Sunday, August 24, 2008

Always Learning

Well, it has been a REALLY long time since I posted, hasn't it?  I haven't been doing too many games lately.  The summer season is winding down.

I did work 2 playoff games today.  The 9:30 AM one went off without a hitch.  I was behind the plate and I was quite pleased with my zone.  My partner was good too.

The 2:00 PM game was kind of lopsided but not without some interesting events.  I was in the field and the most interesting event took place in the third inning.

With runners on first and second and one out, the batter hit a week line drive to the shortstop.  The shortstop did not have to move for the ball.  He let it hit his mitt and drop to the ground.  I immediately called it a catch and the batter was out.  The runner on second proceeded to run to third.  The shortstop stepped on second for the double play.  After explaining to the offensive team that a fielder could not intentionally drop a line drive, they understood my ruling.  Unfortunately, I was only half right.

Rule 6.05(l) states: A batter is out when an infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out.  The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original bae or bases.

So, I should have killed the play after the out.  Thankfully, it was not a game changing play. 

After three years as an umpire, I am still learning.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Safety First

Well I was back in action Saturday evening with a double-dip.  It was a little warm in NYC but now too warm to make working on the turf at a Brooklyn High School too uncomfortable.  The games were uncomfortable, though.

Both teams were dragging their collective butts getting on and off the field.  Thank goodness for time limits and run rules in this mens' league or we would probably still be there.  The games were uneventful and the ride home was relaxing and enjoyable (if you call a cruise through Brooklyn just that).

Sunday brought two more games and frightening weather.  Once again, I was working the first game behind the plate.  The game started an hour late because the games ahead of us started late because the gates to the complex were not opened on time.  With all the means of communication today it is amazing how these things happen.

The weather in NYC was typical for this time of year.  Muggy and thunder showers all around but we were spared most of the rain.  It did shower but not enough to delay the game. 

The first game was delayed and ultimately called off due to lightning.  There were several cloud to ground bolts we saw in the vicinity.  One team was mocking us and standing in the middle of the field.  The second game began after the lightning subsided.

Unfortunately, our precautions proved to be necessary as several people were struck by lightning in the NYC metro area and at least two people died.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yankee Stadium - Baseball Cathedral

It has been a really, really long time since my last post. Since my last game, too. I've been away on business.

Unfortunately, I was not home for the All-Star game. It would have been nice to be in the city to see the festivities. Especially
the All-Star Parade. But, I was in Paulsboro, NJ just outside of Philadelphia.

Anyway, it is and always has been true about Yankee Stadium. It brings the best out of people. I mean, that had to be the best All-Star game in my lifetime. Unfortunately, I was not awake to see the end, but what I saw was great.

Now, flipping through the channels, I stumbled upon ESPN as they are airing "Yankee Stadium - Baseball Cathedral". And it got me thinking how lucky I was to have played in that great baseball temple.

I was fifteen years-old. I was selected for the Metro-NYC Connie Mack All-Star game. We originally were scheduled to play at Shea Stadium. At that time, I was a Mets fan and this was right up my alley. Well, the weather did not cooperate and the game was rained out. The Mets were returning from a road trip on the day the game was supposed to be played. It was moved to Yankee Stadium.

I was somewhat disappointed not to be playing in Shea Stadium (you'd never hear me say that now!). I arrived in the stadium through the press gate and walked through the tunnel to the Yankee dugout. I remember how high the field was from that vantage point.

I started in left field. On that manicured grass in that pristene stadium; what a feeling! Then, to stand in the right-handed batter's box. To think of the legends that hit there!

That's my Yankee Stadium moment!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Only the Shadow Knows

I hope everyone had a Happy Fourth of July! To set the mood for the holiday weekend, I did a game on Thursday evening. I love working weeknight games when I have the next day off, especially if it is a holiday!

It was a hot, steamy night. No, really, it was! Anyway, the game was flying along. It started at 7 PM and we were in the top of the 5th by 8:30 PM... for a 9 inning game!

Night came and the game sloooowed to a crawl. Now, it might be because one of the relief pitchers was all over the place. It could also be the lights, or lack thereof.

I was working the plate and the bank of lights over my right shoulder (the ones that would shine on the back of a left-handed hitter) were out. Whenever a right-handed hitter was up, a shadow would be cast over the outside corner of the plate.

Sometimes a ball would miss outside and the catcher would ask "where was that ump?" Only the shadow knows! Ok, I didn't say that but I should have!

