What Umpiring Baseball Can Teach Our Youth

imageHave you ever watched a baseball game and wondered how the umpire could have made such an obviously wrong (or right) call?

Well, on every close call an umpire makes they are bound to make about 1/2 of the people really happy and the other 1/2 really mad. That’s the nature of the sport and if the reaction is really 50/50 it’s an indication of a solid fan base.

Decisions are Made – Reactions Happen

That’s Life! Everyday we all have to make decisions and those decisions have consequences. In baseball the decisions that are made have an immediate and consequential effect.

Decision Making and Dealing with their Decisions

This is a skill our youth should learn. Umpiring can help them develop the foundation for thinking and decision making. A few of these are skills our youth can learn now that will serve them well in the future. Specifically,

  • Know the Rules
  • Pause to Evaluate
  • Make the Decision

In life – whether it’s business or personal interactions knowing the rules, or at least the framework for the rules, is important. Taking a moment to pause and reflect before making a decision is important too. While umpiring baseball, snap judgments can be reversed quickly by something as simple as the player dropping the ball. It’s better to pause, reflect, then make the decision.

image Caveat: One advantage baseball has is that there are well defined rules. Life is not always so neat and orderly.

IMG00749 Umpiring baseball is not extremely hard from a physical standpoint, but it does have its set of challenges. There are a lot of rules. Most of which never come into play (see table below for the rules). I recommend starting our youth in the field as Field Umpires. The same set of rules are in effect, but they are mostly focused on outs and base running.

After some time and experience let them get behind the plate. To me – this is a lot like life. Put in your time, learn the game, move up to greater challenges. I also add – pass on what you know.

What’s in it for Them?

  • Role Model – The younger players will look up to and perhaps aspire to be an umpire.
  • Community Service – While some schools require community service time the skills learned will have a long term effect.
  • Skills for Life – As mentioned throughout this article. Skills learned while umpiring are directly applicable to their future.
  • Pay it Forward – Teach what they know, inspire someone else to learn the game.

 A Few Facts about Baseball

image Did you know?
There are 7 ways to get
to first base safely

1. Hit
2. Base on Balls
3. Hit by Pitch
4. Error
5. Dropped Third Strike 
    (Not in Little League)
6. Catcher's Interference
7. Fielder's Choice

image Did you know?
There are at least 16 Ways to Get Out in Baseball

See them here

Green Book


The official rules are here:
- Major League Baseball (MLB)
- Little League Rules (LL)

A few things that help Umpires keep the game flowing:

  • Know the Rules --- The Green Book (see LL Rules)
  • Dress the Part (See picture below)
  • Speak Authoritatively
  • Make the Call
  • Know that Judgment Calls are NOT negotiable.
      • They can be questioned for discussion purposes only
      • and ONLY by the coaches or the players involved in the play – NOT the fans.
  • Manage the Game (see The Four Roles in (Youth) Sports)
Todd and Ryan Pladson (Umpiring a LL game)

Eastlake Little League President Todd Pladson and his teenage son Ryan. Getting ready to umpire a game.

A couple of the key points about umpiring:

  • Umpires are bound to make 1/2 happy and other 1/2 half mad
  • Umpires have the best seat in the house
  • Umpires are people too – Give ‘em your support!

What’s this got to do with Youth Umpires?

By encouraging our youth to get involved we will see them learn and grow in ways we may have not thought possible. As a side benefit we might be able to enjoy the games from the stands knowing that our youth are doing their best to make the game safe and fun.

A blog posting I wrote a few days ago talked about The Four Roles in (Youth) Sports where I related a story about a relatively simple encounter outside the typical realm of an umpire. This is the kind of thing that our youth will encounter as they go through life. Learning how to deal with difficult situations now will only help them later.

IMG00772 As adults we typically have to deal with difficult or trying situations in our day to day lives.

Getting our youth into umpire uniforms will help them to grow, learn, and adapt to dynamic situations.

Did it work for you?

  • Were you an umpire or referee in your youth?
  • Did the skills you learned help you later in life?
  • Would you make the same recommendation I made above?

How about those adults out there that
still umpiring games? Is this You?

I still umpire a few baseball games a week and I love it. I have learned a lot about making quick decisions, about helping kids learn the game, and sometimes helping fans learn the game too.

  • How about you? What’s your story?
    • Have you encouraged your kids and others to consider umpiring?

Comment here, tweet me, or drop me an e-mail.

clip_image002About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at
Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company. Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

** I am available for consulting projects and speaking engagements. My areas of emphasis are business development and alliance management at the Intersection of Enterprise Content Management and Social Media.

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LynYo said…
Really insightful. I never looked at it that way. I guess the onus is on the parent to teach their child how to deal with the emotion and the difference between selfish tears and unselfish tears. This parenting stuff is tough. :-)