Umpiring and Sportsmanship

Had a quick game tonight.  Hour and half and we had ourselves a 13-1 run rule.  The game was a pretty easy call behind the plate for me, but I still managed to blow 2 would be strike calls.  Both were inside pitches that for all intensive purposes should have been strikes.  Neither call was meaningful as both hitters roped a piped pitch with two strikes on them.

A few new things did happen in this game though.  The first was the most innocent.  Sometime in the third inning, the right field light pole that offers most of the light to the right field line mysteriously turned off.  It got a little dark, but my partner and I deemed it playable.  There was still outfield lights on and the soccer stadium just past right field had some lights on too.  It can be dangerous to play with just one pole out, but the right fielder did make a catch one the first play after the 3-4 minute suspension of play, so that made my partner and I much more okay with continuing the game.

Another play that stood out in the game was an inside pitch that was in on the batter’s hands.  I heard a ping of the ball hitting the batt, but the ball was close enough to the hands that I couldn’t tell if it hit the batter on the hands or not.  If the ping had not been such a clean ping, I would have awarded the runner the base.  Instead, the ping sounded like the bat was hit cleanly, as opposed to the general ping/thud mix that happens when a ball bounces off something then the bat.  I called the ball foul despite the player trying to show me a bruise.  Honestly I didn’t see a mark on his hand.  The kid got back in and eventually struck out.  I feel sorry if that was indeed the case, but from what I saw, someone could have faked that and been just as convincing.  I didn’t see it, I made my call, I stuck to my guns.  Sorry kid.

The last call that was a little bit unusual came on a swinging strike three in the dirt with first base open.  The ball bounced off the catcher and down the first baseline.  The batter runner was moving in the same direction and as he was throwing down his bat, the ball bounced off the bat and back at the catcher.  I thought the contact was incidental, but it was questionable.  The question came up that the ball hit him in fair territory.  My ruling was that as a non-batted ball, the runner is not out, and that the contact was incidental and didn’t really affect the play as he knocked the ball back to the catcher who was frantically searching the fence-line with his eyes.  The catcher booted the ball when picking it up and had no chance at the speedy runner.  The coach bought my argument, which I appreciate.  I still believe my call was right.  I got plenty of heat from the stands.  One guy at the end claimed the only reason they lost the game was me being “a piss poor umpire.”  Your team was outhit somewhere around 19-3.  Yeah, it wasn’t me.  It was your JV team being 13 freshman and sophomores and theirs being 14 juniors.  The other team was just more talented.

The last thing that came up, which was the most exciting, was in the second inning right after a hit by pitch.  The home pitcher hit the batter with a wild fastball.  The batter runner made his way to first while “staring down” the pitcher.  Well, I jumped right out there to influence him to keep the course to first.  The pitcher had other plans, stating, “What are you staring at?”  What an idiot.  The kid was huge, and the last thing you want is to be thrown out of a game for fighting.  I immediately got him quiet by stating, “Pitcher, you don’t say anything to the opposing batter.”  He turned around with a cocky look on his face.  Two pitches later the inning was over and I was talking to the coach to give him the warning (and to let him know about his pitcher putting his fingers a bit too close to his mouth to bit off a hang nail – hands to the mouth on the mound is a balk/illegal pitch).  Didn’t have a problem with the pitcher again until the last inning when he was motioning to the whole world what pitch he was throwing.  It was cocky, and I just didn’t issue the warning to keep his cockiness to himself.  I should have though as part of the job is to make sure sportsmanship is held intact.

The only thing that really bothered me with this game was the home team’s yelling in the dugout.  I came from the school of baseball that thinks organized yelling during your time at bat is something made for softball.  These guys were yelling “rip… rip” (which sounded like frogs), “harder harder harder throw harder,” “base hit base rip,” and other things in the low voice type of yelling.  It got pretty annoying.  Going back to the sportsmanship, I really don’t think its appropriate to talk to players of the other team or even in a way that insinuates the other team/player is no good.  Telling a pitcher to “throw harder” or yelling “we get fresh meat” is unnecessary.  I could understand doing the harder chant if you want to say swing, but don’t frame it toward the pitcher.  Let the other team do their job, you just encourage your own team.

As a wise man once said, “do your talking with your bat and your glove.”  It isn’t what you chant, it is the final score.  [/soapbox].


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