Come On Blue!
LIVID - You Are The Worst Umpire Ever!
"You are the worst umpire ever!" Pretty strong words from and irate third base coach as his runner slid into the tag right in front of him to end what would have been an incredible comeback win after tournament game time had already expired. What he saw was different than what I saw as i came down the baseline from home to make the call.
- 1) The ball arrived before the runner.
- 2) The tag was down.
- 3) The defender maintained control of the ball.
- 4) The out was called.
To say that the 10U Irish fans, coaches, and players were upset is an understatement. They were livid with anger. Within moments of my call I had the head coach running up to me in his shorts and light green shirt with his finger waving at my face from his 5'10" vantage point. I had removed my hockey style mask and looked at him with a straight face as he yelled, "You have got to be kidding me! That was the worst call ever. You are the worst umpire I have ever seen. You can't call him out and end the game this way. This is not fair to my players." Meanwhile his assistant coach had made it over to the area, yet could not get close because of the surrounding Irish players who were also yelling and mad. The assistant was also yelling his disgust at the call. But let's be serious, the head coach was looking directly down on the play (Great angle but biased perspective). I watched it from 25 feet with a direct perpendicular side view (Good angle - neutral perspective), The assistant coach, however, was in no man's land on the other side of the dark diamond.
I then calmly, but firmly said to the coach, "Coach, he was out."
The Irish coach was taken aback that I did not argue and he continued to express his extreme displeasure. I watched his tirade, and understood his frustration. He coached a good game that found his team down 10 to 2 with two innings to go. He managed to get 7 runs in the next to last inning and this set up a great final inning. The Irish allowed the Southern Utah Rebels 1 run in the top half of the sixth and then came to bat as the home team down by two to either win, lose, or tie the game to send it to extra innings. They immediately got a double and their big first baseman came up and hit a deep single that would have been a double for most players, but it scored a run and the Irish crowd was elated.
As the Irish first baseman happily stood on first, his coach came down and asked, "Hey, can I put in a pinch runnner?" I smiled as said, "Only if he is hurt." The coach said, "Yeah, he is hurt" but then turned and walked back to his coaching box. The Irish coach knew that his runner was not all that speedy, and yet he was the tying run and this was an important second game on the first day of the three day tournament.
10U UMPIRE POSITION LIMITATIONS - Running a two man crew on a 10U field has extreme limitations. The other contributing factor is that 10U ball does not allow leading off, and runner cannot leave their base until the ball either crosses the plate or is hit by the batter. With a runner on first this means that the field umpire is positioned out behind the second baseman at the edge of the outfield. This allows him the ability to watch the runner if he leaves early, and also watch the action at the plate to rule on check swings. If action does occur, then he can call the play at second and first from the outfield side of the base path. The huge drawback is that he is stuck out there and is of little help when there is a play at third. With older divisions where leading off is allowed, then the field umpire plays inside the infield just behind the pitcher's mound on either the right or left side (depending on where runners are located) and then he can make great calls at any of the three bases.
With a runner on first, Austin Favila (my field umpire) was trapped behind the second baseman when a ball was hit to right field. As the runner came to second he was set to go on to third base. This meant that the call was mine and Austin was supposed to be watching the events at first base. Of course time slows down on these type of plays and I find myself hustling to where the action is going to be while tuning out all of the crowd noise. I remember setting firm and then watching the thrown ball fly towards third base, watching the runner start his slide, watching the catch and the lowering of the tag in relation to the cleated shoe coming into third, and then ensuring that the infielder still maintained possession of the ball so that only one call had to be made. In this case it all looked picture perfect and I called the out.
It wasn't until the reflex actions had ended that I realized it was the end of the game. I called the play as a single play and not by weighing out the effects of the call. But that is when the screams of anger from the home team and the elation of screams from the winning visiting team as they ran to the pitcher's mound and chest bumped and high-fived, that the magnitude of the call set in. I easily stood there and took the verbal abuse knowing that this game meant a lot to both teams. As i turned from the coach and walked to the Irish scorekeeper, then I took the verbal abuse from their fans and the scorekeeper. She said, "That is the worst call I have ever seen. How can you feel good about yourself? I can't believe you called him out." My response was, "Game time is 9:27 and the final score is Irish 10 and Rebels 11." And with that I walked directly to the right field fence and to the snack shack and restroom area to both get away from the anger and to report the score.
