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A Plea to Modernize Uniforms at the Amatuer Level

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58 minutes ago, Biscuit said:

To be clear, these are smutty on smutty. Exact same fabric. Next time I buy bags though, I’ll be sure to pick up some black and blue (unless we can get rid of navy...)

Oh, I get that they are the same brand and same material... but how often do you wash your pants vs washing your ball bags? That is where the color difference begins to happen. 

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1 hour ago, JSam21 said:

Oh, I get that they are the same brand and same material... but how often do you wash your pants vs washing your ball bags? That is where the color difference begins to happen. 

I got them half way through the spring season, and I haven’t noticed any discoloration yet... I should wash my ball bags each time I wash the pants though. 

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What I’m about to say might derail the focus on “the shirt” or “the uniform”, but bear with me please... I’ll knit the topics back together again.

It has nothing to do with the specific shirt style or color, or the color of pants, or the way we hem them (sorry @BT_Blue ), or if we wear black, blue, grey or green ball bags (... but why would you?)... it has to do with control and conformity. And, it begins at the association level.

There are two things in particular that associations love to do:

  1. Stratify their members
  2. Determine the group’s uniform

And yes, it’s in that order, because how else does the resulting uniform get to be so pedantically defined as some of the examples we see?

Right from the commencing phrase, “Let’s start an association”, most founding members immediately start haggling over structure – who’s going to be in charge, who’s going to be associatively in charge, who has seniority, who has “final say” over this, or that, or any number of things. So much effort is invested to avoid “true democracy” because if true democracy existed in the association, then how would anybody get their way, what they want, and their preferences implemented? And, furthermore, if it was a truly democratic association, how could anyone ensure that everyone else acts, behaves, or looks the same?

Variety scares some people; and, relative to our topic here, it terrifies some umpires (and other sports officials) especially.

I will never argue that your appearance as an umpire is not vitally important – it unequivocally is. But what so many associations do is use it as a tool (then, a weapon) and metric of conformity and stratification. And they always reinforce a directive with, “Well, that’s what the association dictates.” And again, in the absence of true democracy – or even majority / minority polling – the authority to dictate those directives breaks down to that stratification of whatever kind they can find. Seniority, tenure, appointment, etc.

A great deal of parallels can be made between the military / law enforcement / firefighter service uniform codes and sports officials (ie. Umpires) uniform codes. When the shooting and shelling starts, does it really matter the particulars of your uniform? No. When there’s a civil crisis happening, does it really matter if that LEO has a navy service blouse on or that LEO has a black service blouse on? Short of having a means of identifying that that person is in fact a LEO, no. How about if a multi-structure, five-alarm blaze breaks out, is a firefighter going to be chastised if they happen to be wearing a FR overcoat with yellow stripes instead of orange stripes? No. In point of fact, firefighting is most similar to umpiring, because if a firefighter doesn’t wear the proper equipment, correctly, then they risk serious injury or death, and make the job of firefighting perilous. So too with umpiring, if you don’t wear the gear you have correctly, you’re making the job perilous for yourself. 

But far too often, we have “senior” association members putting unfounded emphasis on what brand or color or style of uniform or equipment another member must should wear, instead of mentoring that member on how and why to wear it. This speaks towards a problem that appears throughout society, and will continue to challenge us in the sports officiating community – the perception, respect, and challenge to authority demonstrated between generations. “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it any more. Neither does, “Because we (the association) said so”, really compel today’s generations to compliance. Associations need to get their heads (their leadership, primarily) out of their ass(ociation) and start to foster and develop relationships between their members and the Rules, then the proven practices (mechanics, game management, procedures, etc.) that administer those Rules most effectively. And “proven” does not necessarily mean “time honored tradition”.

How I conduct myself as an umpire, how I manage a game’s progression, and how I administer, interpret, and apply the Rules speaks magnitudes of volume more to my performance as an umpire than what color or style shirt I’m wearing. From my own experience, participants and fans alike figure out pretty quick who’s the guy in charge, barring a cohesive crew of equals (of which I have gratefully been a member of many), regardless if I’m wearing MLB 2016 Panel black or pink with polka dots. Rightly so, though, the game participants and fans fear variety and inconsistency of calls and rulings. Unfortunately, the old school of thought (and the one that most associations subscribe to) is that uniformity of uniform connotates uniformity and consistency of calls and rulings to the participants, and demonstrates conformity to the association’s standards. It does not.

