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Tales from Behind the Plate, 2021


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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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I remember years ago in Little League being a catcher I was amazed that you could actually see the ball skim the bat as a foul tip and right into my glove, (sometimes), my coach said "Don't flinch just keep your eye on the ball". I liked catching and I did it into Pony League but then got tired of it. I liked outfield much better or 3rd base was pretty exciting.

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A "dinger"?

 

I've never heard the term. Is it a reference to the sound a good hit would make off the aluminum bat? (I've only ever played with wood)

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1 hour ago, Alpo said:

A "dinger"?

 

I've never heard the term. Is it a reference to the sound a good hit would make off the aluminum bat? (I've only ever played with wood)

No, it's a home run.

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2 hours ago, Alpo said:

A "dinger"?

 

I've never heard the term. Is it a reference to the sound a good hit would make off the aluminum bat? (I've only ever played with wood)

Dinger is the Colorado Rockies triceratops mascot.  

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3 hours ago, Cyrus Cassidy #45437 said:

No, it's a home run.

Back when I was playing baseball, 50 or so years ago, a home run was a four bagger.

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I was a catcher and played that position all thru high school, college, American Legion and service ball in the Army. I could tell you lots of stories abour my conversations with umpires. Lots of good  and lots of not so good ones. 

 

One time when I was playing for the 4th Army (I was in Special Services, all I did was play football, baseball & Lifer Guard , was my job) and back then everybody had a chew of tobacco . I was chewing and I got a foul ball on the mask and I swallowed this big chunk. In a minute or 2, it came up and I puked all over the umpires shoes and he kicked me out of the game.  It got pretty bad between our manager and the umpire and he got tossed too. We both sat in our change room and laughed our butt off. Was not fun the next time we got the same umpire in another game.

 

Loved to play baseball. 

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4 hours ago, Alpo said:

Back when I was playing baseball, 50 or so years ago, a home run was a four bagger.

It still is....there are a lot of slang words in baseball.

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Our HS coach was calling balls and strikes for batting practice one time.  I foul tipped one that went over catcher’s head.  Coach was wearing an old two bar face protector, the ball literally stuck between the bars.  Took him a few minutes to realize he wasn’t injured.

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After little league and just before Pony League we had a sandlot class here that was Class F. 12yrs and older I believe 16 was the limit. It was loosely organized by the City of Cleveland. We had T shirts and caps. All the teams had names of the Indians at the time. We were the Nixons. (Russ Nixon catcher for the Indians at the time)

Teams supplied their own umpires and many times one of the parents was an ump! Talk about controversy!

My dad was umping one time and the other team was heckling him like crazy. They kept yelling at him that he needed glasses. He called a strike on a pitch that was 2 feet off the plate! The other team went crazy. My dad said " I guess you're right I do need glasses"!! 

Do you know they stopped heckling after that? My dad was trying to call an honest game and didn't appreciate the heckling from the other team!:lol:

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21 minutes ago, Rye Miles #13621 said:

After little league and just before Pony League we had a sandlot class here that was Class F. 12yrs and older I believe 16 was the limit. It was loosely organized by the City of Cleveland. We had T shirts and caps. All the teams had names of the Indians at the time. We were the Nixons. (Russ Nixon catcher for the Indians at the time)

Teams supplied their own umpires and many times one of the parents was an ump! Talk about controversy!

My dad was umping one time and the other team was heckling him like crazy. They kept yelling at him that he needed glasses. He called a strike on a pitch that was 2 feet off the plate! The other team went crazy. My dad said " I guess you're right I do need glasses"!! 

Do you know they stopped heckling after that? My dad was trying to call an honest game and didn't appreciate the heckling from the other team!:lol:

 

It really stinks when they use parents or coaches as umpires.  Actual umpires are trained (some better than others, but trained nonetheless).  And the biggest factor:  We actually know the rules and have to take a test on them every year.  I have been shocked and amazed at the number of coaches -- many of whom played at the collegiate or even minor league levels -- who don't know the rules.  They know *HOW* to pitch, throw, catch, bat, etc. and can teach it, but they know nothing about what the rule book actually says.  

 

Sure, everyone knows ball/strike, safe/out, fair/foul.  That's the easy part.  But what's the difference between obstruction and interference?  What do you do when a ball gets past the catcher and he scoops it up with his mask before making a throw?  What is the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip?  What occurrences make the ball dead?  What happens when a batted ball gets lodged inside the shirt of a defensive player?

