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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 03:56pm
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Adjusting what you call based on the age of the players?

This week, I attended a 8U youth game as a fan, and as a parent. The game was an all-star showcase for the league. It was a well-played game that went 6 full innings in the allotted 1:15 time, and ended in tie, which is a great way for an all-star game at this level to end.

The official worked the game solo and is one with whom I have had umpire-coach disagreements in the past on rule interpretations and judgment of clear violations. The best example was questioning an obvious INT by a runner that was no-called. The response I got was "In a game that mattered, I'd call it." BS reasoning (edit: BS as in protestable in "games that matter"), but whatever: they're 8; moving on.

In the all-star game, there were multiple instances of no-call obstruction, no-call interference, and at least one "changed" call: an out being called halfway through the safe signal on a force play. If I didn't know this official through the grapevine, I would have shrugged it off, but I know this umpire wants to move beyond club ball/high school and into college softball. I've been asked to evaluate this official for high-level 16U/18U play for consideration for a college tryout.

Before I pass judgment based on the body of work I've seen at low-level play, here is the question I want to ask the board: Do you change your enforcement of the rules for lower levels of play? Is it ever appropriate to do so beyond a bigger strike zone for younger pitchers?
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Last edited by teebob21; Wed May 20, 2015 at 05:27pm. Reason: Details edited to protect anonymity of official, flippant wording in OP
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 04:03pm
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Similar conversation happening on the Facebook page...

I would not change enforcement of the rules (INT, OBS, LBR, etc) for any age. If they don't learn them at the earliest ages, they will have to unlearn bad habits later.

I WOULD, most definitely, change the strike zone at younger ages, especially for lower quality pitchers. No one learns anything from a walk-fest. If NEITHER pitcher can keep from constantly walking batters with a standard strike zone, then an expanded zone is better for both teams. Note that I would use the same zone for both teams, and for the whole game.

On the FB page, one person also pointed out that we are likely to be more lenient on illegal pitches, especially the ticky tack stuff, at younger ages.

BTW - this umpire telling you to your face that he's making calls differently because the game "didn't matter" tells me he shouldn't be on the field... Every game matters to the kids on the field.
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 04:20pm
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10-U is the youngest I have ever done.
I will adjust the strike zone, but not to crazy levels.
I will not call most illegal pitch violations in league or early season "friendly" tournament play, but I will always inform the coach of what is illegal so it can be worked on in practice.
I will call all interference.
I will signal all obstruction, but not verbalize until the end of playing action.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teebob21 View Post
...The solo official is one with whom I have had umpire-coach disagreements in the past. ...BS reasoning...If I didn't know this official, I would have shrugged it off...I've been asked to evaluate this official for high-level 16U/18U play for consideration for a college tryout....
Sounds to me like you should recuse yourself.
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 05:17pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota View Post
I will not call most illegal pitch violations in league or early season "friendly" tournament play, but I will always inform the coach of what is illegal so it can be worked on in practice.
Offtopic, but you and I differ on this one. I call the IP early and often if I see them...to do otherwise contributes to the late-season problem of "but, blue, she's pitched like that all season and never been called for it!" Pardon the crass analogy, but I see "a little bit illegal" like "a little bit pregnant": you either are or are not, and if you are going to do something to eliminate it, it needs to be done early. Sorry if my comparison offends anyone's sensibilities here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota View Post
Sounds to me like you should recuse yourself.
Maybe, and that's why I asked the forum. I'd like to think that I can judge the performance of a fellow official without bias despite our background, the same way I call a game for a coach "with a history". I also wanted to see if anyone else operated in this manner (non-calls for games that "don't matter"). I don't do this ever, with the exception of a big zone when needed to maintain pace of play, but that's just me. I think calling the little stuff early, like OBS and INT when a runner is hit by a batted ball, makes for a better game as the players age up, even if the 8U/10U parents and coaches think you're just making it up.

Edit: I've also edited the OP to be a little less flippant.
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Last edited by teebob21; Wed May 20, 2015 at 05:32pm. Reason: noted
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 06:11pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebob21 View Post
Offtopic, but you and I differ on this one. I call the IP early and often if I see them...to do otherwise contributes to the late-season problem of "but, blue, she's pitched like that all season and never been called for it!" Pardon the crass analogy, but I see "a little bit illegal" like "a little bit pregnant": you either are or are not, and if you are going to do something to eliminate it, it needs to be done early. Sorry if my comparison offends anyone's sensibilities here....
I did say "most", not "all." What I am talking about here are very young players who are not good pitchers. While I agree in principle, I disagree that such players will learn much of anything from an umpire calling every other pitch illegal. I'm not a coach, and a game is not the time to practice. All it would accomplish is a pitcher who is so focused on minutiae that her strike percentage goes from 30% to 10%.

