How To Handle A Bad Umpire Call
Have you ever been in a game where the runner was clearly out but the umpire called him safe? Where the ball was seemingly 15 feet above the plate but still called a strike? Of course you have. We all have, including Major League Baseball players. They will be the first to tell you that sometimes getting along with umpires can be tough.
But the advice from MLB players on dealing with the officials is pretty consistent: you need to respect the ump in order to play the game, and it doesn’t do you any good to freak out in the middle of the action.
Philadelphia Phillie pitcher J.A. Happ has learned how to keep his cool when he disagrees with umpires, but he admits it took him some time to get to that point.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t the best,” he said. “But maybe between innings, you can ask them politely where they think the pitch was. For the most part you have to shake it off.”
Minnesota Twin reliever Clay Condrey admitted youth baseball is different in dealing with umpires than when you get to the Big Leagues. Once it’s your profession, it can be more difficult, he said. But he also admitted it’s hard for the umpires to always get it right.
“It’s a game of human error,” he said. “Making a bad call goes with the game.”
When emotions get going it can be tough keeping that in mind, but controlling those emotions is key to succeeding in baseball.
Phillies closer Brad Lidge was on the hill to record the final out when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Having patience with the umpires is something he says is necessary to stay focused.
“I think the only time it can be a problem is if you let it take you out of your game,” he said. “The most important thing is to say to yourself, ‘ok, that happened, now I have to move to the next pitch.’ ”
Lidge’s teammate, All-Star Second Baseman Chase Utley, agreed.
“There are always times where you lose your temper, but you learn from those times,” he said.
Utley is known for his cool demeanor on the field. He doesn’t allow the umpire’s actions to change his disposition and he rarely argues. It might have something to do with his experience behind the backstop: in college he did some Little League umpiring himself.
“At that level the umpires are learning. They’re trying to improve as well,” he said.
Most arguments can be made effectively by your manager which allows you to keep your cool to stay in the game. If he does, Lidge said you have a better chance to handle your frustration in a productive way.
“If your manager comes out, maybe you have a legitimate complaint. But he’s the one who needs to handle it,” Lidge said. “You have to be able to take a deep breath if you don’t like the call. As a pitcher, you can ask the umpire where the pitch was. If you’re a hitter, you can say you don’t think that was a strike.”
The challenge, of course, is adjusting to an umpire’s strike zone. They are not all going to call the same balls and strikes and at times, you may feel they’re not staying consistent. That’s one of the biggest complaints pitchers usually have. But Lidge was firm in his approach to those moments.
“You have to realize that each pitch is an opportunity to reset things. Start over from where you want to be. Come to terms with your situation and just think of what you need to do next,” he said. “If you get really heated, it’s something you’re not going to be proud of the next day.”
And, as he also reminded us, it’s not all about you when those times happen. “You might hurt your team,” he said.
Additionally, Condrey pointed out that you’ve got to set an example for the guys you’re playing with. “At least show your teammates you’re not being affected by it,”he said.
Utley explained that the player/umpire relationship is delicate and comes down to one important factor.
“The more you respect umpires, the more they’ll respect you,” he said.
In baseball, the calls are made and they don’t get overturned. The bottom line is to not allow it to affect your performance or you could hurt your chances of bouncing back. And the team is counting on you to do just that.
Lidge explained that no matter what umpires do, you have to stay strong mentally.
“Always look forward, never look back. If you keep looking forward, then whatever happened has happened. There’s no reason to go back to it in your head,” he said. “Just focus on the next thing you need to do with your situation.”
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