Chapter 13: How to work an umpire in your favor
Umpires are supposed to be fair and impartial. But they are people just like us. If they like you, they may sometimes see a close call your way just because of that feeling. As a pitcher living on the strike zone’s corners and edges, every pitch can be a close call. If they don’t like you, the strike zone may shrink, they may rush you, cut down your warm up pitches, delay the call on the pitch or complain that your delivery is illegal. On any team, the pitcher is the only player who can influence and be influenced by their relationship with the home plate ump. Forcing a corner, taking too long between deliveries, complaining about strike calls, bad attitude and highly vocal negative parents can all turn the ump against you. Making him look incapable or stupid is certain death in your current game and every game he calls for the rest of your career. Umps often move from crew to crew and exchange stories after games. Any bad feeling will be shared with all his fellow umps and may influence how they view you in future games. So it is paramount that you do everything reasonable to stay on the ump’s good side. The better a pitcher you are, the easier it is to maintain good relations with umpires. Knowing that you won’t hit him (wild pitch) is an oblivious starter. If you consistently throw strikes his job is easier. He will not have to call a forth ball on the batter, walking home a winning run and tempting the wrath of the crowd. Your ideal game is a perfect game. You can’t have a perfect game unless there is a competent ump behind the plate and it helps if he likes you. The best ump is, one you don’t notice during the game. A good pitcher makes this likely. Some umps will try to find where and when the better pitchers are playing just so they can have the experience of calling that pitcher’s game. This means you will have an unusually good ump to throw to, which gives the advantage to the pitcher. Top umpires like to list the names of the great pitchers they have called, names of Olympic and professional athletes. If you have a reputation as a top thrower and as a good person you have a huge advantage that I believe is worth 2 strikeouts per game. During the game, always call them Blue, Ump or Sir (Name). Learn their name so after the game and any other time you see them, you can call them by their last name…(Mr Smith, Mrs Brown). Make a point (win or lose) to immediately thank them for working your game. If they offer advice, listen carefully and thank them for it no matter how wrong it may seem. Never bad mouth an ump to anyone else. Above all, always smile and make it seem that they are helping you learn how to become a better pitcher. They may be doing just that!
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