Today was check in and orientation. We got up early and headed over to DodgerTown to check the place out. Check in began at noon, but we arrived early to tour the facilities and get a feel for where we are about to spend the next 4 weeks of our lives. The place is absolutely beautiful and well maintained. TUS uses the old Dodger spring training facility. Although the Dodgers moved their spring training facilities to Arizona a few years back, the site still remains a fixture in Vero Beach. The grounds contain a number of baseball fields, housing, a dining facility, multiple batting cages, meeting rooms, laundry facilities, a pool, tennis courts, etc. All the amenities that a major league baseball team would use in the spring. It’s almost like a mini resort, just about everything you need is on site. Today, the facility is used not only for TUS, but it hosts multiple baseball, softball, soccer, and rugby tournaments throughout the year. Teams can stay in the housing villas just as we are now. While the facility is older, it is meticulously cared for and the housing is nice as well. As far as I know, most of the rooms are double occupancy, clean and comfortable. It looks to be a great place to train. At check in we turned in some paperwork, and received our manuals, rulebook, binder, shirts, jacket and a hat. After that, we went to our rooms and got settled in.
Later in the evening orientation began at 7:00pm in the main conference room. The classroom is first rate with plenty of room, comfortable office type chairs, nice lighting, and good visibility. Even a large PowerPoint screen that is easy for these old eyes! The session was devoted to staff and student introductions, general guidelines, and a course overview. For the duration of school, we will basically have classroom work from 8:00am until noon, and field and cage work from 1:00pm until 6:00pm. It will be some long days, so I’ll keep the Advil handy.
I wanted to touch upon a couple of observations from today. First of all, the staff is very professional and really takes pride in the program. They really seem to have a good attention to detail and the curriculum appears to be very well thought out. They have put a lot of effort into the planning and execution of the school. Suffice it to say, they made a good first impression. The staff, for the most part, is made up of current and former minor league umpires, with a few having MLB experience. They did have an appearance by Jim Evans himself. He is in his new position with MiLB and will be mostly an observer here at the school. Not sure exactly what his role is, but the rumors can be put to rest, he is here.
A second observation was the age distribution among the students. There are between 80 and 90 students here and the vast majority, I’d say about 80 – 90 % are under the age of 30. This is markedly different from my time in 2013 at Wendelstedt where the age breakdown was much more evenly distributed. That class had over 180 students from all walks of life. Not all were there for a job in pro ball. Many wanted to get better, perhaps work higher level or college ball, but had no aspirations of turning pro. Here, almost everybody appears to want a shot at making it to PBUC. Bill and I talked about how this may be a problem on how we are viewed by the other students. We’re somewhat worried about how we may be perceived when in our crews. Not that we can’t keep up or are poor umpires, however, we don’t want the other students that are paired up with us to view us as hindering their evaluations. On one hand, we don’t want nor will we be considered for MiLB jobs, so we are not in competition with the others in that regard. On the other hand, we don’t want the other students to think we are there just to have fun and not be serious about the training. This was something we did not anticipate, and not that it will happen, but it has crossed our minds. We each agreed that we will have to work extra hard especially in the first few days to set a good example and quickly show to everyone that we are serious and will not be a perceived detriment. I hope this isn’t the case and I’m sure it is not, the class seems like a really good group of focused individuals. Our goal is to obviously to improve, but we also would like to help others realize their goals as well. We are determined to look sharp and work hard. It’s time for these old guys to show those young whippersnappers a thing or two! A full day of instruction begins tomorrow!