I had a brief discussion with a coach on Saturday that had the potential of turning hostile, but he listened to my explanation of the ruling instead of turning into Billy Martin.  On a dropped strike 3, the batter can usually attempt to steal first base (unless it's already occupied, or if it's occupied with 2 outs).  However, in this case, the ball went between the catcher's knees, hit the ground, and bounced directly upwards.  It went under my mask and tattooed my jaw (OUCH!!!!).  Even though I wear a throat guard on my mask, this one came in from a weird angle.  

 

When a dropped strike 3 touches an umpire, the ball is dead.  The runner, of course, neither knew that rule nor saw it happen, so he naturally took off for first, but I killed the play and called him out on strike 3.  The coach wanted to know why and I explained it to him; he accepted my explanation <--- This was a high school JV game, where the coaches know not to act like idiots.  Had it been Little League, there would have been temper tantrums and ejections to follow, despite the fact I actually know the rules and passed the test for this year -- coaches aren't required to take a rules test.  But I promised you it would have been drama.

 

I've quit working Little League for that very reason.  The vast majority of those coaches took the job because no one else would, and they are living vicariously through a bunch of 10 year-olds.  At least 75% of the coaches are absolute morons, the pay is horrible compared to higher levels (in my first year I broke even on equipment, not factoring in gas and mileage, etc.), and I haven't even begun to rant and rave about the parents.  PARENTS:  SHUT UP AND LET YOUR KID PLAY!!!  No one is scouting him today, I promise.  Parents are so bad that when I worked in youth leagues, they all had rules that allowed the umpire to eject spectators.  I never used it, but I came close once.  Parents don't know the rules either, but they'll cuss out an umpire from safely behind the fence when they think they do -- "A foul ball off the face is fair, blue!"  <---Ummm.....no.  Go sit down and shut up.  

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there is a shortage of umpires in Little League.  

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1 hour ago, Cyrus Cassidy #45437 said:

 

It really stinks when they use parents or coaches as umpires.  Actual umpires are trained (some better than others, but trained nonetheless).  And the biggest factor:  We actually know the rules and have to take a test on them every year.  I have been shocked and amazed at the number of coaches -- many of whom played at the collegiate or even minor league levels -- who don't know the rules.  They know *HOW* to pitch, throw, catch, bat, etc. and can teach it, but they know nothing about what the rule book actually says.  

 

Sure, everyone knows ball/strike, safe/out, fair/foul.  That's the easy part.  But what's the difference between obstruction and interference?  What do you do when a ball gets past the catcher and he scoops it up with his mask before making a throw?  What is the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip?  What occurrences make the ball dead?  What happens when a batted ball gets lodged inside the shirt of a defensive player?

I had a brief discussion with a coach on Saturday that had the potential of turning hostile, but he listened to my explanation of the ruling instead of turning into Billy Martin.  On a dropped strike 3, the batter can usually attempt to steal first base (unless it's already occupied, or if it's occupied with 2 outs).  However, in this case, the ball went between the catcher's knees, hit the ground, and bounced directly upwards.  It went under my mask and tattooed my jaw (OUCH!!!!).  Even though I wear a throat guard on my mask, this one came in from a weird angle.  

 

When a dropped strike 3 touches an umpire, the ball is dead.  The runner, of course, neither knew that rule nor saw it happen, so he naturally took off for first, but I killed the play and called him out on strike 3.  The coach wanted to know why and I explained it to him; he accepted my explanation <--- This was a high school JV game, where the coaches know not to act like idiots.  Had it been Little League, there would have been temper tantrums and ejections to follow, despite the fact I actually know the rules and passed the test for this year -- coaches aren't required to take a rules test.  But I promised you it would have been drama.

 

I've quit working Little League for that very reason.  The vast majority of those coaches took the job because no one else would, and they are living vicariously through a bunch of 10 year-olds.  At least 75% of the coaches are absolute morons, the pay is horrible compared to higher levels (in my first year I broke even on equipment, not factoring in gas and mileage, etc.), and I haven't even begun to rant and rave about the parents.  PARENTS:  SHUT UP AND LET YOUR KID PLAY!!!  No one is scouting him today, I promise.  Parents are so bad that when I worked in youth leagues, they all had rules that allowed the umpire to eject spectators.  I never used it, but I came close once.  Parents don't know the rules either, but they'll cuss out an umpire from safely behind the fence when they think they do -- "A foul ball off the face is fair, blue!"  <---Ummm.....no.  Go sit down and shut up.  

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there is a shortage of umpires in Little League.  

Class F was a “loosely”!based sandlot organization that was all funded by the parents. No sponsors, that’s why they used volunteer umps!

Edited by Rye Miles #13621
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