There are many standard recommendations for anyone starting out in umpiring. Suggestions like attending clinics and seminars, as well as reading instructional manuals. However, many of the things that veteran umpires take for granted are unwritten, such as:
- If you are not willing to make mistakes, then umpiring isn’t for you. Just like everything else in life, the men and women in blue make mistakes. You see it every day from youth leagues all the way to the majors. Before you step on the field for the first time, realize you will make mistakes and odds are someone will let you know about it. What is important to remember is that you learn from them and move on.
- The clothes don’t make the man, or do they?? Most beginning umpires during their first season wear the accepted uniform – a blue hat (not necessarily a true umpire hat), a powder blue shirt, blue slacks and baseball cleats. You may get away with this “accepted” uniform, but more than likely you will be asked to get a “proper” uniform. Umpiring gear isn’t cheap, but spending a little on a serviceable uniform will save you a lot of grief and will help you command respect. And when you do, keep your uniforms clean and ironed, and your shoes shined.
- Learn from your peers – good and bad. The things you learn from your peers you will never find in a rulebook. One aspect of the game that veterans can teach you best is game management. Game management is simply the skill of keeping the game moving, anticipating problems, and handling those problems as they arise. It is often helpful to ask your peers for a critique after the game. It may sting a little, but it will benefit you in the long run. On the other hand, some things you learn from others aren’t always the things that you want to repeat, such as sloppy mechanics, poor attitude and lousy appearance. Don’t let this get to you. All you can do in this instance is support your partner and do the best job you can with what you have. For everything you learn from a fellow umpire, you will probably learn one thing that you should not do.
- The bottom line is fun. As long as you aren’t working the majors or minors, umpiring is a second job. You have to be serious about striving to be the best you can be and you have to be willing to learn constantly. You need to carry a professional attitude on the field. But also remember to have fun, especially at the youth level. Enjoy the time working with kids and passing on to them your love for the game.