You Blew the Game Coach and it Wasn’t My Bad Call!

By Larry Cicchiello

I umpired an extremely competitive and closely fought high school baseball game a couple of days ago. My assignment was to be the field umpire and my partner was assigned to home plate. We had our pregame conference with both head coaches and they both seemed like terrific guys. We shake hands and we all wish each other good luck. Boy, things can really change in a hurry and so can personalities.

About the fourth inning, a player on one of the teams is taking a very HUGE lead off second base. After about three pitches, the catcher throws behind him to second base. Everything looked like the runner was going to be picked off. The throw from the catcher arrived at second base and beat the runner there. But the throw was high and the runner had very good speed and got back to second base a split second before being tagged. So I correctly made the “safe” call. This is when I heard the first of two grumblings from, let’s call him Coach Joe. Come on blue…that throw beat him, etc. He whined for about ten seconds so I let it go and didn’t say a word. If he continued longer than that or if he said something inappropriate, I would have not hesitated to have a “chat” with him.

OK, so things settle down and we get back to playing baseball. That is until the seventh and final inning. Coach Joe’s team is at bat in the seventh and final inning and are trailing by a run. They have a runner on second base, in scoring position, representing the tying run. There are two outs and they are a base hit away from tying up the game. Like I said, very close and very competitive ball game!

The pitch to the batter is in the dirt and bounces away from the catcher, but only about three feet away. Coach Joe is coaching third base and yells for his runner to break for third base. The runner sprints for third base. The catcher makes a very quick and good throw that is slightly high. I knew it was quick, not because I was watching the catcher but by how quickly it arrived to third base.

The third baseman makes a very quick tag and tags the runner up high, around the chest area. Yours truly makes the right call…”He’s OUT!” Coach Joe is very upset. Like I said, personalities can change in a hurry on the ball field. I’m walking off the field and Coach Joe hollers to me, “He got him in the head.” I asked Coach Joe what he meant by that. He said that he tagged him up high, the runner was safe. I told Coach Joe I could care less where he tagged him.

I’m now in foul territory and Coach Joe yells to me, “That’s two calls you blew.” (He was referring to the other “banger” I had at second base where I called the runner safe.) I decided to ignore his last “parting shot” and simply walk to my car. I was thinking how every close call an umpire makes is going to please half the people and the other half are going to be let’s say, annoyed.

I have a thirty minute drive home and obviously my thoughts are about my game ending “out call.” I had very mixed feelings and have two thoughts going through my mind. One is that I got the call right and that’s every objective for an umpire so who cares what Coach Joe thinks. The other thought is that I’m slightly bothered because as an umpire, a good game is usually when you are not noticed at all. I want the game to be about the players and not the coaches or umpires. But in this case, I was very much in the limelight.

And then something occurred to me about Coach Joe. He broke a cardinal rule of the game…You NEVER make the third out of an inning at third base. So either he thought the runner was safe or possibly he was trying to get the “heat” off him and his poor decision and trying to blame me for HIS huge mistake.

I’ve had two days to digest this and I’m at peace with this situation. I truly believe that I got both those very close calls (bangers) right. And you know what, I too have growled at a few umpires in my many years of coaching. And Coach Joe did not “step over the line.” Like I said, for the most part I totally ignored him because his griping did not go on for very long or we would have had quite a conversation.

Hey, I might get to umpire Coach Joe’s game again in a couple of weeks. Would I look forward to it? My honest answer is, “No, I would not.” I have no idea if he holds a grudge or how long he holds one for.

I’ll tell you what I am certain of though. I would go into the game with an open mind and make every call to the absolute best of my ability. I could care less what uniform a player is wearing or if Coach Joe is their coach or not.

Hopefully, Coach Joe and I will do just fine when and if we meet again. I have a responsibility to the kids on the field to get the call right. My personal opinion is that the game should be about the players and NOT about coaches or umpires.

Larry Cicchiello is the successful author of several very user friendly eBooks and CD’s covering 320 topics on playing or coaching excellent baseball. ANY player, coach or parent who wants to help their child will be fully equipped! Check out some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips at LarryBaseball.com.

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4 Responses

  1. Good for you for remembering it is about the players and not the coach. Fortunately most umpires are good men/women.
    I hope the coach used the game as a character building lesson for the young men. I would bet the coach is also a good guy who just wanted the win so badly. Like most of us coaches.

  2. I too am an umpire. Most games I umpire are volunteer. Not only do I not get paid but it cost money for gas food drinks and equipment. I probably spend a grand a year umpiring. Mostly little league and belive little league should be volunteer. I travel hours away sometimes and volunteer 6 days a week. It’s s very thankless job. Some days I question why I do what I do. I had very bad weekend where I was screamed at and verbally abused by parents and coaches. Then on one play the lod pulled his foot off on a force out when he caught the ball way before runner got there. You could only see it if you were right there. After 5 minutes of being verbally abused the kid stands up and says I pulled my foot. Leave the umpire alone so we can play. He is doing great job. Then turned around and apologized for his parents and coaches. He then gave me a hand shake. That one moment made it all worth it. I’ve had teams loose on close calls and just about every time the kids still tell me good job blue. That’s why we do it. Parents and coaches can be very bipolar. The same team ended up winning the game and after no apologies were given. However the coach said good game. I was ready to say so much but I swallowed my pride and said thanks. Volunteer or paid we do the best we can. If 10 people lined up on close play 5 would say safe 5 would say out. If you call it the other way the other team will complain. Please remember we are human. We have feelings and emotions too. We aren’t robots. If it wasn’t for us the kids couldn’t play. As I see it everyone wants to coach. It’s way harder to get umpires because we are abused. So remember that next time. It doesn’t me you have to agree with our call. We all are entitled to our own opinions. But please show some respect when it doesn’t go our way. We get physically and verbally abused so your kids can play. We deserve the respect.

    • Wow…what a powerful message. Thank you for posting this. We will re-publish this in the future, (keeping you anonymous, of course). The more parents and coaches who read this, the more civility will be brought to games. Thank you so much for volunteering your time. You are making a positive difference in these kids’ lives as much as the coaches. Maybe more in many cases. Please keep it up for the sake of the kids.

  3. […] month’s issue of OnDeck seems to have struck a few nerves. Larry Cicchiello’s article written by an umpire who listened to a coach berate him after a close call brought a response from […]

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