Brief Update: Burnt to a Crisp Edition

June 29, 2009

Things have gotten a bit slow in these parts.  Summer ball winds down this week, Pony tournament season is just getting started.  School is in mid-swing.  Yeah… stuff.

On to today’s topic… heat exhaustion.  This weekend I was the victim of some outrageous temperatures.  I got a call Sunday morning around 10:45am to head down to Big League Dreams to do some 12A (or something like that) baseball.  The kids are 12 and they play real baseball rules, much like Pony/Colt leagues.  The first thing I thought was sweet, Big League Dreams is supposed to be awesome.  The complex has 5 fields, each a replica of a historic baseball stadium.  I was on Fenway, but they also have old Yankee Stadium, Wrigley (Cubs), the Polo Grounds (New York Giants), and Forbes Field (Pirates).  The outfield seats are painted to look like a crowd, there are stadium style seats around the plate, it’s pretty awesome. The second thing I thought was “hell yeah, $70 in cash.”  The last, “dammit, I better leave now.”

So I hurriedly got my clothes together, grabbed a big cup of water, downed it.  Refilled, grabbed a pair of gatorades and hit the truck running.  I got down there and was somewhat surprised by the facilities.  Admission and anti-outside food or drink nazis are protecting the one little gate with intent to nab anyone they can.  I couldn’t even bring in the gatorade I had just opened.  Teenagers… bah.  So I downed the gatorade and went on in.  It’s hot at this place.  Everything is concrete outside of the fields; there’s hardly any grass at all.  The infields are all Astro turf which doesn’t help either.  It just traps the heat, warms the presumably metal or concrete beneath the surface, and makes it even hotter.  The outfields are the only grass in sight.  Bummer.

Big League Dreams (this one's in PA, so imagine the surrounding area to be flat and hot... less grass, more concrete, lots of astroturf)

What was nice is the “press box” area.  In the middle of the three fields on my side of the complex is a building that you’d think was a press box from outside.  In reality, it’s a restaurant/bar area.  Yes, a bar.  They had at least 4 beers on tap, situated right in the middle of the box.  Behind it was a fast food restaurant with all the greasy fried food you could want.  The best part, it was fully air conditioned.  After waiting at the umpires’ table for the game before mine to end, I got acquainted with the rules we’d be playing on the day (U-Trip?) and enjoyed some more water.  Here’s when I noticed the teenagers behind the counter would only offer water in small cups (Styrofoam, slightly smaller than a red cup, perhaps even the same number of ounces).  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this came into play later.

My partner makes it out of his game alive, sweating enough to make you wonder if they didn’t shower him with the water bucket.  Come to find out… there aren’t water buckets.  So he goes to change out of his plate gear.  He’s already called two games behind the plate.  The man needs a break or he may not make it.  So I take the field with the tournament director to start the game while my partner changes and cools down a bit.

The game starts excellently.  I have to throw a kid out in the first inning because – not only does he not slide – he throws both his elbows at the catcher.  Yay! Easy call!  YOU’RE OUTTA HERE!  And then fun with their coach starts.  First he argues, “What else is he supposed to do on a play like that?”

“Uh… slide, coach?”

“Well, he didn’t even throw an elbow!”

“So you are admitting he didn’t slide then… which is also grounds for throwing him out.  Excellent!  Batter Up!”

Parent coaches are clowns.

Parent coaches are clowns.

I love those easy sort of talks with coaches.  So the game went on.  My partner made it down to the field before the start of the 2nd inning feeling refreshed.  The rest of the game went fairly well.  I called a ball on a full count and 2 outs in the last inning, allowing the home team to win on an ensuing base hit and passed ball.  A mom from that team let me and my partner know after the game just how shitty we were.  I told her thanks and just walked off.  The pitch was a curve ball that was just off the plate.  I’m not going to ring a kid up for a ball that might be close enough to call a strike.  The pitch was a ball, deal with it.

