Today was the first full day of instruction, and if it is any indication of how the school will go, we have our work cut out for us. It’s been a long day with lots of drills on the field and that’s how it’s going to be from here on out. We started in the classroom this morning and went over the breakdown of how the rulebook will be taught. They will be going over every word in that rulebook, just not in order. They plan on skipping around and breaking it down to 18 different sections. Some sections will be taught as a whole and others such as interference/obstruction will be broken down separately. Tests will be given at the end of each discussion session, so I’m assuming that there will be at least 18 tests, possibly more. TUS also has a medical coordinator that helps with minor medical issues, gives stretching advice, and overall tries to keep students as injury free as possible. What I found interesting for today was that he showed an informative video on the dangers of chewing tobacco. Seems like MiLB is serious about getting the word out and discouraging chewing tobacco. They do not allow chewing tobacco in the minor leagues and I wish they would ban it in the majors as well. That’s the extent of my soapbox!
After lunch we met on the field for the basic 4, go/stop/call it, pivot drill, and clearing the catcher drill. The stations were well organized with many repetitions to be had. I probably ran the pivot drill about 12 times. The instructors were real positive, but it is evident they want the students to work hard, catch on quickly, and improve. So far the level of acumen in the class looks pretty good. I’m sure there is some good competition brewing already. One point I came out with from the field exercises was the teaching of heel/instep rather than heel/toe for the plate stance. Thought that was interesting, although I didn’t catch the reasoning for this methodology. I suppose it becomes easier to stay square to the pitcher, but that’s only a guess. Perhaps they will explain more when we get to the cage work portions. Overall a good day, but I’m tired and my feet are sore. Where’s the Advil?
On a side note, my concerns about how we might be perceived by the other students was mostly alleviated today. A common theme reiterated all day today by the staff was that of camaraderie and helping your fellow umpire. Our lead instructor made it quite clear that the way to advance was not by stepping on someone else, that we were all in it together, and that it is better to get notice by helping your crewmembers out instead of putting them down. It was a nice message of positivity and camaraderie and I think well taken by all students. The class is broken up into 12 crews of around 7-8 students. You will be working with that crew all during school, so it becomes imperative that we all get along. The crews are broken up alphabetically, so Bill and I are not on the same crew. I think that is fine so we may each learn with different umpires and can share different experiences at the end of each day. My crew is young, but I worked hard today, got some good feedback and recognition from the instructors, and I think I showed the crew that this old guy can hang. Good group of kids in my crew and I think we’ll be fine and have some fun.