Becoming a Better Umpire
As you prepare for your first season or 20th season, it is important to prepare yourselves as umpires now, before it is too late.
The single most important thing to understand as umpires is that you are salespeople. You need to sell yourself, and you need to sell your call.
Here are some pointers that will allow you to be more successful.
Looking like an umpire is half the battle. There is a saying on the street that goes, "You only get one chance to make a good first impression." This statement is so true as an umpire. When an umpire arrives at a youth game properly dressed and looking like a professional, it is not uncommon to hear comments like “wow, we have REAL umpires tonight.” Those people have as yet to see the umpire make a call.
Your appearance is essential to your success. You need to look like an umpire every time you go on the field. It is the first indication to the kids, managers/coaches, and parents you are approaching the umpiring of their game seriously and as a professional.
That means the proper shirt, hat, pants, and shoes worn appropriately. The pants should not be jeans (blue, gray, green, purple, etc.), shorts, sweatpants, or baggy legs with the crotch down at the knees. Shirts MUST be tucked in. Your hat MUST be worn facing the front, even when wearing a plate mask. If you are wearing plate gear, your shin pads should be worn UNDER your pants. The chest protector must be worn UNDER the shirt, never outside the shirt.
Look the part, please.
How you conduct yourself before, during, and after the game is also important. Behave professionally but be polite, courteous, and friendly with managers/coaches, players, and parents without being too informal, familiar, or focusing more attention on one team over the other. When the game is finished, shake hands with the players and coaches of both teams, then leave the field as professionally as you arrived.
During the game, remember, the game is not about you. You and your partner are NOT Lords of the Diamond. You are administrators of the game and you are not better than players, coaches, or even your partner. Never lose sight this is the kids' game, not yours.
If a coach approaches you to question a call, be respectful. They are volunteers, too, although there will be times when they lose sight you are one as well. If you show respect, you should get respect. While your partner and you are responsible for the game on the field, there are good and bad ways of communicating. Yelling and screaming in front of the kids is not only unprofessional and inappropriate but will only paint the umpire in the worst possible light. Maintain your composure. Never lose your cool.
Move the game along. Arrive at the field 15-30 minutes before your game's Start time. Before going onto the field, review with your partner how you both plan to cover your responsibilities during the game. Go onto the field with your partner as a crew. Start the game on time. If the game is scheduled to start at 6:00, make sure the first pitch is at 6:00, not 6:05, not 6:15.
Between innings is not a social time as umpires. You still have responsibilities. You can meet with your partner, but be in a position to move to your positions quickly by the time the pitcher is ready to throw the first pitch of the next inning. Keep the teams hustling on and off the field. Stay in the game and keep it moving. If you are not in the game at all times, it is too easy for something to happen and you not be in the proper position to see to make a call.
There is no place on the field for a bad attitude. It is detrimental to your game and increases the potential for problems during the game. It is the kids' game and no child should have their game unnecessarily affected by an umpire who can't bring an appropriate attitude to it. Everything we do is for the kids and they should get our best attitude for their games.
Approach each game with the same level of commitment and dedication regardless of whether it's a house league or championship game. You will find yourself umpiring better and the kids will appreciate it. House league or travel ball, the kids play at the highest level of their ability and they should expect each umpire to call their game at the highest level of their ability. Don't take the experience of the game away from kids who may only have a limited opportunity to play the game by bringing your bad attitude to the game. You'll enjoy it more, too.
One of the most common complaints about house umpires is no one can hear what the umpire is calling. It is important for your calls to be heard. Be crisp, clear, and LOUD with your calls and signals. Failure to do so can leave managers/coaches, players, and parents with the impression (remember the importance of impressions) you don't know or are uncomfortable with your game. Be heard.
Remember, SELL YOUR CALL! BE VOCAL! Even though you got it right, if you can’t sell that call, people will question it. There is not a single umpire in the Blue Crew that hasn't made an incorrect close call but sold it so well, no one came out to discuss it. If a situation arises requiring you to stop the play, throw those hands up and loudly, clearly yell “TIME”. Stop the play. If you need to award bases, do so in a manner that is clear for all.
Be proud of who you are on the field. Show your pride by your appearance, conduct, attitude, and professionalism.
You will see an improvement in yourself as umpires, as well as the play during the game. You will enjoy the game and watching the kids from a different perspective.
See you on the field.