Just another condition to make our jobs easier! By the way, the game went into extra innings and was called due to a 10 PM curfew in the bottom of the 10th inning. Thank goodness!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tough Night to be a Helmet

Well, I had my first game since Sunday last night.  I was finally in the field.  Surprisingly, I had quite a few close calls to make.  It was fun.

Helmets, on the other hand, were not having a fun night.  For some reason, when hitters strike out or "miss their pitch" they take it out on the helmets.  They're thrown, kicked, slammed and much more. 

For whatever reason, both teams were very agitated and high-strung last night.  It culminated in the ejection of one player by me.  He verbally assaulted my partner (who had his back turned) and said a few "magic" words.

Funny thing is, when I completed my ejection report, I used the same template on my pc.  The date on the previous report? June 23, 2007.  I ejected my last player almost one year ago to the day!

Be kind to helmets!!
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Suspend a Game

I know, it sounds like it should be easy, but it can be a nightmare.

You know, thunder is all around.  The rain begins, stops, begins again and then comes down harder. 

When  do you pull the players off the field? 

How long do you wait before you resume the game? 

Do you resume the game?

The thunderstorms were plentiful in the NYC area tonight except where I was working a game.  A mere five miles away, it was pouring but not where I was standing.  The first game of a doubleheader was complete in an astounding 1:45.  No rain.

The second game began with a chorus of thunder and a show of lightning.  For two innings, this went on without a single drop.  Then, there were a few drops.  I alerted both managers that if the rains came and I had to pull the teams off the field, I would allow twenty minutes for the rain to pass.  Then, based on the condition of the field, we would resume play if it was possible.  My partner concurred.

Sure enough, the rains came.  First it was pouring then it became a steady drizzle.  I pulled the teams off the field and returned to the field after twenty minutes.  It was still raining.  My partner and I walked the field and there were puddles forming on the base paths and between home and the pitcher's mound.  We called off the game at that moment.

So what's so hard about that?  Well, we could have attempted to keep playing in an effort to get 4 innings in.  Or we could have packed up and left at the first sign of a heavy downpour.  My partner and I decided to get everyone off the field early on in the storm and then we really went out of our way to examine the field.  The coaches did not put up a fight and saw that we were sincere in our efforts to get the game in.

Rain or daylight suspensions can be a contentious situation.  The teams have paid their umpire fees and they want to play the game.  But, as umpires, we have to take the safety of the players and ourselves into account. 

If you are faced with such a decision, try to do everything in your power to get the game in.  If you set the expectations of the managers before the situation arises and then follow through on your plan, nobody should have a problem with your decision.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Heat is On

It was the hottest weekend of the year so far in the NYC area.  Saturday was in the upper nineties and yesterday one of the players told me it reached 102 degrees.

I worked a double-header on Saturday.  The first game I was on the bases.  The second game was forfeited so I missed doing the plate.  I made up for it yesterday in a big way!

As an organization, we were shorthanded all weekend.  My original partner had a conflict and had to give back our games.  So I pulled up and saw a different partner.  He was covering for another umpire after our first game and that was at a field 15 minutes away.  To save time, he was going to work the bases during our first game so he could just hop in his car and head over to his other game.

I didn't mind doing the plate for the first game.  Usually, during a doubleheader, the best pitchers pitch the first game.  This game was no exception.  The pitchers were around the plate and we ended in 2:20 minutes.

During the first game, I was doing pretty well with the heat as there was a very slight breeze.  But I kept thinking, "what if my partner for the second game did the plate already today or was going to do the plate after our game"?  Sure enough, he showed up towards the end of the first game and said to me "you're not supposed to do the plate".  I knew I was in trouble.

My partner for the second game was working with a veteran umpire who asked if he could do the second game of their doubleheader so it would not be so hot.  What to do?  I told my partner for the second game that I would do the plate again since I was already dressed for it.

We took a 20 minute break.  I did not put on the ac in my car because that would make me want to stay there.  We returned for the second game and, while I held up, it was a mental struggle.  I kept hydrated and even changed my "strike" mechanic to conserve energy.

Luckily, these two teams had good pitchers going in the second game as well and we ended at 2:20 again.  I peeled off my equipment and undergarments, changed into my dry clothing, blasted the ac and drove home.

It was a tough day at the office due to the heat.  I felt my zone was consistent for both games.  Thankfully, the pitchers were good and the batters put the ball in play.  The games and the heat tested my endurance and focus.  By making some adjustments to conserve energy, I didn't wither under the heat.
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