluate me on: Arrival, Appearance, Pre-game, Post Game, Partner Communication, Coach Communication, Reaction to Pressure, Game Control, Attitude, Hustle, Knowledge/Interpretation of the Rules, Plate Mechanics, Base Mechanics, Strike Zone Size/Consistency, Voice, Timing, Signals and Assertiveness. Now I'm not going to necessarily comment on each of the items, just the ones that stand out for me in that particular game or items I'm trying to pay particular attention to. I'll also comment on any peculiar situations that might have given me trouble on the field. Any categories you choose to rate yourself on ask all of the right questions: what you rate yourself, why are you rating yourself that way, and what either made it a good situation or a situation you can improve in. Don't just write you blew the rotation; write that you delayed on the rotation because you kept your eyes on the ball too long and then it became too late to rotate. Then think about what else happened or didn't happen: And because I was staring at the ball too long I didn't tell my partner I wouldn't be able to take third. Also, write your course of action so you don't repeat yourself: I need to track the ball then communicate with my partner and then rotate or stay put, but no not to watch the ball, and if I get caught up still be sure to communicate. Also, ask your partners for feedback of your game. This can be a bit tricky because as amateurs our partners can range on any given day from someone who is only in it for the paycheck and could care less about their game or improving it, much less yours; to guys who think they know it all but are mainly experts in their own mind; to seasoned veterans who take their game seriously. But regardless of what they say make note of it. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you start noting your partners are making similar remarks then it is probably worth looking into. Believe it or not umpires who are rookies or very junior to you can be a good source of information too. They are often right out of clinics and have useful information fresh in their minds. Ask these junior umpires if they have any questions for you. Sometimes their questions will give you thought to reflect. "Hey, I noticed on that play to the second baseman you got your 90 degree angle in foul rather than fair..."Or "When we had 2 outs and a runner on third I noticed you were in the A position..."Now think why you did this and explain, "We call that a pressure situation, the second baseman fielded the ball to his left and...."OR maybe they've got a point. Some mechanics guides call for the ump to be in A in the earlier situation, others call for you to be in C. Maybe they caught you not using the appropriate mechanics. Even if nothing else, the act of writing your thoughts down will help by focusing your attention and taking extra time to think about things and write them down. Occasionally you should thumb through your journal. Take particular notice of things which you note multiple times and look at the trend. Are they getting better, remaining the same or even getting worse? Think what you are doing and what might be the best way to improve it or if it is a positive take advantage of it and apply it to different areas of your game. This year I'm going to try something different. I'm going to get a mini flip pad (2"x3") and actually take it on the field with me and jot notes between innings. Many times since I started keeping a journal I have had things which I wanted to note but couldn't remember after the game. This will eliminate that problem. Also, keeping a game journal on the field with me will be good if any incidents occur during the game I can take immediate notes. I have never taken a pencil and paper onto the field with me when I'm at a game that doesn't require the umpire to keep a line up card. But I read elsewhere of umpires who have had really bad situations on the field and have thought how if I were in that situation I'd like to have a way to take notes then and there. Consider keeping a game journal, if you keep it gong and are honest with yourself, then I'd bet you will improve your game. Happy journaling.
