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Being a Little League Umpire Is Fun and You Can Make Extra Money
First things first --- Getting your officiating license
The first thing you will need to do is find a training class in your area. These typically will start around late winter so that you will be completed in time for the upcoming baseball season. Instructors will typically be fellow sports officials that have a wealth of experience to pass on to you.
After enrolling, which includes paying a fee for your schooling, you will more than likely spend a few hours a week learning the rules of the game. You'll also be educated in the mechanics of both the plate umpire and the official in the field so that you will know exactly who is responsible for making the calls at various times and situations.
When class is over and you have been properly trained, you will have to pass a test to prove that you possess the knowledge to partake in this new endeavor. Your instructors may even schedule a few games for you where they can watch you and give you some pointers. Like anything, you will be a little nervous when you first start.
Purchasing your uniform
Before you can start to work ballgames, you will need to buy the proper uniform so that you have a professional appearance. If you come to the field looking like you don't care about your job, the coaches, players and fans will pick up on that and have less faith in your ability.
Hat - You will probably want to purchase two different types of hats. One is for when you are working in the field as a base umpire. It has a longer bill and may be a larger size for comfort. When you are behind the plate, a beanie hat with a shorter bill is a good idea so it doesn't come off every time you remove your mask. Also, I prefer a tigher cap as an additional aid to keeping it on my head.
Undershirt - In most states, you are required to wear a red undershirt. This can be either a tee shirt or some form of sportswear to help keep you cool or warm.
Shirt - There is a huge selection of colors available to the little league umpire. Navy blue is considered the standard, but many leagues don't have an issue with what color your shirt is as long as the umpires are all dressed identically. I prefer light blue in the spring/summer and black in the fall.
Pants - Dark gray or heather gray slacks are a must !
Socks - Black socks look best.
Cup and compression shorts - When you are calling balls and strikes, you will absolutely want to wear a cup to protect yourself. Many umpires also wear protection in the field in case of that rare bad bounce of a batted ball that catches you by surprise.
Shoes - Plate shoes are worn when you are working as the plate umpire. It has a metal flap on the outside to protect the top of your foot from foul balls and stray pitches. On the bases, soft cleats are a staple in most equipment bags. Newer fields have begun to appear with turf infields. When I am on those diamonds, I prefer to wear a pair of comfortable black tennis shoes. No matter which type of shoe you choose, they must be black.
A very real fact of being an umpire is that you WILL get hit by baseballs when you are working behind the plate. It's just part of the job and there is no way around it. The best catcher in the world will not be able to catch every foul tip or block every wild pitch, so you must be prepared to take a minor beating every once in a while. Wearing high-quality protective equipment will minimize the aches and pains, so choose wisely when selecting your gear.
Shin Guards - There is no reason to spend a huge dollar amount on shin guards. Most of them are good enough to keep you safe. You can find a quality set at many used sporting goods stores. Save money here so that you can spend more elsewhere.
Chest protector - There are many different varieties of chest protectors. Some have bicep protectors attached or are made longer to protect your stomach area. It really depends on how much you want to spend. If you take care of your gear, it will last several years, so buy the best that you can afford.
Mask - There are 2 main types of masks available. The standard mask will protect your face quite well, but doesn't guard the top of your head. So, you MUST never turn your head. The hockey mask covered your entire head and face. However, it has less padding inside and is heavier. It's all a matter of personal preference.
Throat guard - Many masks offer some throat protection, but it's always best to buy a throat guard and attach it for additional safety.
This is the exact set of shin guards that I wear for all age groups. I've never taken a hit that wasn't easily absorbed by the pads inside. I highly recommended these and the price is more than reasonable !
The first game
Now it's time to put your training to the test. You have the knowledge, the uniform, the protective gear and you were trusted enough to oversee this contest. This is the beginning of a whole new experience for you, so enjoy it and trust in what you have learned.
Here are a few tips to help:
1. Be early for your game so you can meet your partner and discuss signals, coverages, responsibilities, and develop a working relationship for this event.
2. Take your time and watch all plays develop fully. Don't be overly eager to call someone "safe" or "out". Be sure your call is correct and then be decisive in what you saw. You will want to verify a tag is completed with the ball in the glove. It's bad practice to call someone out and then have to change your mind when you see the baseball on the ground. I will tell the fielder "Show me the ball !" whenever it's not completely clear that it remains in the glove.
3. Keep in mind that your reputation is important. Don't get caught up in needless arguments or debates with your decisions. One coach may complain that you are wrong, but keep in mind that the other coach is surely in agreement with you. It's not personal and you can't be sensitive when everyone isn't thrilled with your calls on the field or behind the plate.
4. Small talk between innings should be kept to a minimum. Talking to your partner about the game is fine, but having loud discussions about a night out at the club is not something you want others to overhear.
5. Stay calm. Even if you feel that you made an error, you cannot let it affect your next call or decision. Focus on what you know and what you see. Let previous parts of the game remain in the past.
6. Leave your ego at home. If you feel that your partner got a better view and you need assistance, don't be afraid to ask for another opinion. In the long run, you will garner more respect from others when they know that you want to ensure that the game is officiated fairly and objectively.
How much do YOU know ?
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Hustle Hustle Hustle
Pete Rose was known throughout his career as "Charlie Hustle". He was disliked by many of his opponents, but he was respected because he always gave everything that he had. As an umpire, you want to hustle as much as you can.
Don't walk from one position to another. Instead, you should jog. It doesn't have to be a fast pace at all, but others will notice your effort and have more respect for you. You do NOT want to have the label as a lazy umpire or you will find arguments and debate around every corner. An official who is known as a "hustler" will garner admiration from fans and coaches will appreciate that you are always in the best position to make a call. Even if they don't agree with you, they will remember that you were in the proper location to have the best angle.
Have you ever blamed an umpire for costing your team a ballgame ?
Networking is essential
Making contacts is extremely important if you want to get plenty of opportunities to officiate little league games. You will need assignors who are confident enough to schedule you to work for them. Plus, it is always a good idea to interract with coaches and get your name out there. It takes time to build a database of contacts, so be patient. Focus your attention on becoming the best sports official that you can be.
Congratulations on your decision to either become an umpire or for taking the time to entertain the idea. I can promise you that not everyone will enjoy it as much as me and my fellow officials do. However, if you are a sports fan and like mingling with other parents and kids, it can be a very rewarding way to make money and spend your evenings and weekends around others like yourself.
Oh..and did I mention that you should always hustle ?
Good luck with your new endeavor !
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