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“Play ball!”
From the beginning to the ending of any baseball or softball game, the umpire makes a necessary contribution. Either the contribution will be positive or negative – it’s up to the umpire.

As a newer umpire, I have had to speak with older umpires, study the rules, and get practical experience. During my time of training, I have identified at least three areas that must be improved before my umpiring improves – attitude, appearance and abilities.

1. Attitude.
This is probably the most important aspect of umpiring. If you take the field with an arrogant attitude, you may well leave with a humbled attitude. There WILL be the obscene fans, the obstinate coaches, and the obnoxious players. Be positive and not negative.

An umpire needs to ask himself or herself why he or she is on the field. Is it for the extra money? Is it for a sense of control over a situation? These may be valid reasons at times, but they are not ultimate reasons. The umpire helps the ballplayers – especially the young ballplayers – have a sense of the game. Conflicts will come. An umpire that fights back will set the wrong example.

According to the psychological theory of Transactional Analysis, we speak to people from an attitude of parent, adult or child. A parent tells what to do, a child receives what the parent says, but the adult simply shares information with adults. Be an adult, not a bossy parent.

2. Appearance.
I did not understand this until I was asked to fill in a game where the scheduled umpires did not come. The umpire behind home plate wore running clothes, tennis shoes and a mask. He looked “bush league.” On the other hand, I wore my dark blue umpire jersey, blue shorts, black shoes, and a blue cap. I looked the part, and I believed it helped the others to respect me.

Tuck in that shirt, shave, keep the smokeless tobacco in the car. Look professional and respect yourself. Others will respect that, too.

3. Ability.
Know the rules. In the beginning, the older umpires told me to call just balls and strikes, safes and outs. My experienced partners took care of the other calls. However, situations arrive that are more difficult. Infield fly balls, balks, obstruction and other situations can be difficult to catch.

As you study the rules, and as you see these situations, you can increase your ability to call a game. An easy way to learn rules is to simply read the rulebook on a regular basis. Here’s a warning – don’t take the book on the field with you. If you refer to it on the field, people will know you don’t know the rules.

Be assertive, not acquiescent or aggressive. Make calls with a clear, strong voice, even if you are wrong. You WILL miss plays. And, don’t make a second bad call to “make it even.”

Like in any other endeavor, giving your best will pay dividends. Improve your attitude, appearance and abilities, and you will call better ball games.