After a few days, it’s back to work and reality. I did not look for any games this weekend, but one of my associations has a tournament next weekend, so hopefully I can pick up a few games. I just wanted to wrap up a few thoughts about pro school, as this will be the final blog entry.
The overall experience with TUS was nothing short of fantastic. It really was a life changing experience for me in so many ways. Not in a dramatic way, but more of achieving an accomplishment, something that you may have never thought you’d do. There were a lot of little realizations about myself, the ability to stick it out, the ability to write this blog, and the realization that hard work and a positive attitude can have an impact on other lives. It was definitely difficult and not for the faint of heart, the long days and physical and mental demands were a challenge. But that is what I had hoped for. When I went to Wendelstedt’s 2 week course in 2013, I was disappointed for a couple or reasons. One, I thought to myself, “I made the effort to come all the way out here, why didn’t I just stay and complete the 5 week course?” It felt like unfinished business to me, and that is a big reason why I returned to pro school. Second, while the field drills at Harry’s were excellent, the overall professionalism and organization, particularly the classroom work, was disappointing. Everything besides the field drills seemed to be off the cuff and with little advance planning, or not much thought or effort put into it. They never seemed to analyze their methodologies and look for ways to improve upon that. It seemed like they just wanted to rest on their laurels of being the best, and that they didn’t need to change, self analyze, or improve.
I expected that professional umpire school should be like a PhD program of umpire training. I can tell you that TUS was just that and more. Every aspect of what they did was carefully planned, structured, and well carried out. From the meals, lodging, classroom work, field work, tests and everything else, no stone was left unturned. The organization and attention to detail was unsurpassed, and they even made some slight changes every so often in order to try things out, or change some things that weren’t working that well. It was evident that they met probably daily to discuss how things were going. You need self analyzation to improve any organization, and TUS understands this concept. The instructors all had a common goal of improving the students, no matter the skill level or the individual ability to implement certain things. They worked with students body types and individual characteristics to make you look and perform the best to your abilities. They treated me no different that the 22 year old looking for a job. And while I connected better with a few of the instructors, they were all helpful and professional. We’ve all been to clinics where some of the instructors don’t mesh well with students, or seem to want to be somewhere else. Not the case here. Everyone of them worked hard each and everyday to help us and they all were committed to the school’s mission. You just won’t find better instruction anywhere, period. That statement is not intended to demean other clinics, because there are fine schools, clinics, and camps everywhere, but for the length of time and instruction, it’s hard for anyone else to come close. I have to say, TUS was pretty darn impressive.
Now I know what you may be thinking, there must be some things that you may have not liked. It couldn’t have been all peaches and cream, and of course it wasn’t. Obviously in a situation like this, there are some things that I struggled with and didn’t like. But those things are more of an individual dislike as opposed to the school procedures and policies. My minor critiques are more personal dislikes than a reflection of the school. Understand that a school has to do certain things and it’s their prerogative and it’s up to us to conform, or make suggestions as I did. We all filled out a satisfaction survey and I believe they wanted honest feedback to help improve the program. So the following is really only to help someone make an educated decision about attending school, and I also want to provide an honest assessment of my whole experience. However, as you will read, they really are minor. They wouldn’t let you wear sunglasses on the field, and I struggled with that, more so if you were playing as an outfielder. In the bright sun, with a worn ball, it was hard to pick up sometimes. There were also very few breaks during class and on the field. During each 4 hour class session, you were only given a total of about 9 to 12 minutes of break time, broken up into 2 or 5 minute intervals. 2 minutes is just not enough time for a restroom break, get a drink, and refocus. Only one time do I remember getting 3 five minute breaks. On the field there were hardly any breaks given, either. While water was always available, I’m concerned that students were not properly hydrating. During each 5 hour field session, you were either doing your reps, fielding, or running. Sometimes the students would take time out from running and just stand outside the running lane to rest. No matter what, you were on your feet for 5 hours straight, and it would have been helpful to sit down for a spell and rest your feet and legs, and we only got to do this a handful of times. There was hardly a student without aches and pains, a few with significant injuries that limited their ability to participate, and the medical director was very busy. Sometimes I think he was the most popular staff member there.
So the question that I have been most asked, “Was it worth it?” The answer: Absolutely 100%, and TUS was unequivocalby the right choice for me! Now if you are thinking of going, you must do some homework, and ask yourself some tough questions if this is the right choice for you. The days are long, typically 13 hours from when I woke up to when I was finished with dinner. You must be physically and mentally prepared for the challenges and rigors of school. You also must have the understanding that if you are already a pretty good umpire, you will not leave there with a dramatic change in your game. You will definitely improve, they give you the tools and knowledge to elevate your skills, but it is up to you to go back home and put that training to work. It takes a long time to develop a good umpire, it won’t happen over night. You have to decide for yourself if pro school is going to give you what you want. You can still be a good umpire without pro school, and conversely, pro school will not always improve someone. The decision to attend or not should be carefully thought out. It is a considerable expense and time commitment, so make sure you weigh all the factors, not just for yourself, but for your family and future.
With that being said, it was great experience for me, and I want to thank all of my friends and family for following along. I hope it was enjoyable and provided you with some insight to professional umpire school. I especially want to thank my wife and kids for their selfless support in my endeavor. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks to Warren at U-E for his RSS feed. It was nice to see that automatically posted to the site each night. Thank you for all the kind words and support from my U-E brothers and sisters. Thanks to everyone, staff and students, at TUS for a great experience, and keep up the good work. Thanks to crew 10 for being so awesome. I’ll always be your “Super Chief!” I’ll never forget you guys. And a special thanks to Mike Felt for being a great instructor and friend to me while at TUS. I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to share my journey. Hope to see everyone on a field someday!