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The Psychology of Umpiring

Babe And Klem2While a great deal of becoming a successful umpire and a good umpire is related directly to knowledge of rules, positioning, mechanics, and timing, too many umps do not understand the proper psychology they should use on the field.

Psychology is the frame of mind, the attitude, the demeanor one assumes on the field, as well as how one deals with managers, coaches and players on a one-on-one basis, as well as how one interacts with the teams and fans as groups.

Maintaining Control

One of the toughest things to do for most people is to hold their temper when others are angry. But this is exactly what an umpire must do. Teams, players, and especially fans, are biased. They are caught up in the game and the plays, but the umpire must remain detached and impartial at all times. You will never make a sound judgment or ruling while angry!

The umpire must control the game without appearing bossy. He must take charge in certain sticky situations without anyone realizing he's doing it. He must allow play to move freely while maintaining control of every aspect of the game. He may sometimes have to take over to the point of ejecting someone, but even that should never be done in anger.

Making the Call

So how about calls "within the framework of the game"? Well, this refers to such calls as the "phantom" touch of second base on a double play attempt. If you watched closely you may find that as much as 50-60% of those touches of the bag, if the touch is made at all, come a second or two before the middle man catches the ball, yet the out call is made. This is making a call within the framework of how the game is played today.

So why is this out call made? There are probably many reasons, but there are two primary reasons. First, by allowing the middle man in the double play attempt to do this he is less likely to get ripped in half by the runner sliding into second, thus preventing potentially serious injury. And second, such a call simply makes the game go smoother and faster, and it has become such an accepted part of the game that no one complains as long as the middle man is in the vicinity.

This out call simply has to be made, but be careful. Make certain that the middle man was near the bag, and made some obvious attempt to touch it. If you begin to get too lax when making this call it can quickly become a joke, and you will quickly get some serious heat from the manager of the offensive team.

Another example of this approach to calling the game is the "bang-bang" play at first. How many times have you heard the old saying, "a tie goes to the runner"? That alleged "tie" means that runner is out! But while this call on the surface seems to be in this category there is actually scientific support for making the out call. If it appeared to you that the runner's foot touched the bag at the very same instant you heard the ball hit the glove, and since sound waves (what you heard) travel much slower than light waves (what you saw), the ball obviously hit the glove before the foot hit the bag. Thus, the runner is out!

"When in doubt, call him Out!" ... Well maybe...

Likewise, the tag play is a "when in doubt, call him out" play. If the ball beats the runner to the bag and the defensive player makes the catch and is not lazy in putting down the tag, call the runner out! Of course this is a general rule, but if the runner does something spectacular to avoid the tag and is successful, then by all means give him credit and call him safe.

These are but a few examples of how your approach to the game, personally, mentally, and game-wise can help you umpire a better game. 

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