Umpires in training

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

Think of it as boot camp for umpires.

There’s not as much yelling and screaming, hardly as much running.

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For those who hope to make it in the Selma Baseball and Softball Umpires Association, an empty field at the Dallas County Sportsplex is where they start.

“We train them out here, then we go in a class to take tests,” said Terry Jackson, director of officials for the Selma Recreation Department. “Out here, we teach them what they’re supposed to do. Coaches give them all a hard time, but they’ve got to learn. Just like kids who are 5 and 6 years old, they’ve got to learn somewhere.”

Because of their inexperience, the “baby umpires” are mainly assigned to games in the younger leagues. As they get notches in their belts, they graduate to games that are faster, more advanced and that have more complicated rules.

The youngest umpire in this particular class is 15-years-old. Considering the rap umpires often get, it seems a bit of an odd choice for a summer job.

“I saw my sister do it, and she set the example for me,” said Kendrick Crum. “I told myself if she can do it, then I can do it, too. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 7, and I had this in mind as something that I wanted to do.”

Many of the umpires will say they are former players and signed up as a way to stay connected to the game.

Not many of them, however, have much experience from the other side of the fence. The exception is Jeremy Ross.

“I did this up until my kid started playing, then I began coaching. It is a little bit different,” Ross, 31, said with a grin. “It’s equal opportunity now.”

Umpires don’t just get out, get a uniform, read up on the rules and hit the field.

They go through situational drills, positioning and mechanics. Once the first pitch is thrown, they attempt to repeat all that under immediate scrutiny – a lot like the players.

“There are a lot of people who don’t like umpires to begin with, and they’ll criticize what you do,” said Brian Sharpe, a veteran of nearly 22 years. “People on one side are always going to agree with the job they do, and people on the other side are going to disagree. Until people know what umpires go through, they ought not criticize the job they do.”