What To Do About The Men In Blue
by Ken Colombo

Tonight's game started out very exciting, with both teams hitting everything and playing solid defense thru two innings.  The score was 2 to 0 and we had the makings of a great game.  Up to this point there were no walks or strike outs in the game and every batter for both teams hit the ball.

Then in the third inning, the pitcher who was still throwing fine, started to walk a few batters.  So as any coach would do we started watching the umpire's strike zone a little closer.  Incidentally the umpire was LITERALLY standing two feet in front of the backstop.  Yes, that is about ten feet BEHIND the catcher.  We noticed that the glove of the catcher was not moving and the ball would pass the batters thighs, waist, and chest area and was being called a ball, pitch after pitch.  We also noticed the umpire was closing his eyes and diving out of the way of any pitch that he thought might get past the catcher.  This was because he had gotten hit in the chest  protecter eariler by a foul ball, and was now obviously afraid of the ball hitting him again. (His jumping around went on for the rest of the game).

At this point both teams were noticing he had NO strike zone.  When he was asked were his strike zone was he replied "elbows to knees and over the plate".  So we had our next batter go up to the plate with his best impression of Ricky Henderson, and the first pitch flow by his head for a strike (so much for elbows to knees).  Eventually, the count went full and the very next pitch hit the dirt next to home plate and was called strike three. (The third base umpire thought it hit the batters foot).  This manner of officiating was happening to both teams and went on for the rest of the game and had taken the fun out of the game for both teams.

I have been coaching and umpiring for seven years.  I know umpiring is not an easy thing to do and is something that everybody makes mistakes at, myself included.  But, to have a person (this means anybody) behide the plate or on the bases with such little knowledge of the rules of baseball is unfair to the kids.  I do not mean to point the finger at any one person in particular.  Tonight's officiating brought to light how an umpire can control the tempo of a game, be it negative or positive.  I hope that in the future, the league will  take a closer look at who they allow to umpire behind home plate.
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