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Coach Ball Things That Make You Go ... HUH?


UmpDC

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I umpire varsity baseball and travel ball like a lot of other umpires here.  Where I umpire there is a facility that hosts a lot of Travel Ball tournaments.  The last five to ten years has seen an explosion in the number of travel ball teams out there.  Mostly the coaches in varsity baseball and travel ball are good, but every once in a while I see or hear something from one of them that makes me go "What did you say?"  Here are my top four 2022 examples.  Perhaps other umps will add their favorites in this thread.

 

Number 1 - 18U travel ball game.

I am behind the plate and my partner is in the B position.  R1 is on first and the Batter Runner has a two ball count.  The pitcher throws a pitch and the BR pops it up in foul ground between the plate and first.  The first baseman drifts into foul territory and reaches up for the ball.  The ball clanks out of his glove, drops directly down to the ground in foul territory and then rolls into fair territory.  The first basemen yells, "Crud, I dropped it", so there is no mystery about him clanking the play.  I call it "Foul" and do the foul ball mechanic.  As the players are returning to position, the Coach of the Offensive team (in the first base dugout so this all happened right in front of him) calls time out and hustles up to me and proclaims, "That's a fair ball!".  I explain that it's foul because it touched the Firstbaseman's mitt in foul territory.  He continues his argument with an example of a bunt that rolls foul and then goes fair at the last minute.  I agree with that but tell him that's not the case if the ball hits something while it is foul.  He turns from me to my partner and yells, "Tell your partner that ball is fair."  My partner shakes his head and says, "No coach, that is foul".  He continues to get upset, so I finally mollify him and get him back in the dugout (without having to eject him) by telling him that there is a rule that states that as soon as an umpire yells "foul" the ball is foul no matter where it is.  As he heads back for the dugout he looks over his shoulder and says, "Just so long as you know you got it wrong."

 

Number 2 - 16U travel ball game.

I am in the B position and there is a runner on first with no outs.  The pitcher toes the rubber and R1 takes a lead.  The pitcher comes set and then tucks his chin down against his front shoulder to peek at the runner.  Then he lifts his head up to look at his target.  Then he lowers his chin to peek at the runner.  Then he looks up to the target and pitches.  My partner calls a strike.  The first base coach calls time out and tells me "He balked".  I asked for his argument.  The coach tells me "He's deceiving the runner by nodding his head up and down like that.".  I tell the coach, "A pitcher can't balk with his head."  The coach says, "The rule gives you the discretion to call that a balk and he's balking by deceiving the runner by nodding his head like that".  I ask the coach, "Then how is the pitcher supposed to check the runner on first?"  The coach says, "As soon as he comes set he can't look back."  I think for a minute and then just to move the game along and not argue anymore, I say to him with a smile, "Coach, you said it's in my judgment right?  Well then in my judgment that's not a balk."  21 ways to balk in the game.  I'm not familiar with any that involve nodding.

 

Number 3 - Varsity baseball.

R1 on first and R2 on second with one out and the pitcher is in the stretch.  I'm in the C position.  The pitcher comes set and then clearly steps back off the rubber and attempts to pick to first.  He throws it over the first baseman's head and directly into dead ball territory.  I call "Time" and say, "The pitcher stepped back before he through, so that's two bases to the runners" and I score R2 and place R1 on third.  The coach, from the dugout screams at me, "Your timing sucks!  You need to let the play develop before you make a call!"  I said, "Coach since you' chose to yell across the diamond I'm going to ask you this question so everyone can hear it.  That ball was out of play as soon as it crossed the white "out of play" line.  By that I mean "out of play" as in the play is over and nothing else can happen.  Perhaps you can explain to the rest of the class exactly what other occurrence should I wait for before I make the call "Out of Play?"  The coach pauses, opens his mouth and then sits down on the bench quiet.  Game resumes with no more argument and no need for an ejection.

 

Number 4 - 18U travel ball game.

