Dust Off the Plate

It is the umpire’s duty to dust off the plate. You, as a baseball umpire, should have a brush to do that when needed. Use it! I have had over the years many comments about dusting off the plate. There have been statements like “now you’ll be able to see it,” “there it is” and “see it’s bigger than you thought”. All said in jest (yeah) just to name a few.

I was working the plate in a Junior Varsity game back in the mid 1990’s at Henninger Field, former home of the Chambersburg Trojans. The manager and I had some words in the past but nothing that was unusual. They did have a catcher who seemed to have an attitude toward umpires. Neither I nor other umpires got along with this catcher. He always wanted to comment on the calls. That’s okay. However, I just ignore catchers like that and do my job calling balls and strikes. Just don’t let it become too personal.

About the third inning or so this catcher with the bad attitude had some comments about my strike zone that I did not appreciate. He told me “you need to dust off the plate”. I did not like the attitude or the statement, so I chose to ignore the statement to dust off the plate and said “let’s play”. The catcher began asking me to dust off the plate after every other pitch and every batter. I thought the plate looked okay and did not lend an ear to his appeal.

This continued for an inning or two and then I heard the cries from the players on the bench “dust off the plate”. I was becoming irritated and at a point of refusal. I was not going to be intimidated or dictated to by the players to “dust off the plate”. Finally the coaches got into the act,” dust off the plate”! I acted as though I didn’t hear them. Don’t have rabbit ears – Right!

Then it started big-time and I realized I should have taken my brush out and “dusted off the plate”. The fans started chanting “dust off the plate”, “dust off the plate”, “dust off the plate”. I still acted as though I didn’t hear and allowed the situation to get out of control. The plate didn’t need to be dusted off but the chanting continued. 

Finally the coach came out and yelled at me after talking to his catcher. He said “why don’t you dust off the plate?” I said it looks okay to me! The crowd got louder and louder. The coach then took his foot and used to like a broom and covered the plate with dirt as the crowd continued their chanting “dust off the plate”. He turned to me and said “now dust off the plate”. I got out my brush, dusted off the plate and then ejected the coach from the game. The crowd loved the theater performance and I got a standing ovation from the crowd. I was embarrassed. To avoid the turmoil I should have just dusted off the plate from the beginning. It is funny to me now but it wasn’t then.

I met the coach recently in an elevator at the hospital. I asked him if he remembered me. He said, “yes he did”. I asked him about the incident “dust off the plate”. He replied that he remembered and we both had a good laugh about it. Two things to remember – never hold a grudge and most importantly “DUST OFF THE PLATE”.

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