Ah, the men in blue, the officials, the decision makers, better known as, “The Umpires.” They have an important role in every game played. See without them, there would be no game. They are charged with keeping the game fair and allowing it to be played in a smooth and orderly manner.
Balls and strikes, safes and outs, fair or foul. These may sound like simple tasks to perform, trust me, having umpired everything from 10 year old little leaguers, to high school and senior mens baseball, it is very hard to do. Every time an umpire makes a close call, someone is going to be happy and someone else is going to be mad.
Imagine making what you feel is a good call only to be told in the most degrading ways that you were wrong by some player or coach. A player can make an error or give up a home run, a manager or third base coach can make mistakes and no one yells at them in a rage. The only friend an umpire has, is his partners.
Hot and humid, cold and windy, playable rainy day? The players take shelter every half inning, the umpires never leave the field. Behind the plate, he has no glove to protect himself from foul balls and catchers who can’t catch. Why do they do it? Understandably, the pros do it for a living.
But amateur officials, although paid to do a game, do it mostly because they love the game of baseball, just like you.
I no longer umpire and truly miss being on the field, at any level. You see, there was this thing that I was a part of when behind the plate that only the batter, catcher and I were privy to. Funny conversations, great pitches, amazing at bats, great plays in the field and the occasional crazy event like one time, when a bird slowly made his way around the infield and ended up sitting on home plate.
Umpires need to know all the rules and be able to explain them in a clear and understandable way. On the amateur level, they take a 100 question test on the rules every year. They go to clinics to improve their mechanics. They get in shape during the winter and during the season, working out and exercising just as much as players.
They put a lot of work into what they do for this sport, on every level.
The next time you are at a game, take some time to watch what they do when the ball is put in play. Watch how they set-up before the pitch is thrown. Check out the angles they use to make the call. See if you can figure out some of the signals they give to each other. Watch them when there is a runner on first and a ball is hit to the outfield and be amazed at how they rotate to cover the catch / no catch, while covering every base.
It will look like a well choreographed movement around the bases.
This game has so many things to watch besides the players and Mr. Met. You just have to look for them. And remember, when the game is over and you never noticed the umpires were on the field, that means they did a very good job.
When umpires come onto the field to exchange the line-up cards before the game starts, give them some cheers. After all, you can’t play the game without them.