  12. Getting ahead of the game and shaking off the rust early It's that time of the year again were starting to gear up for the 2009 season. I'm sure you want to make this your best season ever. Here are my thoughts for shaking the rust off early and being ready to go for the season. First, think back to last year, what did you have the most problems with? What situations did you get burned in? When were you out of position? What could you have handled better? A game journal is a good way to recall these things. (More to come on game journals) Looking back will give you a starting point for moving forward. Exercise Some people might not think it, but umpiring does require a fair amount of physical activity. Just think about getting down into your plate stance 200+ times, the work out that gives your legs, back and abs (and you should be using your abs). Not to mention sprinting down the line. Get ready by stretching out those muscles now. You don't want to feel like a 90 year old man when you are finished with your first game. Start with basic stretches and taking a walk. Make sure you are able to sprint those 30 yards. If you start now you won't be winded when you get out onto the field and you will decrease you risk of injury. Rules Brush up on your rules. Think of the ones that give you the most trouble read them and think of how to apply it. If you have access to any rules interpretation manuals see what they have to say. Also, look in your case books. If you are having trouble picturing the play, draw it out on a piece of paper or a white board. If you still have questions post them here. Our knowledgeable members are a great resource. Mechanics You haven't squatted down into a plate stance in a while have you? Spend some time practicing for both left and right handed batters. Look at your feet are they where they are supposed to be? Also practice clearing the catcher. A good way to do this is use a chair as the catcher. If you do this in front of a mirror and an adjustable height desk chair you can practice your head height. Practice your more common mechanics are there any adjustments you want to make? Try them out now. Training and clinics Take advantage of training and clinics offered by your association or in your area. When others have questions listen to the questions. While the question asked might not be your question the question and it's explanation can only add to your understanding, or maybe it will spark a new question for you. Availability Now is the time to start planning your availability. Think down the road and start blocking out dates you will not be available (guys remember to block off your wife's birthday and your anniversary. Speaking from experience you don't want to forget and then have a game those days unless you have a really comfortable couch). Also, your assigner needs to have as much notice as possible. So get into Arbiter, Assign by Web or any other system you use. Making your assigners job easier makes your job easier. Turn-backs are going to happen unfortunately, but planning keeps them to a minimum and you don't want to have a turn back for something which could be seen in advance. Equipment & Uniforms It's time to pull your equipment bag out of storage. If you haven't already take inventory of what you have and what you need. Place those orders early. It is getting to the time of year when some suppliers start having supply issues because of peak demand. Many new umpires are beginning their training and buying their first set of equipment and uniforms and many veterans are restocking their equipment bags. You don't want to be on any back order list and risk not having what you need when you need it. Also be sure to account for any special orders which will require adjustments, embroidery or hemming. Check out those uniforms. Did they mysteriously shrink in the off season? Now's the time to find out if last seasons uniforms will fit, not in the parking lot before your first game. Check for fading. Good places to look are in the belt line for pants and under the collar or inside the pocket for shirts. If you can see a color difference, then it is time for them to be replaced. Check your shoe laces. Look for fraying, if they're starting to fray now, they probably won't make it through the season. Replace them now, before there is a problem and while you're at it grab a second pair to keep for emergencies in your equipment bag for both your base and plate shoes. Look at the aglets too if they're gone your shoelace is getting to the end of its life. If you're a big spender get a pair of boot laces with metal aglets. I have a friend who when they got new shoes immediately threw out the laces the shoes came with and replaced them with more durable boot laces with metal aglets. He says the laces will now outlast the shoes. I'll try these when I need new ones. Here's to a great season!
  13. Goal Setting : Creating your own path to success In this world one of life's greatest truths is nobody is just going to give you anything you have to earn what you want through hard work. I've had an interesting few weeks in my baseball career. At the beginning of the month our association made its promotions for the upcoming year and I was not promoted. While I am an ambitious person and I want to move up in the organization, I wasn't terribly disappointed that I was not promoted, I was a bit disappointed in how the votes broke down. Before I catch some flack from you avid readers of mine yes I wrote in one of my game journals on my blog, "If I'm not promoted this year it will be because of this game."This was a bit dramatic of me. I certainly hope that one game that I took a bit harshly on myself will not define me as an umpire. But it was a great learning experience. Once I was notified that I was not going to be promoted I immediately started on a game plan so that next year I will be promoted. I printed out all of my evaluations for the year and as I mentioned in one of my blogs my aggregated lowest scores were in my base mechanics. So I determined that must have been the reason and improving my base mechanics would be my target. Well I decided I needed others input as well so I went to one of the baseball committee meetings to get their opinions, after all they are the ones who made the decision. Their first question to me was, "What do you see as your weakest area?" I immediately replied that I felt that my base mechanics were the problem. I thought I would be able to impress them by making them aware I'd examined my scores and saw this as a deficiency in my game and am able to acknowledge it. What happened next was a bit of a surprise to me. Members