R1 is on first and the pitcher is left handed.  I'm in the B position.  The pitcher comes set and then lifts his front leg.  R1 is going on the first move and attempts to steal second.  The pitcher alertly picks to first and the first baseman throws to the shortstop at second base.  A run down ensues.  The shortstop runs R1 back towards first and then throws to the Firstbaseman.  The SS halts in the exact spot in the baseline from where he threw the ball.  The firstbaseman starts to chase R1 toward second and R1 collides with the SS while the Firstbaseman is still holding the ball.  I call time, point with my left hand and call "Obstruction" and place R1 on second base.  The defensive coach charges onto the field without calling time out and yells, "That's not obstruction, Blue.  You don't know the rule!  You don't even know that it's not 'obstruction'!  It's interference!  Get it straight before you make a call!"  I turn to the coach and say, "First off, I'm going to do you a favor.  'Time out'!  Now we can talk.  Coach that's textbook obstruction.  The short stop is in the baseline without the ball and he's not in the immediate act of catching the ball.  The baserunner collided with him and that's 'Obstruction'.  You obstruct runners and you interfer with the defense."  He looks confused and then shouts, "Well you have to give the shortstop time to make a baseball move."  I took my sunglasses off and said, "Coach, I'm familiar with five rule sets;  Little League, NHSF, Babe Ruth, American Legion and the Official Rules of Baseball.  If you can pull out your phone, google that term and find a place in any one of them the phrase 'baseball move', I'll put R1 wherever you want him."  He opens his mouth to argue, when his own Shortstop taps him on his shoulder and says, "Coach, the Blue is right."

 

Now I'm not claiming to be perfect, but maybe at that level some of these coaches should had some of this stuff straight by now.

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3 minutes ago, UmpDC said:

I said, "Coach since you' chose to yell across the diamond I'm going to ask you this question so everyone can hear it.  That ball was out of play as soon as it crossed the white "out of play" line.  By that I mean "out of play" as in the play is over and nothing else can happen.  Perhaps you can explain to the rest of the class exactly what other occurrence should I wait for before I make the call "Out of Play?"

😂😂 😂 

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1 hour ago, UmpDC said:

Number 4 - 18U travel ball game.

  The firstbaseman starts to chase R1 toward second and R1 collides with the SS while the Firstbaseman is still holding the ball.  I call time, point with my left hand and call "Obstruction" and place R1 on second base.  The defensive coach charges onto the field without calling time out and yells, "That's not obstruction, Blue.  You don't know the rule!  You don't even know that it's not 'obstruction'!  It's interference!  Get it straight before you make a call!"  I turn to the coach and say, "First off, I'm going to do you a favor.  'Time out'!  Now we can talk.  Now I'm not claiming to be perfect, but maybe at that level some of these coaches should had some of this stuff straight by now.

 

I like all of them but the bolded in this one made me chuckle..  You had called time why does he need time to come talk to you?

 

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That's a little habit of mine.  I tell every coach at the plate meeting that if they want to talk to me ore my partner they should ask for time before they come onto the field.  I make them do it even if there is a dead ball or time is out because I find it stops a lot of coaches from charging out of the dugout in a white heat.  It almost forces them to slow down and take a breath.  Technically it's not necessary, but I make them do it so their approach to me and my partner is kind of regulated.  Plus I can assert a bit of control at the beginning of the conversation by saying something like,  "Coach, did you call time out?  Remember I asked you guys at the plate meeting to call time out before you come talk to us?"  Almost every time I'll see them pause, take a breath and then say, "Time please, Blue" and the whole situation de-escalates a bit.

It's a small tone setter.  I always make it clear I'll listen to anything so long as its in a civil tone and face to face.  I've let coaches call time, walk up to me and, in a civil tone, swear at me for missing a call and I'll let it run because they stayed calm and followed the procedure.  They feel better because they got their say and I don't have to raise my voice or write up ejection paperwork after the game.  I don't like to eject people and will go out of my way not to and this was a trick a wise old umpire taught me.  One of the things I'm proudest of with the above examples is no one got ejected as a result.

Your milage may vary, but it works for me.

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1 hour ago, UmpDC said:

That's a little habit of mine.  I tell every coach at the plate meeting that if they want to talk to me ore my partner they should ask for time before they come onto the field.  I make them do it even if there is a dead ball or time is out because I find it stops a lot of coaches from charging out of the dugout in a white heat.  It almost forces them to slow down and take a breath.  Technically it's not necessary, but I make them do it so their approach to me and my partner is kind of regulated.  Plus I can assert a bit of control at the beginning of the conversation by saying something like,  "Coach, did you call time out?  Remember I asked you guys at the plate meeting to call time out before you come talk to us?"  Almost every time I'll see them pause, take a breath and then say, "Time please, Blue" and the whole situation de-escalates a bit.

