What's up with "Blue"?

by Carey Meitzler

Having umpired a lot in my younger (and leaner) days and have been asked and

delivered clinics for baseball umpires on numerous occasions,  so I think I can give

an objective observation on what I have viewed on two occasions this year. 

Tuesday's Poplarville / Picayune fast pitch game had the makings to be a classic. But,

then things got a little crazy.  But, it started a little earlier in the evening.

The umpires had already shown in the JV game and on other occasions in the Varsity

game that they were not competent to take on the responsibility of officiating the game

and more importantly controlling themselves instead of looking for a confrontation.

By no means, am I implying Picayune would have won the game if the chain of events

had not occurred; no one will ever know.  What is sad, is that two good teams were

playing a very good fast pitch game and both teams deserved better at the time.  It

was still a great game, but most everyone there has forgotten that by now and only

remembers the extra-curricular things.  

Earlier this year, I was listening to the PRC/Picayune baseball at Picayune while watching

a fast pitch game just across the complex.  During the broadcast, I kept hearing how the

officiating seemed a little shaky and could hear the fans sighs and shouts at times. 

When the fast pitch game ended, I walked over and watch the last two innings of the

baseball game.  I witnessed two guys who had lost control of a game and at times seemed

like they were guessing with some of their calls.  The topper came when the game was

over and the base umpire got into a shouting match with a PRC coach as the teams

lined up to shake hands.

Hear me out on this.  I learned a lot from a couple of great umpires who I worked with

over my years in the blue and gray.   The best ever was Craig Cleveland of Hartselle, AL.

He was good enough to work the majors if he would have decided to take that route.  Also,

worked for many years with the GCBOA (Ms Gulf Coast Baseball Officials Association)

and there were some really good ones there too.

Here's a few things I incorporated in my approach that I will give credit to a lot

of good umpires from the GCBOA (Ms Gulf Coast) and the above-mentioned "professional".

1. Remember that these coaches livelihoods rely on what happens out here.  If you don't

take it as their "life and bread" and give your best effort, you are stealing. 

2. Every player has prepared for this moment; don't be the jerk who is out of position

to make the call because you are lazy or don't care.  Out hustle the players and get in

position (right distance, best angle, wait til the play is over before you make the call).

3. Never, never become emotionally involved in a discussion with a coach.  Someone has

to remain calm and make sure everything moves forward in a positive manner. If you choose

to enter their kingdom, you are doomed the rest of the game.  Now, if the coach wants to

act like the sound end of a horse, let him be the Lone Ranger and walk away.  He will get

tired of chasing you after awhile.

4. If you have any doubt in your mind or if you get the indication that you may have missed

a call based on the reaction of the coaches, give the coach a chance to voice his gripe, then

get with your partner and discussed it, and make sure you both agree, and either stand by

the call or change it to make sure you get it right. 

5. Never get involved with fans.  They are all crazy and when you argue with them about

your calls and try to explain your calls to them, you become one of them. Your responsibility

is to the coaches and players and your partner.

6. Outs and strikes get you home early. If you miss an opportunity to call someone out, shame

on you.

7. When the game is over, Do the Matt Dillon thing: "Get the hell out of Dodge..."

In other words, when the game ends, get with your partner, know where the exit gate from

the field is located, and get out of there. You don't get paid extra for hanging around and

when you do hang around, nothing good will usually happen. 

So what is up with "Blue"?  It appears there is a shortage of officials and maybe the

associations are just happy to have people to assign to the games.   I respect the guys

for taking on the responsibility of calling the games, however, I am not sure if they all

take on the high level of concern for the players and coaches that is required.  As a whole,

I think there are some really good ones out there.  In fact, the best ones are the ones you

can't remember were even there because when they do their job so well, you focus on the game

instead of the officials, which is actually more fun.