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Thursday, April 22, 2010
Coach Loses Bet & Buys New Umpire Gear
Coach Loses Bet & Buys New Umpire Gear
By T J Andersen
Being an umpire must have its rewards because if you are going that route be ready to spend some money on umpire gear. I have never been an umpire, though I have coached at virtually level in the world of baseball. Somehow, I am good friends with several umpires and with all the arguments I've had with them over they years, this must be some sort of divine payback.
Last week I was paying off a friendly bet I had made with a long time friend of mine. He and I have been rivals for years, on the field mostly, and I was going to pay him by helping to upgrade his umpire gear. It was not my idea to lose, but like I said coaches do not like it when they are wrong.
My friend, Brice, is a much better baseball umpire than he was a player. Behind the plate he was alive, but he could not manage a hit and run situation if his life depended on it. Rather than be relegated to sitting on the bench, he decided to pursue the noble profession of a baseball umpire. There, he had found his home and his office of business was normally behind the plate in one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
Baseball runs in our blood, Brice and me, but too many times we found ourselves on opposite sides of an argument. We met in college and as I developed as a catcher, Brice was honing his skills as a Blue.
Recently, we found ourselves on the same field in a high school championship game and I'd promised to help upgrade his old fashioned umpire equipment if he did not blow one call. He promised to buy me dinner, a much better deal for him as I would find out. Agreed, you might not think this was a good bet on my part, but I have been around Brice and umpires like him for eons and believe me when I tell you this. They know when they make a mistake. Rarely do they not blow a call.
With the way the game is structured, umpires are like the Pope. They are infallible and once they make a call, even if they are wrong, this call is gospel. Umpires are trained like this and many carry this inability to be corrected in all walks of life. I knew Brice would blow at least one call. Many coaches might not catch the intricacies, but I would and i was already planning where we would have dinner.
In many ways coaches and umpires are alike. We do not ever expect or like to be wrong and when we are, obvious or not, we deny it, hide behind the cloak of our position and expect severance and understanding. Umpires don't argue like coaches. They do not have to, instead sliding behind the heavy veil of authority.
Brice and I met for a burger and in his hand was a catalog with the latest umpire gear. Like I said, I lost the bet, I have no idea how he got so lucky. Anyway, I was prepared to spend maybe $40 plus the meal, but when I saw the knowing smile on his face, well, I was not prepared for what was in store.
Did you know these chest protectors are now made out of some sort of armor plating? The one I saw in the book looked a lot like it belonged to the movie character, Iron Man. It must fit under the shirt somehow, because I have never seen an umpire with one visible.
$100 plate shoes? I mean it is not like steel plates covering the foot. I thought back to the game and my temper tantrum and umpire shoes. Did I mention that I lost the bet? Did I tell the circumstances? Oh, I will get to that part.
I winced at the price I was going to have to pay. He flipped to the umpire mask and explained about a new product called CoolMax, a fabric recently invented that draws moisture away from the body to increase ventilation. I can understand how this would be important in a chest protector, but in a face mask? Moisture control in baseball?
I thought back to the game and had to admit that although we had lost the game, Brice only had one questionable call. Lucky guy. It was a play at the plate which occurred when my worst hitter chopped a grounder in front of the plate with the bases loaded.
The catcher at the time, an excellent athlete, fielded the ball, fired to first and as he did my third base coach sent our runner to the plate. A good call because the runner on third had a good lead and was fast as all get out.
The call as he was sliding into the catchers domain was close, but it was obvious from the third base dugout he was out. This is because of a bullet relay throw back to the plate from first, a throw on the left side of the plate at knee level. All the catcher had to do was catch and hold on to the ball. This is not what curled my hair. Not this call at the plate, but the call before that.
I felt the ball was foul to begin with and this brought all my fury toward Brice. Felt? Heck I knew it was a foul ball. Chopped foul outside the batters box, then cleanly fielded after one bounce in fair territory. Brice made no call, did not have time, which was an indication the ball was in play. The opposing catcher did the right thing. He played the ball and did a great job doing so. Surely though the play would be called dead.
When I approached Brice, a locomotive gathering steam from the third base side, he was ready with an explanation. Mask off, he told me the ball was chopped in fair territory and that my angle of vision was wrong. It was obscured and I could not see what he saw. I responded by kicking as much dirt on his shoes as I could.
He would have thrown me out of the game had it not been over. We had lost by a run and I continued my barrage at the plate. Brice screamed right back at me, telling me I was wrong and had no idea what I was talking about. I responded again and kicked more dirt and his parting words were, "You are buying me a new pair, pal."
The film proved Brice right and as I sipped my beverage and leafed through the catalog, it was obvious my purchases would start with the umpire shoes. The face mask would also be mandatory for my poor behavior. I ordered more beverages and thought about my tirade. New umpire gear was going to cost me. Setting the catalog down, I remembered the incident like it just happened. My tab would be at least $200 for everything. I surmised that it was better than having to apologize. Being wrong can be expensive but you still do not have to admit it. Especially to an umpire.
TJ writes about what interests him and what he is passionate about. Visit his website at http://www.umpiregear.org which help people find the best umpire gear
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