So after blowing this lady off, my partner and I head inside to the “press box” for more water.  It’s getting damn hot outside if I haven’t mentioned that.  I’ve been fine so far, but I know I need to keep on the water intake since I didn’t get all day to hydrate like I normally would.  I ask for a cup of water at the food area.  They give me the same small cup.  I ask if they can’t give me a bigger one so I can take it to the field.  The 16 year old behind the counter says no.  Bitch.  Also, I noticed the US was up on Brazil 2-0.  I really thought that it might be a good omen of the game to come.   America beats Brazil.  I umpire a great game.  Destiny right?  Dammit.

So we go on to game 2.  This is the championship game for the weekend tournament.  Yeah, I was thinking the same thing: why on Earth are they letting a guy who has never called a game at this level or with this rule book umpire the championship game?  I didn’t get it, but it pays well, so I guess I’ll just hold my tongue.  Game 2 was damn hot.  It’s hit the peak of the day as its just after 2pm.  There still isn’t a cloud in the sky.  It’s damn hot.  Both teams are on their second game of the day.  My partner is on his 4th (2 behind the plate early, now his second on the field).  It’s damn hot.

We get the game going.  The team that won the first game is taking on the team that won the 10am game.  We made it through about 2 innings before I knew I wasn’t getting enough water.  Every half inning I’d get a bottle of water from the team I had in the first game or a cup of water from the new team.  I’d try to drink it slow to keep me from getting sloshy, but I also had to drink the whole cup in between innings just to stay hydrated.  It’s damn hot.

By the 3rd inning, I’m occasionally starting to black out around the edges.  I have to squat, or at this point kneel, down well before the pitch to let my head settle and the black to fade out of my vision so I can see the pitch.  It’s damn hot.  The home team had to make a pitching change in the 3rd.  That’s when shit started to hit the fan.  All the players cleared the field to get in the cool dugouts and get water.  It was just me, my partner, the pitcher, the coach catching the pitcher, and the heat.  I downed at least 2 water bottles during the break.  The bastard visiting coach had the audacity to question me letting the kids all go into the dugout for water during the break.  It’s 100+ degrees with another 15-20 degrees of heat index.  Coach, you can suck it.

Eventually the game went on, but my condition was getting worse and worse.  Each pitching change was hell on Earth.  Each pitch was hell on Earth.  It was so fucking hot it was all hell on Earth.  I noticed I stopped sweating completely in the 4th inning – there goes what little SPF I was getting from the sweat, which I hear is around SPF 5.  This was the beginning of the end.  A few time outs later and I found myself not able to balance properly when leaning down to pick up my water bottle.  It’s damn hot.  I made it through the inning, barely able to squat or kneel down during pitches.

We started the 5th inning, but with an early pitching change with the bases loaded… I was done.  Luckily the game on the next field over had already ended.  A guy I umpired a scrimmage with during the TASO season was behind the plate and offered to take over the rest of the game for me.  Thank god he did.  My partner came to take a good look at me and found I was shaking from the heat exhaustion.  I switched out with the guy and went back to the press box for more water and to cool down.

I get to the press box hardly able to walk, not breathing properly.  I’m nearly hyperventilating here.  I ask for a big cup of water.  That same 16 year old bitch says this is all she can give me.  I take it, down it, ask for a refill.  She looks at me as if she’s afraid I’m going to pass out, but just gives me the small cup again.  I take it over to the umpires’ table and sit down on the floor.  At this point I managed to get my shirt and chest protector off.  Not wanting to risk my current condition driving, I called up my sisters to come pick me up.  A few check ups later by some people generally concerned about me, I decided to rest my eyes.  I’m still fucking hot even in the air conditioning.  I heard Brazil beat the US 3-2 before I doze off.  Dammit.

Wanted: Sun, Last seen: Directly above Big League Dreams

Wanted: Sun, Last seen: Directly above Big League Dreams

The next thing I know the tournament director is waking me up with a pair of EMS certified parents.  Apparently I didn’t respond very quickly to being awoken.  Also, instead of sitting up like I was on the floor against the wall, I’m laying on the floor now.  Not sure how that happened.  Oops?  I got ample ice packs and water brought to me.  Even some gatorade from some really nice people.  The ambulance arrives with a stretcher and equipment.  They took my temperature which at this point was fine.  My blood pressure was fine, too.  They ended up just taking some information then letting me alone.  Man I didn’t want an IV, much less go to the emergency room.

