Why Pro School?

Pro school is only a week away and I’ve almost everything ready to go. Seems like a lot of stuff needs to go into 2 suitcases, but hopefully I don’t forget too much! It’s hard to decide exactly what to bring. 30 days is a long time of umpiring, but hopefully it will go by fast.

Some have asked us why Pro school, and why did we choose The Umpire School over Wendelstedt? Near the end of 2013, I got a call from Bill Balog. He had just been laid off from his job and was thinking about attending pro school in 2014. I told him that I was interested in going too, and that if he waited until 2015, I would go with him. 2015 would be better for me because then I would have 2 boys attending the same high school that my wife works at. Logistically it would be easier on my wife for me to be gone for a whole month in 2015. He agreed to wait and we held each others feet to the fire. I think we were both wondering if the other was going to back out. Sometimes I ask myself, what were we thinking! Nonetheless, both of us want the experience of pro school. We’re there to learn and get better, but also to bring back teaching methods to our associations and to Little League. Both of us are active instructors in our local LL districts both in rules and mechanics. I was fortunate this year to be invited as an instructor at Western Region. We hope we can bring back some valuable information. We also hope to do well at school and see how far we can progress as umpires. Ongoing training in important in any field in order to stay current and up to date. It’s a long commitment and we’re confident it will have great value to us and our future students.

There were many factors involved in choosing which school to attend. There are only 2 professional umpire schools in the country, The Umpire School (TUS), and Wendelstedt. If you want to be considered for a job in professional baseball, you must attend one of these schools. Of course, attending pro school does not automatically guarantee a job, quite the contrary, it is a long and difficult road. Bill and I will not be considered for pro jobs nor is that our goal, however, people attend pro school for a variety of reasons. Getting better, working different levels of baseball, or just crossing it off your bucket list are among some of the reasons people attend. Both schools are great and choosing one over the other was no easy task. In the end, we felt like TUS was the better choice for us.

In 2013 I attended the Wendelstedt 2 week abbreviated pro school in Daytona Beach, Florida. You are in the same 5 week pro course, only you leave after 2 weeks of instruction. While I got a taste of pro school and learned a lot, I felt like I could have easily stayed for the whole course. It seemed as if I had left some unfinished business behind, mainly a motivation to someday return and complete the full course. Because of my experience, I was in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of each school. Since I new basically what pro school was all about, researching TUS was easy. I knew all the right questions to ask. While both schools offer excellent instruction, it really boiled down to a few differences. Number one, TUS is only four weeks as opposed to Wendelstedt’s five. For young single guys, the difference is negligible, but for myself with a wife and kids, and running a small business, the difference is greater. Number two, all of the instruction at TUS is on site at the Old Dodger spring training site in Vero Beach. At Wendelstedt, the classroom was at the hotel, but you had to commute to the fields each day. It was about a 20 minute ride each way, which was not so bad in and of itself. However, since most student did not have a car, you were dependent on a car pool and you had no access to the fields if you wanted to work on things after hours. There seems to be more amenities at TUS as opposed to Wendelstedt. One of the downfalls of TUS, in my opinion, is the lack of live games. Wendelstedt offers live games and I think that gives an advantage to younger umpires that are looking for pro jobs and have not yet experienced game situations at a high level. To the more experienced umpire that has done games at the high school or college level, it may be less of an advantage. All things considered, TUS seemed like a better fit for a couple of guys in their 50’s. I’ll let you know!


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