Walking away was the best thing for the situation. The Irish fully blamed me for their loss. The fact that it was too little, too late, or that they should have held the runner back for more action in the inning made little difference. I was just sad that all of my gear and cooler was just outside their dugout and I felt it best to just clear the area and let the realities of their loss set in. No more confrontations were to be needed. I came up to Dan Udy, a head Rocky Mountain School of Baseball (RMSB) official, and he asked, "What happened out their? I saw a guy in a green shirt come running up to you."
I then rehearsed what happened and Dan asked how I could allow that to happen. I explained to him that it was just the heat of the moment. I could feel the coaches pain, the game was over, and the last thing that this situation warranted was further disciplinary action on my part. I shared with Dennis that I had been in similar situations as a coach and I had also felt an umpire made the wrong call. And that is why I took the abuse and calmly reassured him that the out stood and that the game was over. Dennis went on to share some other temper related fiascos of the day that included a game being stopped mid way due to coaching flare-ups.
None of the extreme emotional outbursts are appropriate. Often the venom is directed and channeled in the wrong way. The rules certainly don't have any tolerance, and if the Irish scenario had happened mid-game, then there would have been multiple ejections. Here is what the rules of Major League Baseball have to say about coaching and player outbursts...
2014 MLB RULES
(a) No manager, player, substitute, coach, trainer or batboy shall at any time, whether from the bench, the coachs box or on the playing field, or elsewhere --
(1) Incite, or try to incite, by word or sign a demonstration by spectators;
(2) Use language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator;
Official Rules: 9.00 The Umpire
(b) Each umpire is the representative of the league and of professional baseball, and is authorized and required to enforce all of these rules. Each umpire has authority to order a player, coach, manager or club officer or employee to do or refrain from doing anything which affects the administering of these rules, and to enforce the prescribed penalties.
(c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.
(a) Any umpires decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
Rule 9.02(a) Comment: Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game.
(b) If there is reasonable doubt that any umpires decision may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made. Such appeal shall be made only to the umpire who made the protested decision.
Official Rules: 4.00 Starting and Ending a Game
When the occupants of a players bench show violent disapproval of an umpires decision, the umpire shall first give warning that such disapproval shall cease. If such action continues --
PENALTY: The umpire shall order the offenders from the bench to the club house. If he is unable to detect the offender, or offenders, he may clear the bench of all substitute players. The manager of the offending team shall have the privilege of recalling to the playing field only those players needed for substitution in the game.
What a seemingly bad ending to an otherwise great day of baseball led to an unexpected event. After about 15 minutes, while I awaited the departure of the Irish and their fans so that I could retrieve my gear, I was still with Dan Udy when somebody came sprinting over our direction. It wasn't until he was immediately in front of me that I realized it was the head coach of the Irish and he said, "Hey I apologize for my actions after the game. I shouldn't have done that and I am sorry."
"Coach, I understand how you felt. That was an important game ending play. That is why I was not mad at your actions. Having been a coach I have felt the same way and I understand," I shared.
He responded, "I spoke to the other coach and he thought my runner was safe too, and I just wanted to apologize."
And with that, he jogged back off to where his team was now leaving. I readily received his apology and couldn't help but smile as he got in the last final dig regarding the winning coaches statement of confirming my supposed botched call.
I continued smiling as I watched him trot off and I tried to imagine how that conversation must have gone.... "Hey coach, did you think he was out or safe?"... I am certain the winning coach was not about to get in the middle of anything. Let's face it, the losing coach was mad and the winning coach knew he got the best of a bang-bang play and call. I am certain there was no real motive for him to tell the losing coach how wrong he was for his post game actions. Instead, he probably offered a gentle smile and a "Yeah that was really close" was probably more how it went down. A a matter of fact, I did not see the winning coach protesting his victory. I also did not see his fans and players complaining over the call. Game ending bang-bang plays always have a very polarizing effect on the coaches, players, and fans, but as an umpire I will continue to impartially call them the way I see them and let the dust settle where it may.