Date Sunday, August 22, 2017

Author Gerald (Gerry) Martin Davenport

You play hard, the Umpire should work hard

How I became an umpire with the local softball league

I had been an umpire in Illinois and Southern California for little league and other various baseball and softball leagues when I was younger, but the parents were the worst, not the kids, so I stopped doing it, but my love for the game and the stats never waned.

I came to Nevada County in Late 1979 and started Nevada Union as a freshman and tried to play ball there, but they were so stuck up about who played, they lied to me about when and where practices were held three times. How could they not know they did not want me if they never saw me play?

Anyway, It was back in the late 90's when I was introduced to the local softball league and joined the Moule Paint & Glass men's team. This inspired me to create a coed team with my wife, a few friends, and co workers.

I dissatisfied with a few of the umpires in the league with their lack of abilities, professionalism, and knowledge of the game. One game the umpire was even more apathetic than usual, I contacted the Commissioner, at that time Steve Loomis, and told him my grievances about the state of his umpires. He told me if I can do better, then become an umpire for the league.

My first game, was a B2 men's game, and the first batter hit a ball, ran to second, and with a close play was tagged out. I rung him up, and he was turning and looking up he said “How could you see that? Oh, you're right there.”

That is the way I have always done it, even in little league, since I did not trust the field umpires, I did it myself — which was another reason I stopped doing it, they frowned on it.

Tough, Close, Bad, and Good calls.

No one is perfect. Even Umpires. As much as we want to be, it will never happen. But to not strive or aspire to be is a fault, weakness, and a sin — “idle hands makes the devil's work.”

Tough Calls · Out of Position · play out of view

Most players in the league have seen me umpire, and though I am not the best, I do work at putting myself in position to make the correct/best call I can make; however, at least once a night a tough situation comes up that I could not clearly see due to:

  A) the tag or play happens out of view
    · The runner is between the umpire and the defensive player when the tag is made. This is a very common occurrence, but most of the time the call can be easily made by the reaction of the baserunner. There are times that the tag was made but the ball was not in the glove.

There was a play made August 18, 2017 by Mike (filling in for AJA VIDEO), as he tagged the runner, the tag was very clear as the runner did get jarred, but the ball was in his bare hand as he went to tag her and was still the the bare hand when he was finished. I called safe, which in most cases is the call I would make, since the ball and the glove were out of my view — I did not see them come together during the tag; HOWEVER, knowing Mike and his abilities as a player, I know he was not going to try and cheat the tag and expect me to believe it — I came to this conclusion after the next batter was up. After the call was made, he was visibly upset and made a loud remark and then rolled the ball to the pitcher — another variable in my conclusion that he probably made the tag. WHY? Because he did not harp on it afterward, there was no other remark or trouble, He is a competitive sportsman, and gave me, the game, the players, and himself respect by letting it go — do you know anyone else with that sportsmanship? Not many. Fortunately for me, that play was not a deciding factor in the teams loss, but it did effect me knowing I made a questionable call that I try so hard to avoid.

  B) the defensive player throws to a different bag that what was not expected
    · Getting out to look at first base, the action takes place at home and I do not turn in time to see it — thankfully, most of the time the ball is overthrown or the play is not even close. Another situation that is tough is when the ball is hit to right and the runner at third is going to tag up. I have to put of of them in the corner of my eye and listing to the ball being caught in the glove.

  C) defensive player(s) get in the way right when the ball arrives
    · Often on close calls down the line the Third or First Base player straddles the foul line not giving me a clear view and I have to call it fair — it is not your call to make, so get out of the way!

Close Calls · Tie goes to the runner? · Illegal Pitches

Certain MLB Rules are up to interpretation causing “close calls” to be made, such as:

5.06 (7.00) Running the Bases

(a) (7.01) Occupying the Base

  • 5.06(a)(1) A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out, or forced to vacate it for another run- ner legally entitled to that base.

“A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out.” So, when is he out? Read 5.09 Making an out.

5.09 Making an Out

(a) (6.05) Retiring the Batter
A batter is out when:

  • 5.09(a)(10) - After a third strike or after he hits a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base;

As you read it slowly, look for key words and how they are phrased:
he or first base is tagged before he touches first base.

