Scout’s Take: Men In Blue, Credit is Due

Game 3 of the World Series was one for the ages. One that went into the wee hours of the night (3:30 am on the east coast to be exact) It had drama with both great plays and gaffes. And how about all those foul balls? It looked like the TV cameras were showing the bat boys unboxing three dozen more balls in the late innings. 

We saw players hustling and playing hard and we saw Manny Machado embarrass himself when he took 7.17 seconds to get to first base on a long single in the 6th inning of a 1-0 game. A game the Dodgers had to win. But that was just one of the many stories to come out of the longest game in World Series history. A marathon of 18 innings that took 7 hours and 20 minutes to come to an end with a walk off HR by Max Muncy. That was a long day at the office for these players.

The players can arrive up to 4 hours before a game and the 53,114 who attended the game started arriving about 2 hours before the first pitch. You could say it was a long night for everyone involved. One thing you will be hard pressed to find, is a story about one group in that game, the umpires. You can’t play the game without them.

Last night Ted Barrett and his crew of Chad Fairchild, Jeff Nelson, Jim Reynolds, Fieldin Culbreth and Kerwin Danley worked a near perfect game. The players and fans demand that from them and they delivered. Behind the plate, Barrett had to squat for 561 official pitches. I wonder if Navy Seals have to do that?

Umpires don’t get to sit between innings in the dugout. They don’t get a rubdown from trainers between innings nor are they able to go into the clubhouse to sit in an air conditioned room or a heated space. They never get to sit in a nice comfortable seat like the fans do, while people bring them food and drinks. For over seven hours they were on that field under extreme pressure to be perfect.

The longest game in World Series history had no umpire reviews, few challenges from either team for 18 innings and aside from a few called strike threes, that players mildly showed some displeasure with, you wouldn’t even know that the men in blue were there. That’s amazing. Here’s my point, no one cares if an umpire is there except his partners and family and that’s ok with them, they are not looking to be noticed, they just want to do their job, and that they did last night. 

There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who officiate at games, both amateur and professional, in every sport. Like I said, you can’t play a game without them. To get to the level that Barrett and his partners are at takes a lot of years of hard work. Going to clinics every year to improve their skills and learn better ways to see a play. Just like the players they are always learning how to get better. Staying in shape both physically and mentally. Knowing all the rules without the use of the rule book to me is something I am amazed with. Do you know how many rules there are in baseball? Reading them requires a lawyer sometimes to explain what you just read. Well the umpire has to not only know them but be able to interpret a rule to a manager in a way that he can understand. Good luck with that one.

Today and for years to come, people will be talking about this epic and historical game. When you do that with someone, remember to give at least one small mention of the umpires. Yes no one goes to a game to see the umpires except other umpires. But we need to recognize that the crew last night kept that great game all about the players. That is what they do every game, whether in the Major League’s World Series or at a T-Ball game. Three cheers for the umpires! 

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