Today marks a couple of milestones here at TUS. First off, I had to give Bill a dollar today. Neither one of us got a 100% on yesterday’s test, but he missed one and I missed two. And after today’s test, I think I’ll owe him again. Also, today marks the halfway point in school. We leave 2 weeks from today and not including days off, there are only 10 or 11 days left of full instruction. I think the last 3 days we are here will consist of field evaluations and individual meetings on the last Wednesday. So we are officially on the down hill slide. In the classroom today we started on situation management. A lot of good information and techniques were taught on handling situations on the field. They flat out told prospective new hires that they would be overmatched by some managers in the minor leagues. I think this is a concern, and perhaps an inherent catch 22 built in to minor league baseball. On one hand, you need youth and physical skills to be a minor league umpire, yet as we all know, sometimes the lack of experience and maturity can cause issues in that type of environment. You have managers and coaches with many years of experience in pro baseball that will sometimes take advantage of younger and less experienced people. So MiLB seems to be very in touch with teaching game management to its umpires. One POE was that they said that they would never tell you not to eject anyone, that ejections are part of the game. However, they want their umpires to try and diffuse situations or take the necessary steps to minimize problems on the field. And most steps focused on respectful communication with players and managers. I think MiLB is trending towards improved game management and I think it shows now even at the professional level, the umpires for the most part, especially the younger ones, seem to be less confrontational. You don’t see too much of the toe to toe arguments, a la Earl Weaver and Bill Haller, as in the past. As they told us and some of you already know, “silence can’t be quoted!”
On the field we got back into the cages. Today we started adding in the strike zone, they wanted us to call what we saw. Interestingly enough, and much to my surprise, they wanted us to call strikes with a generous zone. They wanted us to call a little inside, a little more outside, and particularly, call the high strike. I wasn’t expecting that, but they said that this was the zone for low A ball, and they got on some of the students for not calling some pitches strikes. To me, I can only describe it as a good high school zone. One ball off the plate inside, about maybe a little less than 2 balls on the outside, just below the knees, and just under the elbows. I was more than pleased to hear this, and although my zone for most 16-18 years olds mirrors the one taught here, I see far too many umpires, particularly at the high school level call too tight of a zone. Tight zones generally make for a miserable day. I don’t want to get in to a discussion about which zone is appropriate for what level, but they do want strikes to be called, and I think we can all agree that more strikes are better.
Back on the field, we drilled ground balls to the infield and base hits with runners on first and third. By the end of this week we will have practiced every base runner combination possible. I think next week will solely focus on practicing all those combinations in our drills. It’s a lot of work and a lot to remember, but each day we seem to get a little bit better. I had a very solid day both in the cages and on the field, and so did my crew. Overall, a very good day for crew 10 and we know there will be some tough stretches and we’ve got a lot to learn, but we pick each other up. I’m lucky to be on such a good crew with a bunch of hardworking guys.