The kind of violations I am talking about are double touches, stepping on the plate with the hands together... technical issues that need to be worked on in practice and are not causing a real problem in the game. Leaps, hops, etc. rarely are an issue with players of this skill level.

If you have 8U teams that can get 6 innings completed in a 75 minute time limit, we are talking about a different level of skill.
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 09:50pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota View Post
If you have 8U teams that can get 6 innings completed in a 75 minute time limit, we are talking about a different level of skill.
Oh, no: trust me, they're pretty terrible. Nothing even close to travel ball. Coach pitch, no stealing; catching and fielding seems somewhat optional. Rec youth league with player-friendly accommodations and a 5-run rule. It's basically kids slowpitch, now that I sit down with a beer or three and I think about it.

Still, this was the first 6 inning game of the year despite the officiating issues I asked about...most of them only get to 3 or 4 innings inside the time limit even with a run rule. Maybe that's what bothered me about the umpiring so much. This was supposed to be the best 20 or so players in the division, and they were all playing lights-out, but neither team was getting a fair shake for the "rules" calls. Judgment was fine, for the most part, but you don't see that many bangers at this level.

Heck, this year I have had games at the HS level where I would kill for a 10% strike rate....Funny that you mention leaps & jumps at the lower levels: I am teaching (poorly) my daughter pitching basics, and out of the blue yesterday she started crow-hopping! I shut that down in a hurry! I think we are on the same page about the habitual/procedural illegal pitches, though. Thanks for the civil discourse.
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Umpiring Goals: Call the knee strike accurately (getting the low pitch since 2017)/NCAA D1 postseason/ISF-WBSC Certification/Nat'l Indicator Fraternity(completed)
"I'm gonna call it ASA for the foreseeable future. You all know what I mean."

Last edited by teebob21; Wed May 20, 2015 at 10:01pm. Reason: beer or three.
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Old Wed May 20, 2015, 11:14pm
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On the most basic level, the function of an umpire. referee/official is to level the playing field so that neither team gains an unfair advantage. You haven't suggested this poorly officiated game strongly favored one team over the other; so, on that level, maybe it wasn't so bad.

The next tier of the function of an umpire is to maintain the integrity of the game itself, and officiate in accordance with the rules. But, what are the rules of 8U, really? It isn't recognized by ASA by any written rules, even. So, did he fail at that level, either?

My thought is that you (or Andy, or Darryl, or someone that knows the difference) needs to evaluate this official at a game where the rules obviously matter; maybe a 12 or 14 Qualifier, or even just a friendly with high level teams. Then you can know if can change his game to the necessary level. It isn't reasonable to judge anyone for high level ball watching an 8U game, even an all-star game.
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Old Thu May 21, 2015, 09:15am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AtlUmpSteve View Post
On the most basic level, the function of an umpire. referee/official is to level the playing field so that neither team gains an unfair advantage. You haven't suggested this poorly officiated game strongly favored one team over the other; so, on that level, maybe it wasn't so bad.

The next tier of the function of an umpire is to maintain the integrity of the game itself, and officiate in accordance with the rules. But, what are the rules of 8U, really? It isn't recognized by ASA by any written rules, even. So, did he fail at that level, either?

My thought is that you (or Andy, or Darryl, or someone that knows the difference) needs to evaluate this official at a game where the rules obviously matter; maybe a 12 or 14 Qualifier, or even just a friendly with high level teams. Then you can know if can change his game to the necessary level. It isn't reasonable to judge anyone for high level ball watching an 8U game, even an all-star game.
I may or may not have told him this yesterday.

The individual in question will get scrutiny this weekend...
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Old Thu May 21, 2015, 09:23am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebob21 View Post
Offtopic, but you and I differ on this one. I call the IP early and often if I see them...to do otherwise contributes to the late-season problem of "but, blue, she's pitched like that all season and never been called for it!" Pardon the crass analogy, but I see "a little bit illegal" like "a little bit pregnant": you either are or are not, and if you are going to do something to eliminate it, it needs to be done early. Sorry if my comparison offends anyone's sensibilities here.
Our local league has a decent solution to this.

Week One (which is two games for most teams) - do not call IP's at 10U or 12U, but inform the coaches after each half inning what you saw and what needs to be fixed.

Week Two (again, 2 games) - warn on the first IP in a game by each pitcher, call subsequent IP's (again, 10U and 12U).

Week Three and beyond - call them when we see them.
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Old Thu May 21, 2015, 10:38pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MD Longhorn View Post
Week Three and beyond - call them when we see them.
And it's amazing how fast the pitchers can correct their mistakes when base awards are made and a ball is charged.
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Old Fri May 22, 2015, 08:28am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MD Longhorn View Post
Similar conversation happening on the Facebook page...

I would not change enforcement of the rules (INT, OBS, LBR, etc) for any age. If they don't learn them at the earliest ages, they will have to unlearn bad habits later.