of the committee seemed almost less concerned with the statistical information I had looked at. While we only discussed my base work for a short time they brought to my attention two other weaknesses that while I overlooked in my analysis of my evaluations they wanted to focus on more. So be sure to try and get some outside help, especially from those who are in places of authority. They gave me some excellent feedback I am going to incorporate into my goals for the next year which are at the end of this article. As a Human Resource Management major in college one of the classes I took was Organizational Change. We spent a few weeks covering goal setting. The professor who was very effective at relating organizational change to the individual level as none of the 19-20 year olds in the class had any real organizational experience. He relayed the concept of setting goals which were SMART & Challenging. (I do not know whose original idea this is so I cannot give proper credit. I Googled it and found various sources) S -Specific Not I'm going to be a better umpire, but I'm going to improve my timing. M -Measurable Not necessarily as in the case of timing to be measurable on a stopwatch in all cases, but being perceived as having better timing on evaluations. A -AttainableHaving the goal of improving my timing is attainable, having a perfect strike zone every game is not. R -Realistic If I were to have the goal of being the home plate umpire for Game 1 of the World Series next month, I may be setting a goal which is not realistic, just maybe. T -Timely Put a time frame to it not, I'm going to have improved timing, but I will improve my timing by next year. ChallengingIt's not much of a goal to hay I'm going to eat a ham and swiss sandwich for lunch because there's no challenge to it. Here is a poor goal statement: I'm going to be a better umpire Here's one that fits our model: I will demonstrate my improved timing in my evaluation scores, before the end of the 2009 evaluation period. Now there is no ambiguity in your goal and you will be able to know if you reach it or not. Also, you can set multiple goals, just make sure you follow the model. Believe me just having the specific goal defined is a huge help, but it's only the beginning. Now let's work on an execution plan for the goal. This will require some deep realistic introspection. Unfortunately, not everybody is good at this part. Once again referring to my career as a human resource professional I deal with this on a regular basis. I deliver the annual reviews to all of our staff individually. When it comes to discussing some peoples'weaknesses or "developmental opportunities"as the PC freaks like to say, I am amazed at how some people just cannot see their shortcomings. I spoke to somebody once about their lack of organization (not that I have much room to talk). I was able to specifically document more than one occasion where their lack of organization created a preventable situation. That person vehemently denied that they were not organized and really took offense to being told this. All the while we're sitting in their office which by any definition was a fire hazard. Sticking with the timing example think it through, try to see yourself the way others see you and determine why you are perceived as not having good timing. Are you coming up to quickly on your calls, are you having to change your calls, are your mechanics causing you to have bad timing? So diagnose the problem and be honest with yourself. Now depending on your specific situation and goal begin to execute your strategy for accomplishing your goal. You may decide that if you increase your head height and wait half a second more before making a call you will reach your goal. Go out on the field and try it. Maybe after a few games you realize this isn't helping as much as you expect, time to make a new strategy. While keeping the same goal you can change your strategy for achieving the goal. Think of it as a trip where your goal is your destination, you may have to take a detour or other alternate route to get there. If you make your strategy too rigid then it has a higher chance of failure. Also remember it may be necessary to take a step back in order to move forward. As you're executing your plan look at each game and see how things are progressing. Get others opinions. If you haven't noticed already umpires are overall a good group of guys who want each other to succeed. Tell your partner in your pre-game, "Hey I'm really trying to improve my timing would you take a look at me in regard to my timing and let me know what you think?"Now that you've asked you'd better be ready for their response. Good or bad be sure to thank them. Even if they tell you things you completely disagree with think about what they said. There is probably some level of truth in there. Find it and use it. Also, take a look at what others are doing in your area of weakness. Focus on them, and learn from what they are doing be it good or bad. You may be able to see that you are able to take a piece from this person's game or that person's game helping you. If for no other reason helping you learn what not to do. Here are my goals for the 2009 season: For the upcoming evaluation season I am going to demonstrate my improvement in both evaluation scores and perception in regard to my base mechanics, my partner communication and assertiveness. Plan for base mechanics: Continue to bring down my plate to base ratio Make sure when I'm in "B"and there is a pick off attempt I first step to the 45' markwith my left foot. Solicit feedback from partners Create a specific section in my game journal to focus on base mechanics Watch and learn more from others Plan for partner communications: Make this part of the game I actively think about rather than just do Concentrate on eye contact with my partner Be loud enough that I have no doubt my partner hears me Acknowledge my partners communications Solicit feedback from others Create a specific section in my game journal to focus on base mechanics Watch and learn more from others Plan for assertiveness: Take control from the first minute Have a strong plate conference Address situations, do not ignore them Do not allow coaches or players to show me up in any form Don't hesitate to pull the trigger if needed Show greater strength and authority on calls Develop a more authoritative strike 3 mechanic Solicit feedback from others Create a specific section in my game journal to focus on base mechanics Watch and learn more from others I feel confident if I am successful with this goal and plan in mind, I will be successful in terms of promotion next year.
