What Makes A Good Umpire One of the Best?

Knowledge and Calling These Four Rules Separate the Good Umpires From the Best Umpires!

1. CALLING BALKS WHEN YOU SEE THEM.

2. CALLING OBSTRUCTION,

3. CALLING INTERFERENCE.

3. KNOW THE AWARDING OF BASES.

What makes a good umpire one of the BEST UMPIRES? Steve Oakes of Claysburg, Blair County, PA is one of my best friends and one who I mentored in his early days as an umpire. The umpire chapter the PIAA SOUTH PENN CHAPTER that I am PRESIDENT OF now asks experienced umpires to work with the new umpires to mentor them. I noticed that this young man, about the age of 23 in 1994, had an exceptional aptitude for our craft of umpiring. He was not intimidated by anyone and had a very consistent strike zone and took control of the game. He also had a commanding knowledge of the rules. I worked with him quite a bit in his first few years and recommended that he take a shot at Major League Umpiring School. 

Our local chapter of umpires all chipped in with donations. We even had a ham sandwich sale to help Steve with expenses. Finally Steve headed off for the Major League Umpire School Brinkman Froemming Umpire School in Florida (1995). All of our umpire brothers were hoping for the best. If he did not make the grade as a major league umpire, he would at least return with knowledge to share with all of us. He was in a class of about 150 men, all vying for a position. Steve did very well. He graduated sixteenth in his class. Unfortunately that year they only picked the top fifteen to move on into the minor leagues. Steve returned to us with numerous tips and new things that he had learned from the experts.  However Steve did work a year in the Minor Leagues in Long Island, New York in the North American Baseball League (NABL) a newly formed league which folded for lack of funds. 

All of the umpires that were interested picked his brain. There were many questions that I wanted to ask him. We found that his training was very helpful in our quest to become better umpires. As we have mentioned many times in this website, there are four things that separate the best umpires from the good umpires and the mediocre umpires. Those four things Steve told us from the start. We have tried to mentor new and young umpires in these “FOUR RULES.”

Steve told us that anyone can learn how to call balls and strikes, safe or out, fair or foul. These things are judgment and all umpires learn from experience to make judgment calls better as they grow in their umpiring careers. However, these four specific things are not judgment but rule interpretations. These four things an umpire not only must call when they see them, but they must be able to recognize them when they see them and be able to explain them if questioned. Calling these four rulings need to be second nature for the arbiter. The best umpires know and call when they see and can explain their call. They are:

Balks

Interference

Obstruction

Awarding of Bases

I have watched and participated in many games that umpires have either missed or been afraid to call these four important rulings. I have been guilty of overseeing them myself. Remember, the key is to study these four rule interpretations, learn them and be able to apply them when you see them on the baseball diamond. Remember judgment calls, balls and strikes for example, you do not have to explain. However, the BIG FOUR are rules that if asked by a coach or manager you must be able to explain. A game could be protested if you cannot give an answer. If you don’t call them, you can be asked WHY NOT? If you call them, you can be asked PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY? So it is recommended you know these four rules, be able to explain them and most importantly, 

WHEN YOU SEE THEM HAPPEN, DON’T HESITATE CALLING THEM. BE ONE OF THE BEST.

YOU MAKE THE CALL!!

Steve still umpires today and is an outstanding NCAA, PIAA baseball umpire.  I went to one of his games recently at Shippensburg University. He has also worked a Pennsylvania PIAA state championship game

Steve Oakes “one of the best”

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