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Delicate situation

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I was assisting with directing a 15U tournament last weekend and ran into an ugly, odd, delicate situation. In two quarterfinal games I watched the following 3 situations: 

1) Runners on second and third with two outs. Batter hits a short blooper. Throw comes to the plate. Runner is safe. Batter/Runner tries to advance to second. Throw is in time and runner is called out for out number 3. After a good two seconds the umpire reverses his call to safe. Another run scores as the catcher was already walking toward the dugout thinking the last out of the inning had taken place. Ball was not dropped. Umpire says "I changed my mind on the call." Naturally the defensive coach is livid, but the game goes on and thankfully it's not that close of a contest.

2) Same ump is now at the plate in the second game of the day there is a run down between third and home. Runner is going back to third and falls — untouched — at the feet of man covering third who is then thrown the ball and puts the tag on the runner. Fielder is called for obstruction. Umpire places the runner on third and returns all other runners to where they were at the start of the play. 

3) Later in the game, this same umpire has a no call on a batter who backs into the catcher as the runner is stealing third

I want to believe this was just a very bad day in this official's career. But he seemed confused on rules, indecisive and unable to really explain his decisions so we made the decision to replace him. I thought the decision was right, but I still hated seeing it happen. I paid the umpire we replaced his fee out of my own pocket. Final was a well-called, well-played 4-3 extra inning game. Have any of you ever heard of a mid-tourney "firing" or an ump and is there any right way to do this? 

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Oh, I thought you were asking about the calls. I'd like to hear from the umpire before discussing those.

I'm sure TD's fire officials that they deem incompetent all the time.

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Symptoms of over-heating include indecision and confusion.  Could there be a medical factor?  Certainly some discussion ahead for the official and the assignor.

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People get fired all the time.  When you're paid to do a job and you don't do that job well, you're at risk of being fired.   Even if they have a perfectly legitimate reason for doing that job poorly (100 degrees, fifth game in a row), you have no obligation to let it continue.  Sometimes getting them out of their situation is exactly what they need that day.

I don't see why firing an umpire would/should be handled any differently from anyone else who isn't doing the job well, even in the middle of a tournament.  TD's and UIC's should always have plan B, C and D anyway, as there are many reasons you might end up short an umpire.

Just because it's an umpire, and it's a tournament, doesn't make it unique, ugly or delicate.  Firing a doctor in the middle of surgery is delicate.  Firing a roofer when the job is only half done is ugly.

It's ultimately up the umpire's association to what they will do long-term with the umpire - evaluate, train, assist, etc.  But if the company you hire sends out a subcontractor that isn't up to the task, sometimes sending them home is the only thing you can do.   And the best approach is just ripping off the bandaid.  Do it in private. And leave no room for debate.   "You're not working out, you're going to have to leave, I will talk to your assignor about any feedback."   I've done it with renovation contractors, temps, in home medical care...and in one situation, an umpire.   Firing is never pleasant. Best you can do is be as pragmatic as you can, and not make it personal.

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Agree with @beerguy55... unless you are terming the guy mid-game which of course is a no-no...

Private conversation with the official just telling him that due to other circumstances that his services will not be needed. By the way we are paying you for the assignment and want to thank you for your services, I will let the assignor know and have a nice day. 


No need to get into a mess with the official. Same conversation I have had with employees in the past. Sorry, today is it, here is your check. Have a nice day.

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I am the head of the umpires at my complex. I hire, train and schedule them and have complete control of them. I am also the UIC so I get to see them on the field every night and in tournaments. Its a crap shoot when you hire an umpire cause out of every 10 you hire you are hoping to get 3-4 that might last longer than a season. I will be patient and work with any umpire to get them to a point where they can call a good game. Some I hire knowing it is not going to end well but I got to give them a chance to prove me wrong. In 4 years I have fired 5 guys. Two for no call no show, one cause he kept stabbing his partner in the back by telling coaches he blew their calls. The last one was fired before his game because he refused to work with a younger ump and he did not get paid enough to begin with. I ended up doing his game for him while he drove away. With guys who don't catch on or are just not where they should be I usually just don't schedule them and when they ask why I tell them they are just not where they should be. It is our job to put the best product on the field we can. I take pride in my umpires and they reflect me. When a coach comes up and tells me umps did good I feel a sense of pride. 

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A Tournament Director's job (and, by adjacency, the Assistant TD) is not enviable, especially in regards to managing teams / coaches and umpires. If a team feels aggrieved by an umpire (or crew), they will not only make this tournament a headache for you, but in this wonderful social media -crazed culture, may cripple your ability to attract teams for future tournaments.

I've seen occurrences where an umpire with a rather short fuse (AKA "having the pin pulled on the ejection grenade when he stepped on the field") has dumped a coach for a petty reason only to have the coach withhold, suspend, or cancel payment of the tournament check. Umpires need to be aware of this. Often TDs will ask umpires (or their UIC) to try and restrain from Ejecting a coach unless absolutely necessary. This is where we often go through all the escalating steps of warnings and restrictions – twice even! – prior to an outright Ejection. If you can tell, I've called a lot of tournament games.

What some umpires fail to grasp is that the game isn't about them – it truly is about and for the ballplayers. Granted, there are many instances where coaches and parents lose their grasp on that concept too, and overreach or blow things out of proportion, but when you fight fire with gasoline, you get a conflagration. You must be consistent and enormously patient. And, this is especially crucial, you must work as an umpire team. This whole "I'm the PU, I'm the guy-in-charge, it's my call and my rulings" dogmatic crap has to end. This isn't to say that we should entertain idiotic appeals and overturn each other's judgement calls, but we have to understand the dynamic of working together, as an umpire unit, to get rule applications correct, and that within the context of tournaments, there is a governing authority to refer to (the TD and their staff). Coaches get tremendously frustrated at tournaments that don't have consistency in rules applications.

@beerguy55 and @Mudisfun have suggested the proper approach, as will I. Unless the umpire is injured, ill, or notifies you of a personal issue (spouse / child / family emergency notification), do not replace the umpire during a game in progress (there is an ultra-rare exception to this, PM for details). Pay the umpire for any/all games performed, fully, without any docking or withholding, and send them home. As a UIC, if you want to broach and discuss the action with the umpire there on site, or in the following days, that's on you. But as a TD, you ultimately have to make your paying customers – the ballgame participants – happy... or as happy as they're gonna get.

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