This post is an excerpt from the Working With Umpires Lesson that is part of The Complete Catcher Course.
Umpires are not the enemy.
Let me say that again… umpires ARE NOT the enemy.
It doesn’t take much time on a baseball field, especially at the youth levels, to see how umpires are treated by many coaches, players, and parents. In a word, it’s not good. There is a serious umpire shortage facing tournament directors all over the country, and one of the main reasons why is how umpires are treated. Spend a weekend at a tournament and then ask yourself, would you sign up to be treated like many umpires are treated?
I don’t think you would.
No matter what you are thinking or feeling, the cold-hard truth is that umpires are never the reason why a team wins or loses a game. Blaming umpires is a cop-out excuse. It’s the easy way out. It’s putting the blame on someone else to make yourself feel better about the fact that you weren’t good enough to win a game, at bat, or pitch.
Now, do umpires make bad calls? Yes. It is frustrating when umpires are bad? Of course it is. Can umpires have an impact on the game? No doubt.
But the fact remains that no baseball game is ever won or lost based on one pitch, at bat, or play. It can feel like a bad call in a key spot cost you the game, but if you look at it that way then you are not taking responsibility for EVERYTHING else in the game that led up to that point. If you lose a game it’s because you weren’t good enough throughout the course of that entire game to win. If you’re putting yourself in a position where you need a call to go your way, then you should focus on not putting yourself in that position in the first place.
Again, umpires are not the enemy.
Now, if you’re still with me and reading this post then let’s talk about several reasons why the umpires are not the enemy, and more importantly, how we can ensure that we are treating them the right way.
UMPIRES ARE HUMAN BEINGS, TOO
Some umpires are better than others. Some umpires are just flat out bad. That is reality and that is always going to be the case. We need to remember the simple but essential fact that umpires are human beings, too. They are not robots or machines. Umpires are just as human as every coach, player, and parent on the field and they should be treated with the respect due to them simply because they are human beings.
PREPARE FOR MISSED CALLS AHEAD OF TIME
As we just said, umpires are human. That means they will make mistakes. Everyone, but especially catchers, should prepare ahead of time for missed calls. They are going to happen in every game. Thinking ahead and preparing yourself will make sure that you handle the adversity of a bad call the right way. What is the right way? By keeping your focus on the things you can control (your attitude and effort) and not getting side-tracked by the things you cannot (another human being).
REMEMBER YOUR CONTEXT
If you think that bad umpiring is only happening at the youth levels then I have some bad news for you… it happens at every level of baseball. Some of the most frustrating experiences I ever had as a player were at the collegiate and professional level.
Remember your context, most especially at the youth levels. There is a legit and serious umpiring shortage. On top of that, the training provided for many umpires is not good. The fact is that you are going to have umpires that are doing their best, but they simply aren’t as trained as they could or should be. I promise you that berating an umpire who is a young kid or working a second or third part-time job is not going to change that fact. The best approach is to keep your perspective in check and understand your context when it comes to umpiring. And yes, you might also need to change your expectations.
REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE COMPETING AGAINST
In baseball, you are competing against two things, in the following order:
- The Game. You are always competing against the game of baseball itself more than you are competing against another person. The biggest enemy most baseball players face is themselves. The game has been mostly the same of well over 100 years and you should always keep your primary focus on competing against the game of baseball above all else.
- Your Opponent. Your goal is to be the better player and/or team every time you compete. Your opponent is the one pitching, hitting, and playing defense. Not the umpire or anyone else. Your focus should be on being better than your opponent in all three areas if your goal is to win the game.
KEEP YOUR PITCHER FOCUSED ON HIS JOB
As a catcher, one of your most important responsibilities is to help your pitcher succeed. If your pitcher succeeds then your team is very likely to win the game. If you are experiencing a bad umpire, or a bad call, then the worst thing a pitcher can do is get focused on the past. His/her focus should always be on executing THIS PITCH. Not the last one. Not the next one. THIS ONE. If your pitcher is getting frustrated with the umpire, then call time to go to the mound. Talk in between innings. Be a leader and remind your pitcher that his/her job is to execute THIS PITCH and not worry about anything else.
IT’S NOT THE UMPIRE’S FAULT (EVEN WITH IT IS)
Like I mentioned above, umpires do make bad calls. Those calls can influence a game. But they are never the reason why you win or lose. If you face a bad call and lose a game, take responsibility for the things you could have done differently throughout the game to avoid that pivotal situation in the first place rather than blaming the umpire for your loss. There are many, many factors that create the outcome of any game, and the umpire is never the only reason why you win or lose.
Umpires Are Not The Enemy
Working with umpires is a very important responsibility for catchers, and every catcher needs to take this to heart. Catcher’s should lead the way in working with umpires the right way, and remembering that Umpires Are Not The Enemy by keeping the points above front of mind. Treating umpires the right way is not only important because they are human beings, but it also gives you the best chance to earn the umpire’s benefit of the doubt on those 50/50 calls that are bound to happen every game.
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