Time for my rant on umpires

July 20, 2009

by Aaron Schultz

Apparently, if you call an umpire terrible enough times, you are going to get thrown out of an amateur baseball game.

That was what I found out this past Wednesday as the Winsted Wildcats played at Norwood.

Throughout my many years with the Wildcats I have had my share of run-ins with umpires, that is no secret.

This year, I have had more issues with the umpires than I have had in a long time.

In my early days, when I was young and dumb, it didn’t take me much to fly off the handle where umpires were concerned.

But over the past several seasons I have noticed that I have calmed down a lot.

In fact, over the past three years, I believe I was only thrown out of one Wildcat game, and that came last year in the playoffs.

That ejection was more of my own making as we were playing terrible (there is that word again), and that ump wasn’t doing us any favors.

So, I figured I’d try and get my team a little fired up and got tossed from the game.

That ejection was totally on me, as I was pretty much asking for it.

Then the 2009 season started, and early on, I was my new calm self with umpires, at least until we played at Watertown May 31.

Our umpire missed numerous calls, and I was playing third.

My frustration with the ump was made worse by the fact that I had a costly error at third, and wasn’t happy about it.

To the ump’s credit, he ignored much of the complaining and did his best throughout the game.

Yes, I can give umpires credit when they deserve it, and this guy we had, deserves it for ignoring me for the game.

However, we had that exact same ump June 14 at Glencoe, and again, he was less than stellar.

And again, he stayed quiet when he was getting it from both sides – making some bad calls both ways.

If only all umps were as professional as he was, I would have fewer columns to write.

Yes, he wasn’t very good at his job, but he worked at it, and never let things get out of control.

That brings us to July 5 at St. Boni, and that guy was the exact opposite of professional.

The Wildcats were up by 10 runs over the Saints, with the game all but in hand in the sixth inning.

That is when my brother (Cullen) had a strike called on him. The ump said he swung, when he barely took the bat off his shoulder.

After Cullen questioned if the strike was on the swing, and the ump told him it was, he argued some.

That is when the ump just lost it!

The ump said a few very unkind words to Cullen and told him “like it was going to make a difference in the game, anyways.”

Come on! You just can’t be saying that stuff as an umpire.

Curious to what was going on, I walked out to home plate, asking for time so that I could discuss what was going on.

Instead of giving me time and talking to me, he yelled at me three times to get back into the dugout, and for the pitcher to throw the ball.

That is when I turned around, started walking back to the dugout, and made sure to get one last comment in, telling him this would be his last Crow River Valley League game.

He responded by saying good, that was fine with him.

Umpires like that have no place in the game. If you truly don’t want to be there, don’t. Hang it up.

Alright, this brings us to the incident Wednesday in Norwood.

First off, I’d like to say that this guy did a fine job calling balls and strikes, and seemed to know what he was doing.

In fact, if not for the two calls in question, he might have been one of our better umpires on the year.

However, there were the two calls in question, and his explanation to me really set me off.

First, there was a call at third base that he missed, badly.

Jake Prehn was rounding second and I waved him around to third.

It was going to be a close play, but the throw was up the line, so Prehn should have made it easy.

Prehn then slid past the bag, but clearly made it back to the bag before the third basemen was able to put the tag on him.

Actually, when the tag was applied, it was on top of Prehn’s hand, which was on the bag already.

To the ump’s credit, he hustled out there, and was right on top of the call, next to me.

That is why I was so shocked when he called him out. He had the same view I had, yet saw it completely differently, and I think, wrongly.

After the play, I had several words for him, and told him that was a terrible call, and that his explanation was less than satisfying to me.

Then, a few innings later, Norwood had runners on first and third with two outs and trailed by just two at the time.

The Norwood runner attempted to steal second base, and catcher Neil Schlagel made a perfect throw to second base.

Shortstop Tony Kley caught the ball and put the tag down on the runner from Norwood, who didn’t even bother to slide.

This guy was even more out than Prehn was safe earlier in the game.

Just a little upset at this point, I jogged out to home plate to argue with him and ask him how he could have called him safe.

The ump told me that since there was just one ump, he had no choice but to call him safe from where he was standing.

I was taken aback for a minute, and I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

For many years I have heard umps tell me that on close plays at second, specially when someone was stealing, that if the ball beat the runner and the tag was there, the runner was out, due to the fact that there is only one ump.

Even when we were on the wrong side of those calls, I couldn’t do much arguing with them.

Of course, with one ump, if the ball beats the man, and the tag looks close, the proper call is out.

But this guy Wednesday gave me those same reasons for calling him safe.

That got me going, and I may have called him a terrible ump more than once, but didn’t argue very long.

Then, as I was walking away I turned to look at him and said terrible, one last time.

This was the straw that broke his back, and he proceeded to toss me from the game.

At that point, I made sure to turn back around and get a few more words in for my trouble.

Thankfully, starting pitcher Matt Wroge struck out the batter on the next pitch, so the call didn’t hurt us – just me.

The remainder of the game, the ump was once again solid, and we pulled out the 7-3 win.

I’ve always known there are several words you never use with umpires (pretty much every one of those can’t be printed in this paper), but I never knew terrible was one of those words.

Other than the fact that he should get thicker skin, open his eyes a little better, and not give bogus explanations for bad calls, that ump Wednesday wasn’t too bad.

Oh yeah, and the fact that he threw me out, that is one more thing he should work on.