If you look in the fine print of the NFHS Rulebook, Rule 10.1.9, it states “Umpires shall wear gray slacks, and navy pullover shirt or state association-adopted shirt.” So what difference is to the Fed if the pants are heather or charcoal? What matter is it if the shirt is just a plain navy polo shirt (Nike, UA, Russell Athletic, Rawlings, or heck... LL Bean), a Navy shirt with a single trim stripe of red (which TOC makes, BTW, and looks fabulous), or is the hideously antiquated red-&-white trimmed smock (I say smock because of how some guys wear it)? It isn’t and doesn’t. Fed doesn’t care! ... But the associations care because this is their opportunity to exert control. Heavens forbid that you are evaluated and tested and corrected at several times during the season, to make sure that you’re keeping up with Rules interpretations, that you’re still able to discern a strike, or that you’re not saying “stupid things”! But as long as you conform, and wear the instituted uniform (of that particular year, Ohio)... 

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22 hours ago, Biscuit said:

Reading through this thread, I'd started to worry that I'd screwed up by getting the smitty ball bags that match my pants... This gives me a little hope :P

I like the way it looks, but would it be looked down on by evaluators? 

My first three years of umpiring, I did the same. I thought they looked good. If anybody thought otherwise, they didn't say anything to me about it. Carry on, sir.

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...and just as in the area of protective gear, @MadMax hits the nail on the head again.

 

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On 10/23/2018 at 2:20 PM, Biscuit said:

Reading through this thread, I'd started to worry that I'd screwed up by getting the smitty ball bags that match my pants... This gives me a little hope :P

I like the way it looks, but would it be looked down on by evaluators? 

I would say 'just ask someone.'

As for me and my poorly hemmed pants. I see the guy every so often on FB. But he is "to big" for us little people in the HS and JuCo ranks now a days.

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18 hours ago, MadMax said:

... But the associations care because this is their opportunity to exert control. Heavens forbid that you are evaluated and tested and corrected at several times during the season, to make sure that you’re keeping up with Rules interpretations, that you’re still able to discern a strike, or that you’re not saying “stupid things”! But as long as you conform, and wear the instituted uniform (of that particular year, Ohio)... 

If you're insinuating that all those things about performance aren't important in Ohio, that is totally unfounded. Baseball uniforms changed right before I started 8 yrs ago, but haven't changed since. Yea, it's navy, but it's one uniform for the entire state, available from multiple suppliers. No differences from the Cleveland associations or Columbus, for example, no need to worry if your old-school partner has black or powder. It's one thing, period, a total non-issue.

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51 minutes ago, scrounge said:

If you're insinuating that all those things about performance aren't important in Ohio, that is totally unfounded. Baseball uniforms changed right before I started 8 yrs ago, but haven't changed since. Yea, it's navy, but it's one uniform for the entire state, available from multiple suppliers. No differences from the Cleveland associations or Columbus, for example, no need to worry if your old-school partner has black or powder. It's one thing, period, a total non-issue.

While I cannot speak for Max, I think he was speaking of states with navy uniforms in general, not necessarily saying Ohio doesn't care about performance.  I don't mind our uniforms too much, but I do sometimes wish we would move to black as well.  I could care less about the powder though.  Just my two cents.

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Oh, I'd like to add that I did not mean that to come across as angry or overly confrontational, just wanted to clear up the idea that Ohio is making lots of changes or anything. LIke I said, in 8 years I've never had a change in the baseball uniform, having started just after the last one went into effect. I appreciate @MadMax input on this and many other topics.

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@scroungeI distinctly remember that Ohio, over the span of 3-5 years, had instituted that the navy shirt must have the OHSAA emblem embroidered on the shirt, and that the logo included the current year. In order to be compliant (or eligible for postseason, perhaps?) the umpire had to have that shirt, with that year on it. Not the 2013, not the 2014... but I could be wrong on the years... it may have been 2012, 2013, I don't remember exactly. There was a thread about it here on U-E, now deep in the archives.

It was just an rhetorical example of the nitpicking lengths associations go to, once again, control their members. Another hoop to jump through that, in the grand scheme of things, has utter trivial purposes. Is a coach going to dial down his anger and waive his protest when an umpire boots a ruling (not judgement) because – wouldja look at that? – the umpire is wearing the current standard, state-approved shirt?

Ohio might be thoroughly training and re-evaluating their officials. I don't know.