It's a small tone setter.  I always make it clear I'll listen to anything so long as its in a civil tone and face to face.  I've let coaches call time, walk up to me and, in a civil tone, swear at me for missing a call and I'll let it run because they stayed calm and followed the procedure.  They feel better because they got their say and I don't have to raise my voice or write up ejection paperwork after the game.  I don't like to eject people and will go out of my way not to and this was a trick a wise old umpire taught me.  One of the things I'm proudest of with the above examples is no one got ejected as a result.

Your milage may vary, but it works for me.

One less thing that should be said at a plate meeting. 

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My question is how many of these coaches remain convinced they were right and sat around at the end of the season saying 'you won't believe the things umpires got wrong this year, here are some of the worst...'

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19 hours ago, UmpDC said:

The coach, from the dugout screams at me, "Your timing sucks!  You need to let the play develop before you make a call!" 

In a varsity game, If this is screamed at me, the coach is going to the parking lot. Actually, in any game, that's a dump. You should not in any circumstance let that go. Period.

All you scenarios, while amusing, contain too much banter with the coaches. You're not going to convince them you're right. Keep your comments to a minimum, and use rulebook terminology when talking with coaches. The scenarios above are either an ejection, or dangerously close to one. And you exacerbated the situations by engaging the coaches with unnecessary explanations or conversations.

There's no glory in keeping coaches "in the game" by not ejecting when you should have. It's kicking the can down the road and making it problematic for other umpires. These behaviors by the coaches, and umpires not properly addressing them, are one of the main reasons for the baseball officials shortage.

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Ok I see what you mean,

 

Admittedly, down at my level I do at plate meetings stress as the last thing of a plate meeting "sportsmanship is key in LL and also please call time and wait for it to be given before leaving the dugout to come chat with me"  Next line is "Any questions or comments?"

 

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1 hour ago, ArchAngel72 said:

Ok I see what you mean,

 

Admittedly, down at my level I do at plate meetings stress as the last thing of a plate meeting "sportsmanship is key in LL and also please call time and wait for it to be given before leaving the dugout to come chat with me"  Next line is "Any questions or comments?"

 

Yeah, I set the 'how to approach me' bit in my sportsmanship talk. I say something like (at one point, I was word-for-word after making this speech 15 times a weekend :D):

"Finally, Sportsmanship is a Point of Emphasis this year, AND every year.  Please remember that all of us are adults here and are expected to be role models to the players and fans.  So please ensure that you treat each-other, the players, and us/me (depending if I'm solo) with respect throughout and after the game.  As a part of that, my partner and I are completely open to any respectful discussions you might have during the game. 

To do so, wait for the end of action, ask us for time, and we'll let you come out and chat.  We're open to discussions about what we saw, what rules we're applying, and the rules as we understand them, but of course, we're unable to discuss or argue judgement calls themselves.  Questions?  Ok, good luck guys, and lets have a great game!"

I do this all the way up through HS-level ball (have only done 16U tournaments), and a different, but similar pointed one at adult leagues.  I find it sets the tone really nicely, and gets us off to a friendly start.  Additionally, by making it a 'rehearsed' speech, I find no one gets offended by it, and spends the whole time nodding their head along.

IN game, the few times I've had where the coach wanted to come out, I hold up my hand and say "not yet, not yet" (if play hasn't stopped), and "not on a live ball" (if they haven't called time out).  I find both of those work, even if the person is really grumpy about a call/situation/etc.

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3 hours ago, JonnyCat said:

In a varsity game, If this is screamed at me, the coach is going to the parking lot. Actually, in any game, that's a dump. You should not in any circumstance let that go. Period.

All you scenarios, while amusing, contain too much banter with the coaches. You're not going to convince them you're right. Keep your comments to a minimum, and use rulebook terminology when talking with coaches. The scenarios above are either an ejection, or dangerously close to one. And you exacerbated the situations by engaging the coaches with unnecessary explanations or conversations.

There's no glory in keeping coaches "in the game" by not ejecting when you should have. It's kicking the can down the road and making it problematic for other umpires. These behaviors by the coaches, and umpires not properly addressing them, are one of the main reasons for the baseball officials shortage.

