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StrikeToWin

Too familiar???

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So this weekend at a tournament, I worked with a guy that doesn't normally work at our park and he told me that I am too familiar with the players and coaches.  I understand that he works a lot of varsity HS and collegiate ball, but most of my work is done at one park (my work schedule does not allow me to work very much HS ball) so I know a lot of the coaches and a lot of the players.  I got to thinking about this and wondered how some of you all handle this.  I have worked the same park for 4 years now and I have watched some of these kids playing the whole time.  Now, most of the players know that I don't play favorites and I will still call them like I see them, but is there a point that you get too familiar with the teams that you see week in and week out?  Some of those players that I have known for years also work the field crew and I had their game earlier in the day with a different partner and they were asking about a call that happened in their game (my call, not partners call) and my new partner shut them down immediately and said we won't be discussing plays from an earlier game.  They were not involved in the game that was about to be played, they were working the field since they were out of the tournament.  I guess I am just curious how you can work at a place, and see the same kids and coaches several times per year and not become familiar with them?  

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You are ONE "bad" call away from being the worst human being to ever walk the earth. (Bad being a relative term).

Tread carefully here.  There is one school I seem to get 4 or 5 times per HS season and players and coaches try to be familiar, but I keep in mind that the OTHER team, their coaches and fans are watching.  You cannot do anything that gives a team an opening to question your integrity.

In fact, I have started to get some games with our local HS and my youngest son is friends with many of the players.  One said to me "Hi Mr. so & so" and I just gave him the glare.  He got it.  I also made a comment to the coach (who is also one of my son's teachers and I serve on an advisory committee for his curriculum) and he may have said something to the kids.  To his credit, he kept it strictly "professional."

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One of my pet peeves is working with a guy who is too familiar on the field. 

Now unlike you I do not work at any particular too often where this becomes a problem for me. IMO, when you put on the uniform you have to remove yourself from such situations. Keep the conversations with the players, coaches, parents, etc short and sweet. Don't be rude or unapproachable, just keep things to exchanging simple pleasantries, but no long drawn out conversations. 

We have a guy in our association who others have referred to as "The mayor of (complex name)." His children played there, he was on the board for a very long time, he's also active in the community outside of baseball and seemingly knows everybody. And don't get me wrong he is a very nice and genuinely sincere. BUT... The walk from the parking lot to the field of just a few hundred yards can take 15 min. He has to not only say hi to everybody, but he gets into conversations about how are the kids, hows the garden, what college is little Jimmy going to? And the same happens when we finally get to the field he's starting again with the coaches at the plate meeting. 

When there's an infraction on the field I feel he over-explains as he feels obligated to because of his familiarity. In a Colt (14-15 y/o) game we had a balk and he proceeded to have a lengthy balk clinic. My balk explanations are usually you didn't stop, you didn't step, you popped your knee, etc..

So my recommendation is in the community go ahead and be the socialite, but when you put on the uniform be pleasant but approachable and don't fraternize.

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I don't work 1 place as a regular spot, generally speaking.

The only places in our areas that see regular umpires, are the local LL's. When it comes to all-star tournament time, if they want to work the tournament games, they get sent to different places. It helps keep the 'homer' out of the discussion of the fans/teams. The umpire's all call a good game, but we try to schedule them in different places, to keep the fans/teams from talking and complaining.

I think it is better for everyone involved.

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Before becoming a high school official I worked the local LL for 5 years and I still work games there (higher level of course). Almost all of the kids there know me. A lot play on the MS and HS team and they always seem happy when I'm working their school game. It must look bad to the other team with these kids knowing me so well, but I generally try not to talk with them during the game. It was funny when two local MS schools played each other and both teams were basically all star teams from the LL so everyone knew me. That was a fun plate game!

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6 hours ago, StrikeToWin said:

So this weekend at a tournament, I worked with a guy that doesn't normally work at our park and he told me that I am too familiar with the players and coaches.

There is a difference between being familiar with the participants and acting familiar with the participants. I can only assume that the reason an unfamiliar guy made such a comment is that he noticed you acting too familiar with the players/coaches...talking/joking/laughing with them. For someone coming in fresh, it looks unprofessional at best and showing favoritism at worst...whether you are showing favoritism or not. It is one of my pet peeves as well. 

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I had an awkward situation relating to this topic the other day. Sub varsity team that I worked quite a few games for from '11 through '14 and got to know the coach fairly well. That's not to say we haven't had our disagreements on calls, but he's always civil, and our discussions about plays or calls almost always end with both of us smiling. He''s one of the coaches who "get it".

Anyway, I get his team this year....As we're walking up to the field, he's near his dugout, sees me and yells out "Hey Richie!!!!! Long time no see!!" Right away I look at the VTHC and I see his head pop up, and I can tell he's thinking "oh boy, this is going to be interesting game. "

I downplayed the HTHC's "greeting", and sort of motioned with my head towards the VTHC as to say :shhh:. Luckily, like I said, this guy does get it, and realized what he did and  toned down his enthusiasm immediately. Turns out the VTHC was a great guy also and we had a great game.

 

I've been on games with the "mayors". It's very awkward to say the least.

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I'm going to run against the trend, to a certain extent.

I'm in the same group as UIC - although, for the life of me, I don't know to whom he's referring in his post - and I'd agree with the familiarity deal.  Luckily, getting to the same place more than 5-6 times in a year is rare.  (Sure, I've been to some of the rec places that many games, or more, but when you actually look who the specific teams are, I just don't see the same faces all the time.)  So, it's pretty easy to keep that distance.