I WOULD, most definitely, change the strike zone at younger ages, especially for lower quality pitchers. No one learns anything from a walk-fest. If NEITHER pitcher can keep from constantly walking batters with a standard strike zone, then an expanded zone is better for both teams. Note that I would use the same zone for both teams, and for the whole game.

On the FB page, one person also pointed out that we are likely to be more lenient on illegal pitches, especially the ticky tack stuff, at younger ages.

BTW - this umpire telling you to your face that he's making calls differently because the game "didn't matter" tells me he shouldn't be on the field... Every game matters to the kids on the field.
I have to disagree with you in some regard on this.

I do think you handle things like the LBR/OBS differently with an 8U game than you do with a HS or College game. Even MS vs HS I will handle OBS and LBR calls differently. For example, at the MS level, if I see a runner on base loose contact with the base slightly before the pitch is released, I am not calling it, but they will be notified (or the coach will). If they are way off the base when the pitch is released, yes I will call it.

Another one I generally won't call right away is the OBS on the first baseman that has no impact on the play. (example, ground single to left field when first base is still standing on the corner of the bag waiting for a throw). I will however go over and tell the player what I saw and what they legally need to do. If it happens again, I will call it. I'm not saying that I won't call any OBS either. If there is contact at the base, I will call it because at that point it has crossed the line into being a safety issue. If the same player is doing the game thing every time that situation arises, it will be getting called. This approach tends to go over much better with the coaches, players and fans at the MS level and below where I work than just calling the obstruction and not letting them know what they did, or calling a runner out on a LBR violation.

I will also be more lenient on the "ticky tack" Illegal Pitch stuff at the lower levels than I am at the HS level, but I may take a few seconds to tell the pitcher or the coach (or I prefer both) if there is something that will be called as they progress.

At the lower levels contrary to what some parents may think, winning is not the only thing. As umpires we are ambassadors for the rules of the game. As such, we need to make sure the players and coaches know the rules of the game. Simply calling something without providing the knowledge as to why it was called does not benefit anyone at the lower levels.

Another thing to remember, at the lower levels were generally are not working with coaches who have a great knowledge of the rules either, so often times we are teaching the coaches the rules as well as teaching the players the rules.


Some things I will always call. INT is one of them. If a player interferes with the defenses chance to make a play I will always call that because interference by definition is giving the team an advantage.

With all of that said, I do agree on the strike zone. If I expand the zone, it is for both teams and it remains that way all game.

Now, as to the original post.
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Old Fri May 22, 2015, 08:33am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebob21 View Post
This week, I attended a 8U youth game as a fan, and as a parent. The game was an all-star showcase for the league. It was a well-played game that went 6 full innings in the allotted 1:15 time, and ended in tie, which is a great way for an all-star game at this level to end.

The official worked the game solo and is one with whom I have had umpire-coach disagreements in the past on rule interpretations and judgment of clear violations. The best example was questioning an obvious INT by a runner that was no-called. The response I got was "In a game that mattered, I'd call it." BS reasoning (edit: BS as in protestable in "games that matter"), but whatever: they're 8; moving on.

In the all-star game, there were multiple instances of no-call obstruction, no-call interference, and at least one "changed" call: an out being called halfway through the safe signal on a force play. If I didn't know this official through the grapevine, I would have shrugged it off, but I know this umpire wants to move beyond club ball/high school and into college softball. I've been asked to evaluate this official for high-level 16U/18U play for consideration for a college tryout.

Before I pass judgment based on the body of work I've seen at low-level play, here is the question I want to ask the board: Do you change your enforcement of the rules for lower levels of play? Is it ever appropriate to do so beyond a bigger strike zone for younger pitchers?
I have stated much of my opinion in response to MD below. I think given the full knowledge of what you have seen multiple times, you need to make a fair assessment of this umpire based on the totality of the observations.

Having done officials observations in the past for a different sport (in which I am an assigner), I know one evaluation does not provide a true feel for the officials ability. I have seen officials who couldn't get a call right one night, be great the next time I see them. Which version of the official is the true version? The bad version or the really good version.

Now, based on what I have read here, my evaluation would be something along the lines of this umpire needs to work on consistent enforcement of the rules and at this time is not ready to move up to higher level ball. That's just me though.
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Old Fri May 22, 2015, 08:36am
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Originally Posted by chapmaja View Post
Another one I generally won't call right away is the OBS on the first baseman that has no impact on the play. (example, ground single to left field when first base is still standing on the corner of the bag waiting for a throw).
This is the PERFECT time to call obstruction in youth games --- when there's no actual penalty (the award base and the achieved base are the same), and there's a chance to teach the rule.

(PS - leaving early and look-back rule are two different things).
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Old Thu May 28, 2015, 12:18pm
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Originally Posted by azbigdawg View Post
I may or may not have told him this yesterday.

The individual in question will get scrutiny this weekend...
Like the way you added "tiny" on there
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