Letters From America

"Working in the USA"

Slide

Upon arrival back in the USA, I trawled the internet for a local umpiring association. There were not too many in the area but I did find the Massachusetts Baseball Umpire Association. This was broken down into six smaller, local organizations and, being in the Worcester Council area, I decided to go for them.

After making contact with the local secretary, I was informed that I would have to attend a clinic and be evaluated officially.  I told them about my experience in the UK and Europe, which seemed to satisfy them though and in March I attended a meeting and was surprised by the number of people who attended; there must have been over fifty and I believe not everyone had shown up!DelUSA1

It was the typical umpire meeting, going over the rule changes both at High School and State level mainly, but also a great opportunity to get to know different people on the board, as well as each other. I was surprised that not many people there had umpired in three-man systems, but I think they were even more surprised when I told them I had mainly been doing a one-man for most of my umpiring career! It turned out that, in Massachusetts, it is always a two-man system. When I enquired about if they ever did a 3-man system they said that it only happens in college…so it looks like I will have to wait for a while to experience that again.

A week later I went along to the clinic, apparently you have to attend the main meeting and a minimum of one clinic a year to stay on the active roster. To be honest, it was a real let-down. It was freezing outside on the high school field, which was also wet, and despite it being artificial turf the dirt around home plate was real and the mud was knee deep. All we did was break up into separate groups and go over mechanics and positions… “Been there, done that”. The longest 3 hours of my life.

The first season was a mixture of High School games through until June when school broke up, and Babe Ruth League, which is broken down into 12 - 16 year olds and 16 - 18 year olds. This ran for a month before I did some 9-11-old year-old Little League. In total I did 36 games in a 5 month period. These games were played throughout the week, as well as weekends, so I was kept really busy.

DelUSA2At the end of the regular season the Fall League started up and was in full swing from the end of September until mid-October, mainly made up of High School team. Tournaments were run in between and these were double headers. All games were either 7 innings long, or 6 for lower age groups.

I would say the first season was an eye-opener. Many of the umpires I worked with were okay but had some bad habits. Almost all of them, if working the bases, would not go out on troubled balls which was strange as we were always taught that, no matter what level you umpire at, if the base umpire is closer to the play than the home umpire so he is the one to make the call.

I am now looking forward to my fourth season in the WABUA and am still trying to adjust to their way of calling games, whether I think that it is right or wrong. Our yearly meeting was on the 6th of March and the clinic is on Sunday. I am sure that it will be a “real hoot”.

So, until the next instalment, keep it between the lines.

Del

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