Perspective From An MLB Umpire

I called a friend and current major league umpire and crew chief, Ted Barrett, and asked him if he would send me his perspective from behind the plate on how we respond from the stands. Here is his look/perspective on our American pastime.

GROW UP PEOPLE!!!!

My wife and I have raised three children who were extremely active in youth sports. We both helped coach, gave rides, and provided snacks just like many of you are doing, so I know firsthand how much time, energy, and money goes into having children participate in team sports. Having said that, this gives you no right to lose your mind and go crazy on every close play during the course of a season! I know so many thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive people who turn into complete morons when they feel an umpire/referee makes a bad call.

I have seen umpires attacked and abused, mostly verbally but sometimes physically. I have seen them followed to their cars in the parking lot, I have seen things thrown at them, I have witnessed people threatening to do them bodily harm and even have heard their lives being threatened, all over a youth baseball game!!!

Much of the problem is caused by the sports media, who treat sports officials unfairly. The drive to implement instant replay causes them to focus on missed plays and player ejections. What you see every night is unruly behavior by professional athletes. Yes, this does occur on rare occasions. What you don’t see is what happens on most nights. That is men competing and playing by the rules, playing hard and respecting officials. Major league players react to calls that don’t go their way but for the most part they remain respectful and don’t cross the line. When they do they are usually ashamed of their actions and seek forgiveness, which is usually extended by the official. You don’t hear the conversations players and umpires have on the field.

Here is a sample of an actual conversation I had two nights ago. “Hey Ted, I thought that guy was out but I went and looked at the replay and in slow-mo I can see he was safe, I don’t know how you guys do it!” Even when calls are missed, players understand, they know we have a tough job, they may be upset at the time but they get over it and move on, focusing on the next play or the next game.

Why can’t you understand? Most youth baseball leagues can’t get enough umpires to do their games (Would you want to do it? I know you think you can!) Many leagues use older teenagers to do youth games. You are sitting in the stands screaming at them. A young man goes out with little or no training and does his best to provide your child with a safe, fair game. He hopes to have a little fun and earn a few dollars. What he gets are idiots screaming at him and calling him names! So much for the fun part. He also gets an eleven or twelve year old kid telling him he sucks, or worse, cussing him out (wonder where he got that from). You are so encouraging to your young player and his teammates yet you destroy this teenager as he tries to run a ballgame, I fail to see the logic in this.

People please, check yourselves! What are you so mad about? Did this umpire cause you to lose a game? Some perspective please! Just because you spent a small fortune on travel ball doesn’t mean you get perfect umpires. At the major league level we are remarkably accurate, despite what the biased media reports. At the youth level, with two umpires, it is nearly impossible to cover the entire field, have complete knowledge of the official baseball rules as well as the additional rules each league requires.

How about some support for the guys trying to work? How about some understanding? And for you church going people, how about an umpire having a positive image of your church as he sees you driving away with the sticker on the back of your car. Your negative behavior is more devastating to the cause of Christ than you know.

I know you want to win, but how about teaching our kids the importance of being honest. My friend Jerry Price writes about the time he took a new ball and made it dirty because the sun was going down and it would be tough to see. The umpire, his coach, and his Dad got on him about cheating. Today he would be applauded and been called “crafty”.

I have heard coaches teaching their players to grab their hand and pretend they got hit even though the ball did not hit them. If they chop it into the ground they should limp like it hit their foot, manipulating the umpire to call it foul. Gamesmanship you call it, cheating I call it! What are we teaching our kids?

But if we don’t do it the other team will you say. So what? Let them cheat, let them win a game by cheating. Your kids will learn how to live life without manipulating while being honest. After all, would you rather have an honest child who does his best in life, or would you rather have a “winner” who cheats to get what he wants in life? Wait, don’t answer that!

To sum it up, let’s go to the game and have fun. Don’t yell at the umps doing your kids games, come to a big league game and yell at us, or better yet, just cheer your team on and enjoy your time with your kid.

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  • youth sports

    Great article. Cary, NC little league has a rule that if a parent becomes unruly, his/her child is taken out of the game. Maybe parents should be banned from coming. Most players would probably have more fun.
  • Great comments

    I have a son and daughter in the Little League system and it amazes me how some parents act. My son actually gets umpires but my daughters team needs to provide a ump when they are the home team. You talk about difficult. Try convincing a parent who isn't familiar with the rules to step behind the plate and call balls, strikes, and everything else that happens on the field. It is nearly impossible. Thankfully we had a few parents that stepped up but they were always subject to negative comments relating to a couple calls in the game. No money for their time just a willingness to help their daughters team out. We are pushing Little League hard to provide us at least one ump per game when the same age boys are getting two provided for each and every game. Thanks and keep calling them like you see them!
  • thank you

    Ted Ur article is well written and so true. I myself umpire little league and Illinois High School and Jr High baseball and softball. You did a great job suming up what a lot of officials think. ALL of the MLB umpires have a tough job with the speed of the game and I believe ALL of u do a great job. THANK YOU