Special Sub-Topic: FT Detectives: The Undercover Umpires
|Alright, Detective, we're going to make sure you can cut the mustard as a Major League Baseball Umpire. First of all, I know you've never served as an umpire before in your life.
But trust me on this - most umpires start their training in the exact same place as you, with no umpire experience whatsoever!|
t. Most umpires have never called a game before they decide to go for umpire training. As umpires spend a considerable amount of time in training studying the MLB rulebook, it's probably best that they start with a blank slate when it comes to the rules.
|Now, don't protest too much if you're a lady detective. You can still pull off the undercover assignment. After all, there have been female umpires in the Major Leagues since 1988. Which woman broke the proverbial "glass ceiling"?|
Pam Postema. Postema was admitted to umpire school in 1977. She worked her way up and spent six years working triple-A level games. In 1988, she was tapped to umpire for the Major League at spring training, the first woman to be so honored. She also umpired for a Hall of Fame Major League game between the NY Yankees and the Atlanta Braves. Her contract was canceled in 1989, for which she sued the league for gender discrimination.
|Let's make sure you know how to sound like a pro on the field. Umpires have to go to school in order to be considered for work in Minor and Major League baseball. There are only two schools, and they're both in the same US State. So, if someone asks you where you went to umpire school, you'll have to regale them with stories about your time in which state?|
Florida. The two umpire schools are the "Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring", and the "Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School". You need to finish the course at one or the other, usually along with the Umpire Camp sponsored by the Major League, to be considered for MLB umpiring.
|Would a fellow umpire take you seriously if you said you graduated in the bottom third of your umpire training class?|
n. Umpire school is intensely competitive, and success is very subjective. About 300 students enroll each year, but only the students in about the top 20% of the class get tapped to sit for the exams sponsored by the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation.
|It isn't going to be very easy to sneak in as an undercover umpire. Most of the umpires for the Major League games have been working their way up for years. It's going to take a lot of work to get you to blend in.
How long does it take for a recent graduate from umpire school to make it to the Major Leagues?|
7-10 years. New professional umpires start off in the rookie leagues and work their way up, usually one level per year if they're any good, bringing them to Class AA by about the fourth year on the job. It's then another 3-4 years before they get promoted to triple-A games. From that point on, they may sub in for Major League umpires and work with the MLB players at spring training games, but they will only be tapped for a permanent position on the Major League umpire roster if another top-level umpire steps down.
|You'd better get used to answering to your new nickname, too. Even though the modern umpire uniform does not always use the color that spawned the name, and many umpires consider it offensive, the name still persists. What is the standard nickname for an umpire?|
Blue. Although other colors have started to creep back into the spectrum of umpire uniforms, umpires traditionally wore blue, and were called "Blue" accordingly. However, most umpires prefer it if you call them by their real name.
|Let's make sure you're studying the right rulebooks. How are base positions assigned to the umpires on the same crew?|
Umpires play each base on a rotation. Umpires rotate positions from game to game. A standard Major League umpire crew will have four umpires, one for each base. The umpire at home plate is called the umpire-in-chief for that game. For games of major importance like playoffs, the World Series and the All-Star game, there are sometimes six umpires, one for each base and two in the outfield.
|You're going to get a number just like the regular players do. Let's make sure we don't give you a number that's been retired. It should be easy as only one number is off limits for Major League umpires since the umpires organized in 2000. Which one is it?|
42 (for Jackie Robinson). Jackie Robinson's number 42 was the first number that has been retired across the entirety of Major League Baseball. That applies to umpires also.
|You won't be alone out there. Umpires are represented by a professional union, which handles collective bargaining for them with the Major League. This union is called the World Umpires Association.|
t. The World Umpires Association is a certified labor union. It was founded in February of 2000.
|You'll be infiltrating a close-knit group of hard-working professionals. You'll be under close scrutiny, and we cannot forget that there's a murderer running around. If you get in trouble out there, talk to the most experienced umpire on your crew. He'll be aware of your situation and also serves as the liaison between you and the labor union. What is this umpire called?|
Crew chief. The crew chief is a different position from the umpire-in-chief. The latter is the name given to whichever umpire is stationed at home plate during a game. The former is a more consistent position, usually the umpire with career seniority among the four-man crew.
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