We’re into double digits in our day count, with only 19 more days left. One more day of instruction before our first day off, and I can tell you on Sunday, I’m doing a whole lot of nothing! Today in class we continued to study obstruction and interference. No real POE’s to report, mostly standard rule book stuff. In studying more of the 2 man system, we discussed positioning for runner on third only. One thing I have noticed is that we have not yet discussed is signaling your partner. We briefly discussed a time play and they showed us the signal, but we have not incorporated any signals in our drills. Now granted, we haven’t run anything yet that requires a signal except for the 1st to 3rd drill. A few of us have been discussing this and some have even wondered if you would signal 1st to 3rd in the pros. I believe you do, and that was taught at Wendelstedt, but they are probably waiting to incorporate it. We’ll have our sixth test tomorrow, so we’ll see who has bragging rights on our day off.
On the field we drilled runners on 3rd base only with hits to the outfield. Sometimes the the batter runner went to second, and other times there was a play at home on R3 tagging. One POE that I wanted to mention was that on some plays to the outfield and infield was the position of the plate umpire. I was always taught that with runners in scoring position and when the plate umpire didn’t go out on fair/foul, (and I know I am simplifying this) the PU would move a few steps out toward 3B and watch the play from just around the outer edge of the dirt circle. Instead the PU takes one step back and line up point of plate. It is simpler, but takes some getting used to, especially for people that are used to working one man or used to get in front of the plate on most plays. Some of the students were taking a step forward, like the first step in clearing the catcher, and then realizing they just need to take a step back. We also worked on tag up positioning for the PU. Again, I was always used to get more distance out towards the left, but now they don’t want you to get on the grass beyond the home plate circle. The reasoning is that the pro game moves so fast, you have to be able to get into positioning for a possible play at the plate. Almost all of the mechanics are taught with that speed in mind. I still have a little trouble with positioning on the bases, but I’m slowly getting it. It’s funny how drills can fluster even the most seasoned umpires. During my games, I just instinctively react and seem to be in the right places most of the time, or so I think. But during drills, we all seem to struggle at one point or another. Part of it has to do with not really knowing exactly where to go, there is a steep learning curve due to the time constraints. Part of it is the pressure of everyone watching, and part of it is wanting to do well. But that is why we are here, and we will all leave as much better umpires.
We had another cage session to day and they started to add in tracking and timing. One of the things they emphasize is keeping your focus for the entire game, every pitch and every play. At the professional level, you just can’t take a pitch or play off. They want focus from start to finish. We often wonder what makes a good umpire outside of a certain tangible skill set. I actually think sustained focus sets the great umpires apart from the good umpires. The ability to maintain consistency and mental toughness day in and day out for 9 innings of high level ball is, in my opinion, probably the most important attribute for an umpire.
The cage session was fun and went well. I need to work on my head height, I’m a little above the catchers head, but I may not be able to improve on it much. Because I’m just not that flexible and I prefer a narrower stance, I don’t know how much of an adjustment I can make. Its only a couple of inches off and I will try to improve on it, but we may just have to work with my limitations. I need to go a little wider to get lower without too much of a torso lean. My tracking, timing, and positioning are good so far, so I’m not that worried about head height, but I’ll work hard to be the best I can be.