We know he is safe if he or first base it tagged after he reaches, but what about if he or first base is tagged at the same time? Again, the tag of the base or the player must happen before he reaches. “Before” is not a word with multiple interpretations. By saying that the runner is out when he or first base is tagged “before” he touches it, he is not out if he is tagged and touches first base simultaneously

Ties go to the runner? There are no ties in baseball. In a scenario where they happen simultaneously seen by the naked eye. Did he or first base get tagged before he arrived? No. They arrived at the same time. There is no mention of "Same Time" or "Ties" in that rule; it does say BEFORE, so therefore, he must be safe.

5.09 Making an Out

(b) (7.08) Retiring a Runner
Any runner is out when:

  • 5.09(b)(6) - He or the next base is tagged before he touches the next base, after he has been forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner.

Again, with the word “before.” I interpreted it for along time as first base the ball had to beat the runner, and the other bases the runner had to beat the ball. Now I see it is it the same for all bases. The ball, or tag, has to be before the runner reaches the base.

I have seen this to the microsecond and most MLB umpires call it an out, when it is so obvious they arrived a fraction earlier. MLB umpires, and others that do not want to be on their feet any longer than they have too, will call it an out, so they are one more out closer to going home.

There are those that feel the defensive player made a great play, give it too him. Why? The batter made a great hit and beat out the great play.

Another close call is the overly debated illegal pitch — either too high or too low compared to the rules: no lower than 6' and no higher than 12'. It is funny to hear one team complain about it when their own pitcher pushes the limit, but the other team does not complain.

If you take a closer look at me behind the plate I have a procedure I do — do not know what other umpires do — I have a spot where I put the brim of my hat, then turn to the pitcher, If the ball goes above my brim, out of my view, then it is obviously TOO high. It is not scientific, but it helps me since the white 12' pole was taken down.

As far as how I calculate it being too low, or under 6', is the arch or the ball and the height it reaches at a point in the distance or the height of the pitcher. It is not unheard of that a few inches higher than 12' might get by as just a little under than 6'.

I am a stickler on keeping it fair and consistant, but if a pitch comes in and you feel it is too low or too high, suck it up buttercup. play ball. You whine about it too much I am going start calling strikes on pitches 2 inches off the plate. Slow pitch softball is a hitters game, not a pitchers game; so swing the bat and hit the ball, and please stop whining!

Bad and Good calls. Are there any that make both teams happy?

A bad call is one that the rules are not adhered too, where the opposite of the call was clearly the better one, or not admitting the mistake and rectifying it. A truly BAD call is one that was made to quickly before all information is taken into consideration.

I have been told by a few people that an umpire should never change the call on the field, yet we see this happen in the MLB, College, Little League, College Softball, and others. And even if they did not do it, why not change a call on the field if it was OBVIOUSLY called wrong to begin with? I have no qualms about reversing a call I made, mostly because I gave the player the benefit of the doubt that the play was going to be made. Such as a tag, a catch, or making it to a base.

I have had a player tell me that the player was safe because they missed the tag or the base. Well, I already called the player OUT as I SAW IT! But when the manager tells me the same thing that they want to play fair, then I will ask again that they are telling me the runner is safe not out? And that I saw the defensive player tag or touch the base, that is why I called it the way I did, but really I gave them the benefit of the doubt as the play happened behind the bag or behind the runner. If I called them safe, which I should have, but again, I gave the player the benefit because I was out of position — again.

I have not had many issues with calls — there are some, but for the most part, when I hustle to a play, I get respect for my efforts from most of the players; there may be a quiver of Difference of Opinion, but it all disperses quickly as they see I am out there making the calls, not standing at home.

I am not perfect, nor are the other umpires, but we do try our best, some more than others, to give you a perfectly called game. You play hard, the Umpire should work hard.

The Unmentionable Oath

It is funny that it is the one questionable call the umpire makes that had no effect on the game that gets argued, not the plethora of errors the team made that the umpire never mentions.

Thank You for allowing me to have a front row seat to watch you have fun, play ball, and see some exciting plays and watch you grow as a player, a team, and a softball community! - gerald martin davenport - WNCSSA umpire & Coed President

Remember: Lights on for safety.