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funny story from behind the plate

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NOTE:  I wrote this for my non-umpire friends.  There are some bits of explanation in here that umpires don't need, but try reading it from the perspective of a non-umpire.


So there I was, calling a JV high school game from behind the plate.  I was the only umpire (and working one umpire sucks!).  The batter walked up to take the box, and apparently he and the catcher knew one another.  They had probably played on a Little League team together or something, but the schools were about a 45 minute drive from one another.


One of the batter's teammates was encouraging him from the dugout, telling him to hit a dinger.  The catcher looks at the batter and says, "I'll give you ten bucks if you hit a dinger," and then gave the sign to the pitcher.  He must have called for a fastball straight down the middle -- I can't see the sign from where I'm standing and frankly neither need to nor do I care -- but a fastball down the middle is what the pitcher delivered.


I tracked the ball with my eyes from the pitcher's hand all the way in like I'm supposed to, when suddenly the bat appeared in my field of vision and made contact with the ball.  It's pretty cool to see if you're standing in the umpire's slot and tracking a baseball the way you're supposed to.  You can tell what kind of hit it's going to be as soon as it contacts the bat, and you also know if you're going to get tagged with a foul ball -- but you dare not move or flinch!   


Anyway, this contact was solid and the entire field rung with the "ping" from the aluminum bat.  I always track the ball for a few seconds and then shift focus to the fielders to see what's going to happen (try doing this when you watch baseball on TV or in person.  The outfielders have a much better angle and know about where it's going to land.  I can't tell you how many times I hear a crowd go "OOOOOH" on a routine fly ball, thinking it's going to be a home run.  If you watch the outfielders, you can tell where they're running to.  An outfielder running IN towards the infield to make a catch means this is *NOT* going to be a home run, etc.).  


These outfielders were SPRINTING to the outfield fence with all the speed they could muster.  As the ball sailed through the air, seeming to pick up speed, I told the catcher, "I think you owe him ten bucks, dude." 


The thing about calling home runs from the plate is that distance sucks, and high school fields usually have a chain link fence instead of a green plywood wall like they have at higher levels; I don't have a color contrast to look for.  You usually can't tell if it hit the fence or went over.  So I wait a few seconds before making the call -- if the outfielders are scrambling to pick up the ball, then it hit the fence.  If they stand there kicking dirt and looking at their feet, it was a home run.  In this case, there were some pine trees about 15 feet beyond the fence, and I saw a pine branch recoil in horror at the offense of having been struck by a high speed baseball.  Home run.  I gave the twirling mechanic with my hand, but no one was watching me at that point.  


I suppose that catcher learned not to challenge a batter like that and then give him the perfect pitch with which to hit one :)

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NOTE:  I wrote this for my non-umpire friends.  There are some bits of explanation in here that umpires don't need, but try reading it from the perspective of a non-umpire.   So there I was,

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