JonnyCat,

I understand your approach and I have used it.  I'm not citing myself as an example for behavior so much as pointing out a humorous lack of knowledge on the part of some people who should probably know better.

That said, personally I didn't find that approach worked for me and as I watched other umpires I admired and that had the respect of coaches and players, at least in my observation, it was the umpires that were willing to listen and engage a little in "banter".  I believe in controlling the tone of the interaction (cool, calm and approachable), especially with coaches I don't know and I find that a quick display of wit or knowledge defuses things 99% of the time.  Most of the time they're not really mad at me so much as their mad at the situation and they've got no where else to go with it.  It's my style which I developed over years and it works for me. 

My approach has a lot to do with what I do for a living.  (I'm a small business man and customer service is Job One.  I can't just shut people down and keep their business.  I let them blow a little, then talk to them in a calm and friendly tone and that fixes 99% of all the problems I encounter with clients.  Your millage may vary.)  I'm always cool and collected when I speak to clients and I always let them have their say.  Then I address their issue directly and, when warranted, have a wink and a smile with them).  It's just who I am and I can't really be any other way without looking like a phony.  No one else has to do it my way. 

The only thing you said that I take any slight exception to is that my approach one of the main reasons for the baseball officals shortage.  That's a multi-faceted problem and there are many causes.  It hasn't been my experience that handling things with a wink, a smile and a couple of calm, cool and collected moments of detente has been a catalyst for trouble.

That said,   I was hoping others would have some "head scratch-er" stories to tell.

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Just as an example of how I work my style, I'll tell one on myself. 

I was doing the back half of a double header in an American Legion game last year.  It was a very hot day and the games were as long and sluggish as the afternoon sun.  I wasn't having a brilliant day behind the plate, but I was working hard to stay as consistent as possible and move the game a bit.  One coach, as he walked to the third base coaching box, carped a little to me about the strike zone.  Nothing inflammatory.  He just quietly mentioned he didn't like one or two of the calls at the top of my zone.  I shrugged and he left it at that.

During the inning a player on his team struck out looking on a boarder line high pitch.  I thought it caught the top of the zone (the ball or any part thereof), so I called it a strike.  Neither the coach or the player said anything.  Honestly I think at that point most people just wanted to go home.

After the third out the coach comes walking back to the dugout.  I was wiping the sweat off my mask pads and he strolled up and said in a quiet voice, "You know called that same pitch a ball a couple of times earlier in the game."  I looked at him and winked and said, "Well then that means at least at some point I got it right."  He burst out laughing and slapped me on the back.  I've never had another issue with that coach ever since.

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I don't have as good of stories as @UmpDC, but a head scratcher from this year:

LL Juniors District Tournament; Game 2, of Best of 3. 2 Outs. R1 and R3. I'm U1 in a three-man crew. With R1 and in A on a big field with three-man, I like to move up to about 4-6 feet behind 1B in foul territory, so as the pickoff throw is made, I just have to step one or two quick strides toward the base and into fair territory and I'm right on top of the play in the keyhole.

Pitcher makes a good pickoff move to first (you know it's good when you hear R1 say "oh, $%*#"). R1 dives back to 1B, but his slide ends about 1/2" short of the bag--I can clearly see the gap between the bag and R1's batting glove. Tag is applied and R1, realizing he didn't make it back to the bag, extends his hand to the bag. Easy call for me--break out the hammer and call him out.

First base coach complains about the call and asks if I would get help from one of the other umpires. "I'm not going for help. No one had a better look at it than I did, coach."

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I was doing a 10U championship game.
R1.   Less than 2 outs.
R1 stealing on pitch.
Batter hits line drive to SS which is caught for an out.
R1 retreats to 1B.
SS throws ball past F3 and goes under the fence out of play.
R1 does get back to touch 1B.

I award R1 3B and the entire defensive coaches and parents collectively state NO!!!

The DHC comes over and I explain that it's 2 bases from TOT.
He thinks it's only 1 base award on an overthrow.
He is adamant that's the rule.
We're standing by the 3B coach and tells me he's a HS coach and asks him if it's 1 base on an overthrow...he goes "Uh, that sounds right".

I tried by best to explain 1 base on overthrow isn't a thing and finally said:
If you want, go ahead and protest, let's get the UIC on the phone and let's take care of it.   He says no and we proceed.

