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USABL UMP327

I've got a case of the Flinchies. What do I do?

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So, I have been an umpire for 5 seasons.  I'm starting my 6th right now.  After a few rainouts we finally got out in force this weekend.  I had 2 games Saturday, 4 games Sunday.  My first game in the field Saturday I was doing a 16U game.  The plate ump caught a foul tip right off the mask and got knocked unconscious.  Ambulance had to come.  He had a concussion and some brain bleeding.  It terrified me.  I geared up and finished the game, no further incidents.  I did the second game of the DH behind the plate and was ok. 

The next morning is when I found out that they kept my umpiring partner overnight in the hospital because he had some pressure and brain bleeding.  I go to my first game and I'm behind the dish.  It's 10U, so you figure nothing too fast or anything.  The catcher on one of the teams is terrible.  I got hit a bunch of times.  One pitch came straight through and got me in the mask.  Catcher didn't touch it.  I seemed fine and kept going. That was about the 4th inning.  The rest of the game I was flinching like crazy.  Couldn't maintain my stance in the slot.  Couldn't even get in the slot.  I started crouching real low behind the catcher and looking over the shoulder.  Every up and in pitch I was turning my head.  Balls in the dirt I was coming out of my crouch.  I was blinking on swings.  Did games 2 and 3 in the field and then back behind the plate for Game 4.  I had myself mentally prepared but the moment the first up and in pitch came I was back to flinching.  Moving around a lot.  I felt myself swiveling on the balls of my feet. 

I flinched a little bit when I first started umpiring but all of a sudden it's like I can't go behind the plate.  Does anyone else get the flinchies and how do you stop it from happening? 

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4 minutes ago, USABL UMP327 said:

So, I have been an umpire for 5 seasons.  I'm starting my 6th right now.  After a few rainouts we finally got out in force this weekend.  I had 2 games Saturday, 4 games Sunday.  My first game in the field Saturday I was doing a 16U game.  The plate ump caught a foul tip right off the mask and got knocked unconscious.  Ambulance had to come.  He had a concussion and some brain bleeding.  It terrified me.  I geared up and finished the game, no further incidents.  I did the second game of the DH behind the plate and was ok. 

The next morning is when I found out that they kept my umpiring partner overnight in the hospital because he had some pressure and brain bleeding.  I go to my first game and I'm behind the dish.  It's 10U, so you figure nothing too fast or anything.  The catcher on one of the teams is terrible.  I got hit a bunch of times.  One pitch came straight through and got me in the mask.  Catcher didn't touch it.  I seemed fine and kept going. That was about the 4th inning.  The rest of the game I was flinching like crazy.  Couldn't maintain my stance in the slot.  Couldn't even get in the slot.  I started crouching real low behind the catcher and looking over the shoulder.  Every up and in pitch I was turning my head.  Balls in the dirt I was coming out of my crouch.  I was blinking on swings.  Did games 2 and 3 in the field and then back behind the plate for Game 4.  I had myself mentally prepared but the moment the first up and in pitch came I was back to flinching.  Moving around a lot.  I felt myself swiveling on the balls of my feet. 

I flinched a little bit when I first started umpiring but all of a sudden it's like I can't go behind the plate.  Does anyone else get the flinchies and how do you stop it from happening? 

Obligatory correction of "foul tip" to "foul ball." 

I've found that most of my flinching issues are solved when I trust my catcher. If I know he's going to get his glove or body in front of every pitch then I can relax and focus on what I need to focus on. Once you get hit off a pitch that should've been blocked, that instinctual trust starts to fade away. Then when a batter swings at that up and in pitch, you think "This is going to hit me square in the face." Don't get me wrong, I trust all my gear that I put on, but instincts are hard to fight. You should find that when you do better games, like the 16U games you had, you'll flinch less and see the ball better. 

I'm sure you don't need reminding but this is EXTREMELY dangerous. If all else fails, keep your mask square to the pitch so that the ball hits you where it's supposed to. 

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Better catchers do help, no doubt about it. The higher you move up, the better the catchers are, less likely to flinch. However, most umpires, if not all do it at some point. As Stk004 points out, "hard to fight instincts." Umpiring is a learning curve and often takes time, training, and experience.

With that being said, flinching is usually a function of not tracking the ball properly. Learn to pick up the ball quickly out of the pitchers hand and track it all the way into the catchers glove. Proper training will help you do this. I often hear in my head one of my pro school instructors telling me to "explode my eyes" when tracking a pitch. Don't squint, keep your eyes wide open when tracking the pitch. Tracking will also help with your timing. I would focus most on this aspect of calling balls and strikes. If you haven't had any formal training, seek some out, and continue to do so throughout your umpiring career.

Good equipment, worn properly, will help your confidence level, as well. Don't fret too much, it's very fixable, but may take some time.

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I trust all of  catchers, some more than others.  I do not trust pitchers, especially the ones who throw 58' fastballs that take a weird bounce and nail me.  You just have to work through it.

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50 minutes ago, JonnyCat said:

Better catchers do help, no doubt about it. The higher you move up, the better the catchers are, less likely to flinch. However, most umpires, if not all do it at some point. As Stk004 points out, "hard to fight instincts." Umpiring is a learning curve and often takes time, training, and experience.

With that being said, flinching is usually a function of not tracking the ball properly. Learn to pick up the ball quickly out of the pitchers hand and track it all the way into the catchers glove. Proper training will help you do this. I often hear in my head one of my pro school instructors telling me to "explode my eyes" when tracking a pitch. Don't squint, keep your eyes wide open when tracking the pitch. Tracking will also help with your timing. I would focus most on this aspect of calling balls and strikes. If you haven't had any formal training, seek some out, and continue to do so throughout your umpiring career.

Good equipment, worn properly, will help your confidence level, as well. Don't fret too much, it's very fixable, but may take some time.

Absolutely.  If you get uber-focused on tracking, it's almost as if your brain can't remember that that pitch is coming right at your head.  If you find yourself flinching, or missing pitches, remind yourself every pitch to track it all the way into the catcher's mitt and you will get back on track.

Also, I hope your partner is okay, but that was a freak thing - no reason to believe the same thing will happen to you.

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Everybody flinches...even in the bigs.  Inevitably we wear $500 of protective gear and get hit on a $0.10 application of sunscreen.  Stand your ground, keep your gear pointed at the ball and don't let 'em see you sweat.  

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