The sisters picked me up a few minutes later and I was on my way home.  The crispness of my skin became pretty apparent on the way home.  My arms and neck are a dark brown with tint of red.  They didn’t, or at least not yet, feel burnt, which is very lucky.  The drive home was way too long.  Having all that liquid inside my body made me need to pee so bad.  In retrospect, that might have been just as bad as the heat.  Okay, not really…. but still.

So lesson learned:  hydrate adequately if you’re going to be in the sun.  I wish I would have had more than a 30 minute notice to leave the house.  I’d hydrated all morning if I knew that was the case instead of just grabbing something on the way out the door.

I’ve got the quick turn around as I’m back at it today.  I think I’ll be alright being in the heat again, but I’m warning my partner and both coaches before we even start today’s game.  There’s no need to risk mine or the kids safety over this heat.

Stay thirsty my friends.


Over the Top or to the Side?

June 25, 2009

An interesting article  discussing the advantages showing baseball games from a dead center view compared to the status quo view from just to the left of the pitcher came up in Slate magazine today (Thursday, as I wanted to add more to this before posting it).  While the article acknowledges some reasons for keeping the status quo, I think it really sells those ideas short, leaning definitely to a Boston Red Sox/NESN bias — The Red Sox are one of three teams to employ the “dead center” camera angle as their primary camera during pitches.

Images from ESPNmediaZone

As pictured to the left, you can see the initial angle offered by ESPN in 2001.  While the angle does offer a better view of the corners and horizontal translation of the pitch, it also takes away the angle of the height and definitely decreases the zoom tremendously.  In the traditional dead center camera offered by ESPN, all you were changing is which angle you see clearly.  In the traditional off center look, the corners and horizontal translation aren’t totally clear.  With the dead center look, you lose the height of the pitch.  The pitch around the knees looks much lower now.  The pitch at the letters looks more like at the belt.  The Red Sox have tried to compensate for the angle by positioning their camera slightly lower (see screen grab below).  The problem here is that I can’t even see the plate.  While I gain the pitch definition, with the right overly tall pitcher (Randy Johnson at 6′ 10″ comes to mind), I’ll have no idea if it is a strike or not.  How is that helping the fan?

blocking plate

Also, looking at this same screen grab on the right, you have to wonder how much extra space is being wasted on my screen in the Red Sox game?  The traditional view shading to the left is nearly a full screen shot, showing balance in the picture.  The Red Sox game is just  a tiny sliver of the middle of the screen.  That balance is totally lost, leaving just empty green to stare at.  Without seeing a full screen shot of the NESN broadcast, I hope they are at least centered to the field unlike that ESPN shot.  Call me being picky, overly-artistic, or whatever you will, but I think the camera should at least be centered on the plate dirt.  It just brings balance, as the Slate writer says, it makes you feel closer to the game.   With the traditional view, you get the pitcher centered in the left side of the screen and the batter centered on the right.  It just fits well.

As far as the horizontal motion or whether the ball is a strike, I think the Slate writer Greg Hanlon way overemphasizes the “difficulty” in seeing a pitch location, and even motion.  The screen grab from NESN came from a video in the Slate article (I will one day move up to wordpress instead of just .com so I can embed video… oh yes, one day).  If you look at the camera angle, you can easily tell the pitch was a ball outside, even in the traditional slightly left view.  Maybe it was a bad pitch to choose for the article, but really, I feel like you still are close enough on the off center view to see the pitches clearly.


A second video was also available (screen grabs above) on Slate to demonstrate the difference in the breaking pitch from a lefty.  I disagree again with the writer, who says this:

Take a look at this slider thrown by New York Mets lefthander Pedro Feliciano. In the off-center Mets broadcast (seen on the left), Feliciano’s breaking ball looks like it starts behind the batter and sweeps across several feet to reach the outside corner. Cardinals fans, who watched the pitch from the dead-center angle, saw the pitch’s real arc—Feliciano has a good slider but not an otherworldly one.

