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I have been an umpire for the last 16 years. I have worked games from U9 to High School and mens leagues. Last night at our weekly umpires meeting we had a discussion about LL umpires. We all pretty much agreed that last years LL umpires at Williamsport were the worst we had ever seen. The lack of conventional mechanics, the bombastic way of making routine calls like simple balls and strikes were so overbearing that it made watching these umpires a travesty to the profession. One of our members was selected for the LL Big League World Series a few years ago. He said it was a horrible experience. He said a couple of the umpires were picked because they were the friends of their league presidents. He also said half of them knew nothing about positioning and basic mechanics. One guy even brought a dusty old balloon chest protector. LL needs to look at the way they pick and train these people. The old boy network needs to change or we will see more of this in Williamsport.
Wow, pretty early in the season to be bashing Williamsport umpires, isn't it? I take it you weren't selected again?
Yes, it's a flawed system. Umpires are selected based upon their dedication to their local leagues. Some of them have volunteered 20 years or more exclusively for LL instead of joining an association and getting paid to umpire. They have a life goal of making it to a LL World Series instead of making thousands of dollars to help pay for a new car or family vacation. So what if they have quirks that make umpires cringe? If they don't get the proper training in their local leagues and districts, should they be shunned despite all of their dedication to the kids? And how often do they work four-man games? Do you think maybe their mistakes were caused by not being familiar with four-man?
Have you ever worked games in front of tens of thousands of fans, and millions more watching on global television? Do you think the nerves may cause you to do something completely wrong in terms of positioning and mechanics? Hell, I've been umpiring girls fast-pitch softball for the past nine years after working LL baseball for about ten years before that, and I was selected to work the 18 Gold National Championship in Clearwater, FL last summer. My pucker factor was pretty high down there for those games, and the crowds were no bigger than what you see in a high school regular season game. I made two or three gaffes on the field because I was not an expert of three-man mechanics. I chased a fly ball that wasn't in my area of responsibility. And I got caught out of position to see a tag attempt because I anticipated the play was going elsewhere. It happens.
Yeah, those men and women aren't always the best umpires in youth ball. But they deserve to be there from all the work and time they have put into it. But they're human, and get affected by the jitters at that level. I know I would.
One of the reasons I stopped doing LL baseball was because I got tired of getting nailed behind the plate with pitches that catchers couldn't catch. If I continued to do it year after year in order to finally make it to a World Series, I might've changed over to a balloon protector as well.
Not selected again? No thank you.In the LL my son played in there were 4 varsity and college level umpires who had kids playing in the league. All four of us donated time and worked games for free. The league president sent himself and his buddy to Indianapolis 4 years in a row. Neither one of them attended any of the many clinics our association offered.He claimed he didn't need any help. What is wrong with getting paid for hard work? Is our equipment free? How about our time and travel expenses? Are we not providing a valuable service? And what makes you think we don't also do volunteer work? Missing a call in front of a large crowd because you are nervous can happen to anyone. My problem was with the way some of these guys went out of their way to call attention to themselves. Screaming ball and strike calls on every pitch, poor timing, out of shape. Someone at LL cental is doing a poor job at their clinics. Just because someone donates a lot of time is not an excuse for doing a bad job. They should put the same kind of effort that the players do. If someones' life goal is to make it to Williamsport then they should learn how to do the job correctly. Stop making excuses. These players deserve better. They only get one shot at it.
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