I could have used the example of Wisconsin, wherein the WIAA hat is the "official" piece. It could be navy, it could be black, but as is usually the case, umpires end up wearing it for everything from teeball to softball to college scrimmages, and it invariably gets filthy and faded. Then, in keeping with the state motto – "Forward!" – they use the navy shirt :Facepalm:. However, if the umpire is a "Level 5 Master Umpire", they're allowed to wear black. :huh2:

Look, I get it, associations are cheap (read: frugal, if not miserly), and state-HS organizations doubly so. In Arizona's case, we use the 2010 Vertical-stripe black, but (ready for this?) it's a dye-sublimated shirt (meaning, it started out white) with the AIA logo (which looks like something from NASCAR) in it. Honig's and Smitty used to make it, until Honigs dropped out (or was not re-invited). The problems with that shirt? Doesn't breathe as well as other "real" shirts, gets brittle when it dries, because it started life as a white shirt it fades noticeably, and... (drumroll please!)... it costs $49!!! That's on top of the $80 annual fee you must pay to be an AIA umpire.

Again, I could give a rip about what color or style shirt you use. My well-documented hatred of the navy shirt has, as I've stated before, nothing to do with the color navy – it has to do with what it represents, relative to (state) associations. When you put a greater emphasis on making sure all your umpires or officials are in the same uniform, rather than all your umpires or officials implement and apply the Rules and standard practices in a similar, consistent way, you've got your priorities backwards.

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Ohio doesn't have a year now.  I can't speak too far back as I've only been with them for 3 years now.  Here's our current forward-minded navy gear. :Horse:

As a side note, I like the looks of the new dye-sublimated shirt.  I'm wondering how it holds up.

OHSAA hat.jpg

OHSAA LS.jpg

OHSAA SS.jpg

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Ohhh wowwww, @wolfe_man, Ohio actually had the foresight to make it available in long-sleeve??!! I commend you (guys). And that's hard for this Sconnie to do. My utter disdain for jackets-on-plate has to do with seeing guys in Wisconsin wearing a navy-with-red-shoulder-inserts jacket, on plate, oversized such that it rivals a drag chute.

Since we're playing show-and-tell:

WIAABLACKBASE.jpg

So yeah, that's... our.... hat. And it is available in navy or black! And customizable, cuz you can get the center "I" in red or white! Wooooooooooo... errr... what is that shape? I know it's supposed to be representative of our state, but... 

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1 hour ago, MadMax said:

My utter disdain for jackets-on-plate has to do with seeing guys in Wisconsin wearing a navy-with-red-shoulder-inserts jacket, on plate, oversized such that it rivals a drag chute.

I don't know if I understand the "no jackets on the plate" thing. When first pitch is below 40 degrees or so, you need everything you can. You can put on UA, sure, but a jacket has always kept me warmer than my long sleeve shirt over the top. I don't love the jacket on the plate just because it's a bit cumbersome (if I can get away with the long sleeve plus UA, I always do), but at some point temperature-wise, that goes out the window and it's just all about staying as warm as possible.

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Well, I started in 2011 and that was the first mandatory year for the new emblem design, which hasn't changed since then. As I remember, there was a 2 year transition period where both the old and the new were acceptable. I think that's more than fair. 

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Washington has gone to a Sublimated dyed shirt. But unlike @MadMax, our state is taking a cut from Gerry Davis.

https://www.gerrydavis.com/product/B05WA4678PR73/WOA-Baseball-Umpire-Shirt.html?cid=231

This is the third(?) season with these and they are cheap, uncomfortable, and fade just as bad as they do elsewhere as what Max has seen. The only difference I can come up with is the company that provides them. 

Thankfully, our state did not have the foresight to do a long sleeve or a jacket. So the only time we are required to wear them is if we go short sleeve. And as you know, the Pacific Northwest is not the idea place to go short sleeve during the spring season. So jackets and long sleeves it is!

Davis also has a hat for WOA. But I'm not sure why since for playoffs and championships, we wear our association hats. At least as far as I know.

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On 10/24/2018 at 7:12 PM, BT_Blue said:

I would say 'just ask someone.'

As for me and my poorly hemmed pants. I see the guy every so often on FB. But he is "to big" for us little people in the HS and JuCo ranks now a days.

Well, I know in the league I'm working it doesn't matter. I'm thinking about the next step in my umpiring career (probably HS, once, you know, I graduate HS :P) when my assignors actually care. 

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On 10/25/2018 at 9:20 AM, scrounge said:

Oh, I'd like to add that I did not mean that to come across as angry or overly confrontational, just wanted to clear up the idea that Ohio is making lots of changes or anything. LIke I said, in 8 years I've never had a change in the baseball uniform, having started just after the last one went into effect. I appreciate @MadMax input on this and many other topics.

Those anger management issues.

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On 10/25/2018 at 11:18 AM, MadMax said:

@scroungeI distinctly remember that Ohio, over the span of 3-5 years, had instituted that the navy shirt must have the OHSAA emblem embroidered on the shirt, and that the logo included the current year. In order to be compliant (or eligible for postseason, perhaps?) the umpire had to have that shirt, with that year on it. Not the 2013, not the 2014... but I could be wrong on the years... it may have been 2012, 2013, I don't remember exactly. There was a thread about it here on U-E, now deep in the archives.

