Here’s what a typical day at umpire school is like:
1. Roll call starts at 9 am(1). We have to answer to our last names with authority. Some guys try to get cute with it(2), but I just stick to “here.”
2. Many days, especially at the beginning of school, we have class. We cover all of the rules of professional baseball except Rule 9, which is about scorekeeping and has nothing to do with umpiring.
As we get through the rule book, the class will start more and more out at the fields instead of in class, which most of the other students are looking forward to. Unlike me, many of them are not school people and/or already have practical knowledge of the game.
3. After class, we go to the fields and usually start with formation. You can see an example of formation here in the beginning of the video. (Sorry about the weird music, though.)
4. After formation, which is usually about ten or fifteen minutes long, we go to demonstrations, where our lead instructor Brent with walk us through plays with some of the professional umpires demonstrating. I wish I could show you video of our primary demonstrators John and Jeremie, because they (a) make it look easy and (b) are like textbook examples of umpires, but no such luck. Here’s a picture of Jeremie throwing someone out, though.
5. After demonstrations, we go to drills/control games/cage/innings.
Drills are just what they sound like. We drill specific scenarios like runners at first, Infield Fly, double plays, etc. We focus on one situation at a time in drills so that we can get the right footwork and timing down. Drills are run by instructors, who are all professional umpires, mostly in the minor leagues.
Control Games are game-like situations in which an umpire takes four or five “at bats” (really, an instructor using a fungo) so that the umpires can practice a variety of situations without knowing what’s going to happen.
Cages are the calling cages, where we get in full gear (which is uncomfortable as fuck when you don’t have your own. Wow.) and call balls and strikes on pitches thrown by a pitching machine. This is where we get individualized attention from the MLB guys like Eddie Hickox and Dana DeMuth.
Innings, which I won’t get to participate in, are actual innings played by high school and college teams, in which an umpire will get to call a whole inning or a whole side of an inning.
6. We break for lunch, which is brought in, for about 45 minutes around 12:30 or 1:00 pm.
7. Then it’s back to Drills/Control Games/Cages/Innings until about 5 or 5:30 pm.
8. We usually end the day with formation again, to maintain crisp mechanics and voice. After two weeks of this, my speaking voice sounds like I smoke three packs a day.
9. We come back to the hotel and shower (most of us 🙂 ) and dinner is at seven in the hotel dining room. It’s catered by a guy who works in the minor leagues and his food is amazing. There are plenty of restaurants and things around, but this is both cheaper and is a good way to socialize with classmates, so I usually eat dinner at the hotel.
10. Then it’s time for studying, practicing calls, and learning how to tape your shin splints or collapsing into bed and sleeping the sleep of the exhausted.
(1)10 am on Saturdays.
(2) There was a lot of “roll Tide” before Alabama’s football game, which always made me think of my friend M, who is a huge Alabama fan. Sorry about that game, M. 😦