But for the first four years of my umpiring career, I worked games in a small town in Outback Australia.  If I didn't know every player by name, I could certainly recognize them.  ALL of them - the adult league guys, the teens in the "Colt" league, and the juniors kids that played Saturday mornings.  And it was a lot like life - you get along well with some people, not so well with others.  It was what it was.  Sorry, but in that situation, I chose not to be aloof.  These were my neighbors, co-workers, and friends in a town of less than 25,000;  much as I love umpiring, I enjoyed being a part of a community.  Besides, umpires are ALWAYS pariahs, anyway.

So, TL;  DR?  YMMV.

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I think that if this is a local league - where all of the teams share this field and play each other for a season - it isn't a problem.  The familiarity is equal, they all know you and you know all of them.  Where it could be a problem is if you have a small number of "home" teams that have all sorts of visitors coming into this park so that you know the home team and none of the visitors.

I have always worked a small number of local Babe Ruth leagues and get to know everyone without any problem, once had the same AAU home team 4 times in a season (they draw from all over New England) and it was terrible.

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When my partner told me this, the guys that work the field crew were just asking me questions about my call in the earlier game since I was at the field while they were working it.  Yeah, we do league at our park but we also do a lot of tournaments so we do have a lot of "visiting" teams come in.  I like to think that I keep my objectivity and unbiased calls, but I don't know.  I like the tournaments because I get to see different teams rather than the same teams that I see every week and it's a nice change.  It's tough not to talk to the guys that work the field crew and sometimes they have some good rules questions and actually think about the game.  Some of those same players have even expressed interest in becoming umpires so we talk about that.  

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11 hours ago, HokieUmp said:

These were my neighbors, co-workers, and friends in a town of less than 25,000;

I live in a town of 750. Anybody on the teams I don't know personally, I at least know their names and their parents. Occasionally I'll have one call me by name, and I'll lean down to them and say "when we're on the field, you need to call me 'Blue', once we're done, you can call me 'Kyle' again". Generally, it hasn't been a problem.

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I can definitely think of one local umpire who is WAY too familiar / comfortable with the local teams. When we're working, I don't want to see my partner chatting over the rail with fans between innings, or laughing with coaches, or taking over the plate conference as BU to explain "his" ground rules, or not doing any pre-game or post-game with me because he's too busy holding court.  It's incredibly unprofessional, although I doubt the teams / coaches / fans know any better. So when other umpires work with him, we look like unapproachable a-holes in comparison.

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We have a guy in our local high school association who is exactly as Warren described.  What should be a 3 minute walk to the field turns into a 15 minute stop and start stroll.  It's almost like you need to hold their hand and drag them through the crowd.  He's a nice guy, but I'm not sure that he knows how/we to switch gears from overly friendly to business-like for the game.  Don't get me wrong, if we're walking toward the field and someone says hi to me, I'll return the pleasantry.  However, I'm not going to stop and have a conversation with everyone I see. 

Luckily our group doesn't cover that many schools and we have a decent amount of umpires, so it's rare if I'm at the same school 2 or 3 times a season, which I like.  Our assigner does a pretty good job of spreading us out so we don't see the same team too many times.

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5 hours ago, kylehutson said:

I live in a town of 750. Anybody on the teams I don't know personally, I at least know their names and their parents. Occasionally I'll have one call me by name, and I'll lean down to them and say "when we're on the field, you need to call me 'Blue', once we're done, you can call me 'Kyle' again". Generally, it hasn't been a problem.

Fair enough.  I can't remember what people called me on the field.  "Wanker," maybe?

You certainly have me on town size.  But I'll one-up on this one:  if you drew a circle in a 400-mile radius around my old town, you STILL wouldn't have much more than the original 25,000, other than bands of Aboringines that roamed the bush.  (You might be able to draw that circle even bigger, but I don't remember the distances any more.)

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2 hours ago, HokieUmp said:

if you drew a circle in a 400-mile radius around my old town, you STILL wouldn't have much more than the original 25,000

You win. I live about 30 miles from a 50k city (yes, in Kansas, 50k population ranks you as a "city").

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Due to where I live I only have access to one or two sites and the sites have a team that always play their home games there . I try to keep the relationships professional but they train their players to shake the umpire's hand after the game when all of the other teams don't. I'm not sure what I should do with this. I don't want to appear biased but don't want to appear snobbish either.

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You should be off the field and halfway to your car before they can even think about shaking your hand.  Maybe the catcher or one or two players is "in your way" as you are exiting -- but just give a fist bump (or a short hand shake) and keep moving.

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It is just a game, so there's nothing wrong with being cordial.  It's not war.

That said, I know when I was a player there wasn't much more irritating than going on the road and seeing the officials (didn't matter the sport) being chummy with the home team and fairly rude to our (away) team.  

As most have said, there are lines.  Don't go seeking out personal conversations.  

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Unfortunately, especially during league, we don't even do plate introductions anymore since we all know each other.  I have a daughter that goes to school with half of the high school kids that play league at our park and my daughter has even worked at the park so a lot of the kids know me (yes, a few have even been to my house or go to church with me) but once on the field they know I don't play favorites.  When I do the few HS games that I get, there is no familiarity with the coaches or players since I only work 3 or 4 dates per year due to work schedule.  The coaches and the players don't always agree with my call but they at least know it is not personal when I'm on the field.

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