It was just an rhetorical example of the nitpicking lengths associations go to, once again, control their members. Another hoop to jump through that, in the grand scheme of things, has utter trivial purposes. Is a coach going to dial down his anger and waive his protest when an umpire boots a ruling (not judgement) because – wouldja look at that? – the umpire is wearing the current standard, state-approved shirt?

Ohio might be thoroughly training and re-evaluating their officials. I don't know.

I could have used the example of Wisconsin, wherein the WIAA hat is the "official" piece. It could be navy, it could be black, but as is usually the case, umpires end up wearing it for everything from teeball to softball to college scrimmages, and it invariably gets filthy and faded. Then, in keeping with the state motto – "Forward!" – they use the navy shirt :Facepalm:. However, if the umpire is a "Level 5 Master Umpire", they're allowed to wear black. :huh2:

Look, I get it, associations are cheap (read: frugal, if not miserly), and state-HS organizations doubly so. In Arizona's case, we use the 2010 Vertical-stripe black, but (ready for this?) it's a dye-sublimated shirt (meaning, it started out white) with the AIA logo (which looks like something from NASCAR) in it. Honig's and Smitty used to make it, until Honigs dropped out (or was not re-invited). The problems with that shirt? Doesn't breathe as well as other "real" shirts, gets brittle when it dries, because it started life as a white shirt it fades noticeably, and... (drumroll please!)... it costs $49!!! That's on top of the $80 annual fee you must pay to be an AIA umpire.

Again, I could give a rip about what color or style shirt you use. My well-documented hatred of the navy shirt has, as I've stated before, nothing to do with the color navy – it has to do with what it represents, relative to (state) associations. When you put a greater emphasis on making sure all your umpires or officials are in the same uniform, rather than all your umpires or officials implement and apply the Rules and standard practices in a similar, consistent way, you've got your priorities backwards.

Bravo

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I'm glad NC is pretty laid back about uniform stuff. Our association has a lot of college guys so everyone has a lot of shirts/jackets and stays pretty up to date. As long as it's black (occasionally polo blue) we can wear what we want as long as we match. I think it feels good to go out on the field looking good and up to date. The teams do so I'm glad we do too.

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The guys that I work with have adopted the MILB motto of "we still wear black." I do think the state associations need to get on board with the new colors. There is nothing wrong with the college black or blue.

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With respect to the Ohio uniform requirements...

I first joined the OHSAA in 2000. Their uniforms do need to have a specific logo that has to be embroidered on shirts and hats. But they never had a logo with a specific date embroidered on it, as part of the logo itself, that changed year to year.

They had one logo when I started, no date on it, that was good for the first decade or so that I umpired. Then they redesigned the logo. Umpires were given a three year advance notice that the change was coming. That newer logo has been in effect for about five years. Again, no numbers or dates on the logo. It can be used every year into the future (until some point where it might change again).

The good news is that our official shirts and hats can be used from year to year going forward. The bad news is...they're blue! So, Ohio is kind of Draconian...but they're not THAT Draconian! 

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5 hours ago, BretMan said:

They had one logo when I started, no date on it, that was good for the first decade or so that I umpired. Then they redesigned the logo. Umpires were given a three year advance notice that the change was coming. That newer logo has been in effect for about five years. Again, no numbers or dates on the logo.

Pardon me, then. I just distinctly remember a topic thread on here about Ohio changing that logo three times in as many years, and I read that the distinguishing difference was the particular year. Maybe I misread it, maybe it was misinterpreted, maybe it was maligned... maybe I just fixated on it because of how much I, a Sconnie and Badger-alum despise Buckeyes. :D

Anyway, that aside, I find it... odd... that if a state as individualistic as Ohio, in this case, is instituting a thorough revamp of its uniform code such that you must buy and use a particular shirt (or other uniform article), why would you choose the most outdated and arcane style of said shirt? Hmmmmm....

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4 hours ago, MadMax said:

........., why would you choose the most outdated and arcane style of said shirt? Hmmmmm....

Because the association is run by old, out of touch, gezzers. There is no other explanation. 

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@MadMax that could also have been me talking about Oregon. But for that state, the patch has the year and sport on it. But is provided separately so you can pin it or use magnets. 

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So, you pay to be in the association run by fools, and they require you to buy different gear year after year.

But, there's so many umpires out there willing to take your place, you don't dare to stand up and say anything. Or, worse, just don't bother with their dopey mandates. 

Oh wait, you mean there aren't that many umpires out there? Never mind. 

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