It’s March and most of the country has snow on the ground. Despite the dipping temperatures, baseball and softball games are just around the corner. Now is a great time to beat the winter blues by brushing up on the Babe Ruth League Rules and Regulations.
The weeks leading up to opening day are a great time to pick up the rulebook. For the umpire, understanding the spirit and intent of the rules and applying the rules within their context are both a challenge and an imperative at all levels of the sport. A raw reading of the rules will produce a stagnant game, far from the intent of those who envisioned the sport. The hundredth of a second judgment calls, the delays as this gets fixed, changed or moved will take their toll on the crew, participants and fans.
Umpires must work with an enriched knowledge of the spirit and intent of the rules. Theirs is a world of documented rulings and case studies on almost every aspect of the sport. Learning to take the game in its totality can be the most important ongoing lesson an umpire will ever experience. It can take years to search out the reason behind a rule and to understand whether or not what is taking place in front of you is a clear violation of the spirit of the rule or in keeping with the actual intention of the rule’s writers. It is not only important to know when to let it go, it is crucial to the development of the best officials possible.
You have to know your rulebook and know it cold. There is no excuse for not knowing the fundamental grounds for the game. You must also be aware of the fallacies and myths many will throw your way.
Remember, in education and in umpiring, there is no finish line. Every umpire should also try to attend a clinic during the off season. For some, several hours a day devoted to umpiring techniques might be the ingredients of a long, difficult day. But for the men and women in blue, it can be the stuff dreams are made of—from one-on-one instruction from professionals to tips on working the plate to instruction on how to be in position for calls on bases to thorough details on how to be a professional umpire to routine activities, such as putting on and taking off the mask and folding your cap. For the professional umpire, there’s a correct way to do just about everything. Umpiring is more than balls and strikes. It is about presence and perception. It’s about hustle and showing the players and managers that you are doing your job.
Make sure you are ready for 2015!