  14. Rob Drake, Thank you for TheUmpireLife It was with a heavy heart I removed TheUmpireLife from the links section of Umpire-Empire and from my bookmarks. I first visited TheUmpireLife in January of this year when doing some research for this site. At that time the site was a modest blog. The content wasn't all that it grew to be at that time but was still very interesting. I posted a comment to his article, and bookmarked the site to check out more frequently for updates. One thing that really impressed me was that Rob personally replied quickly to my comment. It quickly went into my "Daily Surfing"bookmark file. The growth of TheUmpireLife was also something spectacular. I have personally never seen a site with such exponential growth and active participation. In just under 2 month growing to over 300 registered users. That doesn't include the additional hundreds of visitors who never even registered. Some webmaster statistics cite that only about 10% of a sites visitors will ever register most visitors are primarily inactive browsers. This makes its growth even more astounding. The content of TheUmpireLife was also second to none. The tone was kept in check even some posts/threads which were more inflammatory in nature were dealt with professionally. I think specifically of a person who made 2 comments one asking Rob to apologize for a call the poster thought Rob missed, and another where the same individual made comments on the handling of one of Rob's ejections. The poster's tone was definitely inflammatory, but Rob's was tactful. As was the tone of all of the professional umpires there. This tone which was set by the pros was maintained by the vast majority of posters. I also found there was no holier than thou tone or attitude from anybody. The information relayed was highly informative. Whether a question about being a pro, a mechanics issue or a rules issue. Everybody posted clear well-informed information. This was one of the beauties of TheUmpireLife. Amateur umpires could post their questions to the professionals and count on getting a quality response without being looked down upon. This included everything from light hearted questions about a situation to in depth rule interpretations and applications. This made the site educational for the amateur umpires and a truly interactive learning experience. Which I believe accounted *greatly for its rapid growth. I also found the site to be well moderated. Spam was addressed quickly, there didn't seem to be any deletions or removals which were unnecessary. This is one of my pet peeves about discussion boards. Where a moderator who comes under scrutiny all of the sudden makes those posts disappear. ***Poof*** I hope there can be some reasonable resolution to the situation and look forward to any updates from Rob. Hopefully TheUmpireLife will be able to reemerge in some fashion so we as amateur umpires can continue to learn from those who have made it through baseballs narrowest door. These guys made themselves accessible to us and got nothing in return but our gratitude and the sense of helping their brothers in blue. I wanted to end with some of the posts which have recently appeared on TheUmpireLife. It may sound hokie, but Rob your site has effected so many people in so many ways. We all appreciate what you have done and hope no harm comes to you professionally from your successful attempt to improve the greater umpiring community. I've had a blast - not that I'm leaving. It's been awesome discussing rules interps with those that have years of experience at the upper levels of baseball.* ManInBlue Thanks Rob for what we've had so far. Your site has been first-rate... cookie I would like to thank Rob for starting the site and message board. I know it has helped all of us with our umpiring. Coaster Palooza A+ on the site. It has connected me with so many people. I appreciate it. mattmullins55 I learned a lot and gained a ton of confidence while working my HS games thanks to the knowledge I gained from the info shared on the site. It was like attending a daily umpire's clinic. My life has been enlightened. Thank you! circlesthesun As a 15 year old LL umpire i loved this site as I could chat with other umpires and get advise. Thank you Rob for all you've done, and taking the time to think about the other umpires. FALLumpire Thanks so much, Rob, for running this site. I got an immense amount of knowledge from you and the great bunch of umpires here. BrianC14 I just wanted to say thanks for the effort you put into this idea. And to all the rest (Professional- LL umpires), thanks for keeping this site civil. It was refreshing to visit daily and share experiences. Dobie I have learned alot and feel that i am a better umpire because of this site. THANK YOU!!! for attempting to let umpires of all walks of life see into the world you work in and teaching us to be more professional in our levels of baseball. okump96 Thank you Rob! This was an excellent umpiring message board and I will definitely miss it. I have a new found respect for you after you started this message board to HELP us amateur umpires get better. There is a dying need for umpiring education everywhere, and this was a great source of information from someone at the highest level of baseball. angus THANK YOU. For giving us somewhere to come and speak on a professional level and allow us to get better as umpires across the board. I don't think there is one person on this site who hasn't taken at least something away from it, and that credit solely goes to you. Rash3UC
