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mepperson

Does the league respect you?

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I almost lost my passion for umpiring, and for baseball, a couple of years ago because of a league that consistently and constantly disrespected the umpires. When I moved here, I had finally gotten myself into a "professional" state of mind - before, umpiring had been more of a hobby; and I had been working on doing games with the same professionalism that I show in my 'regular' job.

The things I had been working on were my positioning and mechanics (making my signals sharp), my attitude (going out to have fun doing a job instead of putting the having fun first), and looking sharp in my uniform when I took the field.

I quickly learned that the league I was moving to viewed the umpires more as an evil necessity than part of the game. The umpires are expected, basically, to make calls that keep the game running smoothly (which is not always what is in the Rules) and without incident from either team. When an incident does arise, the umpire is expected to let the players and coaches, as well spectators, basically "run over" the umpire and to take this in stride. Unfortunately, the umpires here who stay with this league have accepted this and, in my opinion, degrade themselves by allowing this attitude to continue.

During my first tournament here, I ejected a player for his language and attempting to show me up on a Called 3rd Strike. After the ejection, when the player charged me and threatened me with physical violence (making my wife dial 9-1-1 with her finger on the Talk button, ready to make the call), I ejected the manager for failure to control the ejected player. I was then pulled from the tournament schedule when the manager threatened to pull his team and go back to Florida. This was a team that had a "reputation" among the umpires to begin with (of which I was unaware until after this incident).

A couple of years later, I encountered a similar situation - I ejected a player for throwing his bat in response to a Called 3rd Strike (the bat hit the backstop about 2/3 the way up because he threw it with such force). After an argument by the manager over the ejection - which I allowed because the manager kept his language clean and was doing as a manager should by standing up for his player - he decided to shout a few obscenities my way on his trip back to the dugout; for this, he, too, was ejected. As the two gathered their gear, the obscenities flared up again; so, the other player who was on the bench and who had joined in the shouting my way, was also ejected. This left the team with too few players to continue; so, I declared a forfeit.

That evening, I got a call telling me that the game had continued after I left, and that the league was accepting the result of the game as it had been completed, rejecting the forfeit that I had declared and the ejections that I had handed out. The next week, after the managers' meeting, I found out that I had been suspended.

The final straw came when, during a blow-out, one of the commissioners was on the mound - a man with whom I have no quarrels, and whom I considered a friend. He was having trouble finding the Strike Zone, and was getting upset. From the mound, he made strong implications that I was calling Ball on pitches that should be strikes, and that I was somehow doing this to penalize him. Normally, I would have considered the possibility that he was joking about it, and would have reacted in that fashion. Somehow, though, his tone was more serious; so, I took this as a true attack on my integrity. I finished that game, but decided after the game that it was unreal that a commission was actually questioning an umpire's integrity in the middle of a game.

That was the last game that I worked for that league. I was called back the next year, but declined telling the league that I would return when their attitude toward the umpires improved.

Mine might seem like an isolated case; but, I've been told that many "excellent" umpires from this area decline to work for this league for the same reasons.

Do you have these issues?

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Most adult leagues are like that from what I understand. When you mix booze and a heated situation, the outcome is never good. The umpires in our league always have the full support from our Board/Coordinators/Commissioners. If coaches acted like that in our league, it would be them getting suspended...not you. I suggest finding a different league to work at because to me, that sounds rediculous.

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I would just not work that league. As professionally as I take my self on the field, I'm not going to be somebody's whipping boy. I have enough stress and heartache from my 9-5 that I look forward to my games as almost a therapeutic time where I can block out everything else and just umpire. If a coach wants to give me grief I'm actually pretty lenient and let them vent, until they cross the line. These leagues, like you've described, have created a poisonous culture. Where as they acquire new players they are quickly indoctrinated into the "blame the ump" philosophy and continue to perpetuate the environment.

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