Later in the game he came over and said he looked it up and I was right.
I also had 3 other sperate parents (from both teams) come up and tell me I made the right call.

I'm always surprised how ADAMENT every coach is when they tell me what the rule is.

Same thing happens from time to time when a batter swings at pitch that hits him.
The ones that don't know are ADAMENT they should get 1B.
It always goes like this:
Ball hits batter while swinging at the pitch.
Me:  Time.  Strike.
Coach: The ball hit him. 
Me: Yes it did.  But he swung at the pitch.
Coach:  Doesn't matter, it hit him.
Me:  Sorry coach...it's a strike
Coach:   I've never heard that before.

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1 hour ago, BLarson said:

It always goes like this:
Ball hits batter while swinging at the pitch.
Me:  Time.  Strike.
Coach: The ball hit him. 
Me: Yes it did.  But he swung at the pitch.
Coach:  Doesn't matter, it hit him.
Me:  Sorry coach...it's a strike
Coach:   I've never heard that before.

 

I had one earlier this year or last cannot recall.  Big 10 U kid and I mean LARGE  looked like a large 12 yr old.

He gets up and steps into the box has his feet just toes touching the inside of the line on the box and the lines are NOT correct they are barely 2 inches off the plate never mind the 4 they are supposed to be but meh lines are there and he is in them.

Hes got this huge mean lean on his stance and he is leaning in over the plate crowding it so much I had to abandon the slot and stand over the catcher as I could not see the plate at all. 

Pitch comes in over the middle of the plate just under the armpits and wacks him in the side.. not hard but I hear him "ooof"

Time..  Thats a strike!...

 

Batter stay here.. as he starts to trot to 1st.  took him a second and about 30 seconds of explaining to his coach his lean over the plate is excessive and it does not matter that he got  hit if it was in the strike zone thats a strike...

 

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4 hours ago, UmpDC said:

The only thing you said that I take any slight exception to is that my approach one of the main reasons for the baseball officals shortage.  That's a multi-faceted problem and there are many causes.  It hasn't been my experience that handling things with a wink, a smile and a couple of calm, cool and collected moments of detente has been a catalyst for trouble.

Fair enough, thanks for the reply.

However, it's not the banter you engage in that sparks my ire. Some umpires can get away with more talking than others. I prefer to not talk as much. That's just me.

What I do take exception to is not dumping when clearly the situation warrants it. Any coach screaming from the dugout, "Your timing sucks....", needs to go immediately. Letting coaches get away with these comments, is what I'm talking about with regards to a shortage of officials. When we don't take care of business, it empowers the coaches to continue to engage in inappropriate on field behavior. That behavior continues and escalates until someone takes care of it. The standards of behavior must be enforced by us, no one else is doing it. If we don't set the tone and demand a better standard of behavior, we will continue to lose and not retain officials. The number one reason for people leaving or not wanting to enter officiating, is they don't want to take the abuse. We simply cannot allow the abuse of officials to continue. It starts with us. By not dumping when they clearly need to go, makes the job harder for all of us in the future.

With that being said, I appreciate the stories, and I apologize if I missed the purpose of your post.

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Pretty much all of this stuff is because previous umpires did not do their job with game management.  Several years ago, I was working a 16u travel ball game.  The batter took a pretty good pitch for strike three.  He took two steps toward the dugout and launched his bat against the backstop.  I promptly ejected him.  After the game, on my way to my car, three sets of parents came up to thank me, saying that he's been doing that all year with no action by either the umpires or his coach.

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57 minutes ago, BigBlue4u said:

I promptly ejected him.  After the game, on my way to my car, three sets of parents came up to thank me, saying that he's been doing that all year with no action by either the umpires or his coach.

I've both experienced this myself and hear it often from other umpires.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Thank you, @mac266! I read through these and thought, "I just see three missed ejections here..."

So, I used to do the whole, "Gentlemen, if you have a question on a call, please ask for time, wait for time to be granted and then approach the umpire that made the call and ask your question. If we need to get together to further adjudicate your call we will and we ask that you return to your dugout and we'll give you our final ruling."

Then I had a veteran umpire in my association tell me in post-game, "Don't tell them how to come out and talk to us at the plate meeting. When you do that, you are already introducing the notion in their heads (and ours) that we are going to miss calls!"

Anybody have any feedback on whether or not this should be a part of plate meetings? Is it situational?

~Dawg

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