Posted by: johnhourihan | May 1, 2013

Youth baseball: Play Fair and Win

It is that time again. Youth baseball.umpire photo
The following is an excerpt from “Play Fair and Win,“ a how to coach youth baseball book, with a few extras such as how to study to be a youth baseball umpire.
One such chapter follows:
We coaches have a natural hatred for umpires.
I don’t know why, but that seems to be the way it is.  I believe it comes from when we were players.
The official is like a cop.  No one likes a cop because a cop gives you tickets when you speed.  No one likes an umpire because he calls you out sometimes.
Whatever the reason, coaches and parents seem to rail on umpires at the youth level never knowing what it is like to actually be an umpire.
I can’t tell you in words what it is like, but I have come up with a test that gives you an idea.
Don’t get me wrong.  Since I was first called out at the plate by a guy without his glasses, I have believed that umpires are, at best, a necessary evil in the game.
That established, I was having coffee one day with a friend, and we talked about his particularly insane hobby, “umpiring youth baseball games.”
This job entails more knowledge of the rules than any other level of ball since it deals with “extra” calls.
Some are weird, like a runner can’t leave the base until the pitched ball is at the plate, and then there’s the slide rule, and the three-inning rule, and the thousand batting-out-of-turn calls never seen in the majors.
He said that once that year he was stumped when a coach called time in a bases loaded tie game, that had already been saved twice by a catcher adept at blocking low pitches.
“He says to me, ‘Is this catcher wearing a cup?  That’s a rule,’ he says.  I didn’t check, and I got heat for it.”
So you think it’s easy?
Then you make the call.
And don’t take a lot of time to think it over.  This has to be instantaneous.
1.    Runners on first and third.  The one on third has stayed on the base legally as the pitch is thrown.  However, when the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, the runner steals home.  The pitcher overthrows the catcher, and the runner on first goes to second.  The ball bounces off the backstop and goes behind the bench, where it is picked up by a mother who throws it to the pitcher, who overthrows third base and the second runner scores.
Go ahead make a call.
2.    The right fielder has forgotten his left shoe.  Can he play?
3.    If a coach has a fist fight with a relative of an opposing player and you didn’t see how it started, who gets thrown out of the game, and is there a forfeit?
You have three seconds to make the call.
4.    Fifteen minutes after starting time of a game, one team has seven players.   The coach says, “I’ve found a few kids from a different team who can fill in.”  They are last year’s all-star starting pitcher and the league’s batting champ.  The other coach, who has 12 players, gladly offers the bottom of his bench as substitutes, but the first coach says, with a moral attitude, “Those players should play on their own team.”
Mouth-frothing parents, two teams, six coaches and the league director are watching.
Don’t screw up.
5.    At 8:15 p.m. a ground ball goes through the legs of the third baseman in a game that the defensive team is winning buy one run.  The coach goes out to his pitcher, calls the third baseman over, who listens to him and promptly says to you, “I missed the ball because it is too dark, and I couldn’t see it.”  You know the coach told him to say it, and to make matters worse, the kid has not stopped a ball all year.
What constitutes darkness?  Should you call the game?
6.    The league’s best pitcher was having trouble in the game and was visited twice in one inning by his coach.  Now he has found the plate, but a dog runs onto the field and is snarling at him.  The coach retrieves the dog and asks the boy, “Are you alright?”
The pitcher says “Yes,” but the opposing coach shouts “Third visit.  He has to come out.”
Your call.
7.    Can an umpire call a game that is 43-6 in the fifth inning for lack of interest by the losing team?
8.    Can a player be ejected from a game because his mother threw a rock at the umpire?  Even if she says she didn’t mean to hit him?
9.    Two players are playing a pop fly between first and second bases.  One falls.  The other trips over him.  The runner falls on top, and the ball lands a few inches from an outstretched glove.  Everyone on both sides calls for “interference”
Is it? And on whom?
10.    If a batted ball hits a child who is not on the team but is in left field bringing her brother a hot dog, is it interference if her brother pushes her in front of the ball to stop it?
11.    A first baseman fields a grounder in his throwing hand.  He touches the bag with the empty glove.  Is the batter out?  And worse, can you explain why to a mother who, earlier in the year, asked that younger players get four strikes instead of three?
12.    Two playing fields abut each other in center – no fences.  A batted ball hits the center fielder of the team playing the other game as the hitter is rounding second.  The runner scores before the ball is back to the infield, and the defensive coach asks for interference.  The park quiets.  The batter stares.  You make that call.  You have two seconds.
13.    If an 11-year-old pitcher habitually bites his nails between pitches, while standing on the mound, is it a spit ball?
14.    A ground ball bounds foul just before first base, but hits the corner of the bag. You notice that the bag had been kicked into foul territory when the last runner rounded it.
Fair or foul?  Quick.  Everyone is running.
15.    Is the umpire still in charge after the police arrive?
16.    A batted ball lands fair and rolls under a car parked with a dad in it watching a game in a different field.  Is the ball dead even if the car is parked in fair territory for your field?
17.    A pass ball goes out of play, but the runner on third base, in a tie game, in the last half of the last inning, was fixing his stockings, and the base coach was arguing with a fan so no one noticed, and the runner didn’t advance.  Then the head coach says to you, Hey, that is out of play.  He gets the base.  We win.”
Go ahead you make that call.
20.    Is fried chicken allowed in the on deck circle even if the mother says, “He didn’t have any dinner?”
21.    If a hit scores three runs to win the game, and then the first runner to score tip toes back to touch the plate, which you saw her miss in the first place, do the other runs score?
Tough calls, but most intriguing one I heard is not covered in the rule book.  All these others, by the way are covered.
But this one is a pure judgment call, and it had to be made by the league, not by the ump.
22.    Does an umpire still get paid if unruly parents/fans set his car on fire and he has to leave in the second inning?

To all those who berate youth league umpires, I have a suggestion.
You make the call.
Feel free to share this with all the youth league umpires you know.




    • It sure looked it.


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