  15. I Will Get More Ejections!

    I Will Get More Ejections! Gentlemen, I've long been an advocate of the ejection being the tool of last resort. You may have seen my many posts on various forums where I state somebody has been too quick to toss a player or coach. I'm coming to the realization that I'm just being to lenient. The players and coaches are pushing the line too far, and as officials, overall, we're not holding the line. I am now going to give much less latitude to folks and do my part to hold the line. Over the years I've probably had 15 or fewer ejections. I've even gone a few seasons without any. I've always thought of my fewer ejections than others as a strength as to my ability to control the game and situations. The majority of these ejections were on players for flagrant violations: malicious contact, tossing the helmet across the field, cussing at me!Very few of these were for demonstration or showing me up. These are the offenders I will be targeting both players and coaches. I'm not saying I'm going to become a red ass, I'm just going to hold the line. Players and coaches are getting out of control and the problem is that they are getting away with more and more. It's an endless cycle bad coaches & parents spawning bad players they never get set straight and become the bad parent/coach. Too many youth coaches think they can act like Lou Piniella to the umpires and too many players want to be Milton Bradley. Just a week or two ago in a LL Seniors game (with HokieUmp) in the first inning I called strike three on this kid with a tremendous ego. He didn't say anything to me but steps out of the box and makes a motion marking the lower part of his shin and yells something to someone up in the box. I pulled off my mask and had every intention of tossing him, but for what ever reason I didn't. I *probably issued my loudest warning ever, but let him stay in the game. He was quiet the rest of the game, but I really doubt he learned his lesson. It's been said time and time again, "You won't regret the ejections you make, but you surly will regret the ejections you don't make."This couldn't be more true. This situation has been bothering me ever since that day. Then when I started to think about the times I hadn't ejected someone but should have I got frustrated with myself. The vast majority of these things dealt with demonstrating or showing me up. When I thought about some of the close situations where there was hard contact but judged it not to be malicious or the pitch which plunks a batter and in the back of my mind I'm thinking that might have been intentional but made no call. Those didn't bother me, the ones that got my blood boiling are the times when a player or coach is demonstrating or otherwise showing me up. The almost funny thing is that many of these things didn't bother me at the time. I'm thinking of a time when I had a banger at first and the head coach was in the 1st base box with his team in the first base dugout. I had perfect positioning and gave the emphatic out call. I hear all the moans, groans and boos coming from that side. The coach comes up to me hollering about he was safe by a country mile, etc.I keep to my usual philosophy of let him vent and when answering keep it short and sweet. I must have said, "No sir he was out."a dozen times. He then faces the dugout and his spectators and shouts, "You mean to tell me that I, and everybody over here could see he was safe, but you think he was out?"Obviously, not speaking to me but meant to incite the players and spectators. I just gave him "the look"and told him sternly "That's enough."This did end it on the field, but he went to the dugout and continued to rant and rave between innings. Thinking back that no-ejection bothered me for a while, that was his ticket out that I didn't punch. Maybe I've been more reluctant to toss folks because my warnings have generally been heeded with no further incident and I have rarely needed to back up my warnings, but I think my warnings were in err. I should have learned my lesson much earlier. My very first season umpiring I worked a district Bronco tournament game and I was being evaluated by one of our NCAA D-1 guys. Sometime in the game there is a runner on 3rd (who just happens to be the coaches son) the batter sends a ball, fair, up the right field line and rolls to the fence. I'm now 20 feet up the first base line and turn around to watch the runner touch the plate. The runner could have been on his hands and knees and crawled to the plate with out any problem, but instead comes in full speed. He runs through the plate and intentionally bumps the catcher with his shoulder, who is 6 feet down third base line extended. The catcher who was not paying attention or expecting to be hit goes down. I called time and issued a warning. Dad, the coach who was in the third base box comes down to holler at me. I had never had anybody approach me like that and was admittedly intimidated. I got my self together and told the coach something to the effect of, "It's only a warning coach, if you make sure things like this doesn't happen again, there won't be a problem, so lets get back to playing." The game went on and his team lost. My partner and I go to the concession stand to get paid. As we're waiting for the person with the money to come, in comes coach dad. He starts hollering and cussing at me and yelling about how I cost him the game. I honestly must say I was frightened. He only got a sentence or two out before my partner stepped in between us and gave the coach everything he had been giving me and then some. My partner told him he was lucky it was me behind the plate because if it were him he would have tossed his kid and then tossed him the second he came out of the coaches box hollering like that him. They ended up going at it for a little while until the person with the money arrived and got rid of the coach. We went back to our cars and went over the evaluation. I scored pretty well on most of the categories for a rookie. Obviously the majority of our conversation centered around the incident on the field. His final comment to me, and I can hear his voice in my head right now as I type this, "There is never a need to issue a warning. If you feel the need to issue a warning, just eject 'em." I should have paid attention to his advice much earlier, but finally, many years later I've learned my lesson.