Umpiring For Beginners

This article provides helpful hints and guidelines for any individual interested in beginning a career umpiring adult or youth softball and/or baseball.

Perhaps your idea of a fun, relaxing side job is getting a little extra sun outside in the summer months, watching your favorite sporting event and being completely in charge.

Or you may prefer being yelled at by players, coaches, parents and sometimes even fans.

Let's face it, with umpiring youth or adult baseball and softball, you get a little of both. Umpiring is not for the faint of heart but it can and should be an enjoyable side job, whether you are seeking extra help for your mortgage payment or are just looking to get some exercise. But before you submerse yourself into the job, there are a few things you should know.

First and foremost, both baseball and softball have more rules than even I, an eight-year umpire at the local level, would care to admit. As an umpire, you should learn them all. If only I had a photographic memory I probably would be working in the Major Leagues!

By knowing the rules, not only will you become a better umpire, but you will never be shown up by a coach. I quickly learned some coaches think they know more about the rules than the umpires, and if they do it will be an embarrassing incident. If you as the umpire are indeed right, either the coach will turn tail and admit his/her error, or pull a Billy Martin.

Growing up playing Little League ball and even into my high school varsity years, I never realized just how many rules there were in baseball. The first time I received my umpiring rules manual, I readily admit I was a bit intimidated by the girth of the booklet.

And then a few years later when I began umpiring softball, I had to re-learn practically an entirely new sport. Did you know there was a circle that came into play around the pitcher's mound in fastpitch softball? Let's just say I learned that one on the job.

Another thing to keep in mind, and this is coming from a person who umpires in relatively mild Michigan, it can get pretty warm when you are umpiring behind the plate. Add your chest protector, shin and knee guards and a mask and suddenly an 85-degree day can feel well over 100 in the sun. Umpiring can be a sure-fire way to shed a few pounds, despite the highly publicized weight of many major league umpires, but you have to be in pretty good shape. Bring plenty of water.

Finally, even if you are a young and/or inexperienced umpire, you can make up for your lack of knowledge by hustling. Learn how to position yourself in a one, two and three-umpire system. Be sure you are as close to a play as you possibly can be considering how many runners are on base and what is happening in front of you. A coach or player will be less likely to argue a call if you are right on top of the play than if you make the call from 90 feet away.

Slowpitch softball is by far the easiest to umpire simply because the rules are literally cut in half. Most adult leagues have a time limit between 60 and 90 minutes for recreation league games but there are slowpitch tournaments all across the country virtually any weekend in the summer.

You will know if you have become a successful umpire because more often than not you will have fun while working. I treat umpiring as a hobby as well as an extra source of income. The better of an umpire you work at becoming, the fewer arguments you will encounter and the more fun you will have.

Here are a few other helpful hints:

- Attend a camp or clinic at the start of each year if possible, even if it is only through your local parks and recreations department.

- Remember at all times, you are in charge when umpiring. You don't need to show off, but don't let anyone - coaches, players, fans - tell you what to do.

- Just as you are not a professional, full-time umpire, players on the field are not professional either. Never show your emotions, particularly your disgust, over a play while on the field.

- When working with one or more umpires, don't be afraid to double-check a call when appropriate. If you are the only one who had a good view, there's no need to check but if you have any doubt, players and coaches appreciate it.

- Always communicate with your fellow umpires on the field. Determine who will take what calls before the game starts.

- Be polite and respectful. Never lose your temper on the field. Players and coaches will follow your lead.

- When umpiring younger little league players or less experienced adult players, always explain the interpretation of a potentially confusing call. For example if a young fastpitch softball player is taking an illegal crow-hop, it's always good to explain to both the player and the coach what he/she is doing wrong.

- When umpiring behind the plate, it's better to call more strikes than balls (okay so this is just my opinion and it does speed up the games).

- Always go over the ground and league rules with the coaches before the game so there are no misunderstandings later.

- Most of all, if you're not having fun, umpiring probably isn't worth your time!

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