While yes, the pitch doesn’t start behind the batter, the slider is still insane.  You can see it starts inside of the plate as it comes to the dirt and the catcher gloving it just of the outside corner.  Perhaps being a long time fan of the game, I certainly don’t see the ball sweeping several feet in the left of center view.  Maybe to the lay person?

The last question I have on the effect on the game.  With the camera positioned right over the pitcher, does it affect the batter’s eye?  While I doubt there is much glare from the camera with today’s modern cameras, I would think they’d have it well covered and shaded.  I’m just not sure.  I’d be interested to know if the MLB players had an opinion on it at least.  Looking at the picture below, you can see on the left corner where the center field seats come to a point.  That’s where the old cameras were situated.  The seats in the first two sections adjacent to that set up are generally covered for a batter’s eye, and is most probably the current home to the camera angles.

Click to see it enlarged

In the end, I think his whole argument is just “the Red Sox do it so it must be best.”  At least that’s the case with this article.  The blog has a different opinion.  They actually took screen grabs from 9 different ball parks to inspect the angle of the mound to plate in respect to the camera.  They like the overhead shot, as do many of their commenters.  To each their own.  They also bring up a great point in the dead center cam increasing ad space along the backstop.  I think that reason alone makes me anti-dead center field.  It’s only a matter of time until the outfield grass starts being cut into giant Wal-Mart ads.  Mark me down as a fan of the Nationals camera angle, though.  It’s low, its balanced, its close.

No Blood. Coach Still An Asshole.

June 15, 2009

It is summer ball. It’s meant to be lighthearted and fun.  Get the kids some work and get on with things.  This coach doesn’t get it.  I call dead ball, raise my hands – the batter is hit by a ball.  He’s over there yelling to make a play.  He finally looks to see my hands raised and has the audacity to ask me if I’m going to make a call.  THEN he tells me “not to be afraid to say something.”  I’m glad I keep a cool head.  The visiting team’s coach is dying laughing at this guy.

“Is this guy serious?  This is summer league.”

“I know coach.”

Seriously.  I’ve got at least one more game with this home team.  I really hope I don’t have to eject this guy, but dammit, he’s way past due.  The good news was no new scratches on my truck.

In other news, the first base coach from the visiting team was a Michigan ball player which was awesome.  Apparently he played in the 78-79 teams before tearing up his knee.  I wish I’d caught his name, but I’m pretty sure the last name was Bolton.  It was pretty cool getting to talk about Michigan with an old timer.  The tradition with baseball, his disbelief in Rich Rod (he’s a Les Miles guy).  It was pretty interesting.  I get tomorrow night off, but it’ll be used to study for Calculus 3 exam #1.  Wednesday morning exam, woo.

T-Minus 2 hours

June 15, 2009


I’m umpiring the team that keyed my car tonight, this time at their home field.  There may be blood.


June 14, 2009

Let’s face it. Umpiring is not an easy or happy way to make a living. In the abuse they suffer, and the pay they get for it, you see an imbalance that can only be explained by their need to stay close to a game they can’t resist.  –Bob Uecker

Umpire Ejects The Whole Crowd

June 14, 2009


Straight out of Iowa, an umpire ejected the entire crowd at a high school game.  Yes, he ejected the entire 100 fans at the game.  That’s so awesome I’m not even sure where to begin.  I guess I’ll start with man, I wish I could do that.  The Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO) won’t allow umpires to eject the crowd, but they do let us delay the game until we feel it is no longer a threat to the games.  The schools all have security on site, and these armed police officers generally remove anyone they feel is a threat.  So that’s good.

Unfortunately, that ends with the playoffs.  Summer ball, as the Dawson coach put it, is lucky to get 2 umpires, much less security.  If it gets bad enough in summer ball, the only option I have is to just walk right out of the stadium.  Hopefully my games down at Santa Fe don’t get so bad that it becomes warranted.  I’m sure they’ll remember me after that last one.

Hooker wins Triple Jump?

June 13, 2009


Her name may be Hooker, but that’s sure not what the headline made it sound like.