Every athlete who has played baseball or softball has had to deal with a bad umpire. In some instances, the umpire has a bias toward one team that becomes obvious to the players, coaches and fans. Sometimes an umpire makes a mistake—no one is perfect. And yes, some umpires are just plain terrible.
I have coached baseball for the past 15 years and played for 20, and I’ve never been ejected from a game. We were playing in a tournament in which the opposing coach’s dad was the umpire. After the third (in my opinion) terrible call, I had to voice my frustration. He ejected me, and it was frustrating to say the least.
I use that story hopefully to inspire young coaches to stand up for your players. While playing, I had a coach who regardless of how bad the umpire was never said anything. I’ve also played for coaches who argued for his team if he felt we were not being treated fairly. The main objective is to show your players you care about their success, and that you’ll go to battle for them. A player respects that in a coach.
Players should focus on their game and not on a bad umpire. Regardless of how the player feels about a call, until you are getting paid to play, your job is to play the game and respect the umpire. Focus on your job and let your coach handle the officiating. If you get all worked up and lose focus, your performance may suffer as the game goes on.
With instant replay at various levels, from the Little League World Series to MLB, the guys in blue are trying to get it right. Players and coaches should always try to build a rapport with the umpires before and during the game. Having mutual respect increases the chances of a game being called fairly. And if there is a poor call—it’s bound it happen—cooler heads will ultimately prevail.
I have also umpired, and sometimes my call didn’t go the way one coach thought it should have. As he approached to argue, I stepped back and politely thanked him for sticking up for his team. He didn’t know how to reply to that other than say thank you and turn around to go back to the dugout. This happened two or three times with the same result. The umpire’s attitude is important to how he or she is perceived on every call, discussion and argument that happens during a game.
As long as people play baseball and softball, they will see bad umpires from time to time. The focus should be on the players enjoying the game and competing fiercely to get to the next level.