This morning started off great. Grits with bacon! It’s true what they say, everything is better with bacon. We even got the kitchen staff to set out a little shredded cheese for my man from Georgia so he could enjoy cheese grits. I haven’t done those yet, but maybe before I leave here. Today in class we had a talk with MLB umpire Dan Bellino. He talked about how he loves his job and how coming up through the MiLB ranks was some of the best times of his life. He also realizes how fortunate he is to be in the bigs. A very well spoken and humble guy. He actually came in last night and watched some drill and cage work. After Dan spoke we went right into studying appeals. Most of it was pretty routine, but there were a couple of points that I found interesting. When we were talking about check swing appeals, most of us know that the only criteria for judging a check swing is whether the calling umpire felt the batter made an attempt. And I know the myths are plentiful on this particular subject, and apparently a couple of years ago, MLB wanted to change this rule. We were told that at the winter meetings the powers that be got together and tried to find some verbiage to quantify how to rule on check swings. After 3 hours of discussion, they decided to leave it in the hands of the umpires. Sometimes its just best to leave things alone. They also told us that MLB has a “war room” of sorts to monitor what baseball announcers are saying and they go as to so far as calling the announcers and correcting them when they give misinformation. And yes, Tim McCarvers name was mentioned. We all got a good laugh out of that one.
We had our 6th test today and will get the results on Monday. The test covered interference and base awards. I thought the questions were good and required a bit of thinking in order to answer. We’ll see who gets the dollar for this one.
On the field today, we worked on drills with multiple runners on. We worked on ground balls to the infield with runners on 1st and 2nd. Double plays, interference, and over throws were all part of the drills. Probably the most difficult thing that I saw, was awarding bases in unison with your partner. When both umpires are in sync, it looks and sounds really good. I had some good reps on the bases and felt pretty sharp. After our base reps, we moved on to the plate umpire reps. Depending on the set up of the drill, especially if there is a double play and if you don’t have fair/foul responsibility, the plate umpire doesn’t have that much to do. So I did a couple of reps and on about my third one, I guess it was time for a brain fart. I mean it’s bound to happen, and it happens to everyone. So the ball is hit to the first baseman, not really a fair/foul decision, but for some reason I go up the line and then realize it doesn’t need a fair/foul. I don’t signal anything, the ball goes out of play, I say nothing, don’t echo my partner, and basically stand there looking like a dummy. As I walk back to the evaluator, I’m just shaking my head. And in a very gentile and constructive way, he starts to tell me that if I go up the line, I need to signal regardless if I didn’t really need to go up the line, and I know what else he is going to say. I stop him right there and tell him I just plain F%&ked up that rep. We had a good laugh and I told him that I would do better next time. He was real good about it and I appreciated it. I got back in line and hoped I would get another play with base awards, because I didn’t want to end my field drills on that note. Well my wishes were answered. On my last rep, we had an over throw, and credit to my base partner, we made good visual communication, and pretty much nailed it. Good way to end the field drills. After that we headed to the cages to work more on tracking and timing. Our crew had some good reps and good feedback from the cage instructor. They are very particular about being solid on every aspect of working the plate. From foot positioning, head height, timing, tracking, keeping your head still, being consistent, etc., every aspect is scrutinized and worked on. Its a challenge, but you’ve got to work at it if you want to get better.
Today marked the end of a ten day straight run of school. Most days from the time we get up, to the time we finish dinner, are about 13 hours long. Including orientation, we have been here for eleven days. It’s been a long stretch, but we are seeing results and tomorrow is a well deserved day off.