Little League® says it best when referring to the umpire’s role in a game. They refer to umpires as “The third team on the field at every Little League® game.” Simply put, in an official baseball game you have a home team, a visiting team, and a team of umpires. A team or crew of umpires could be two to three veteran, local Umpire Association members. Or a combination of a veteran umpire with a Junior umpire. A junior umpire is typically a youth baseball player who has graduated to at least the Majors division and more likely has graduated to the Juniors/Seniors Division. Junior umpires have worked in Coach Pitch, Minors, even Majors games in my hometown league of North Kingstown/Wickford Little League.
Every youth baseball league has a designated Umpire in Chief that runs their umpiring program. This role involves assigning regular and post season games to umpires from a local Umpire Association as well as coordinating the Junior umpire program in their community. For more information on how to become an umpire in your league or to sign up your youth baseball player to become a Junior umpire, contact your league’s administrator or President for more information. Here are 5 reasons why your youth baseball player should become a Junior Umpire:
- Increase your knowledge of the rules of baseball – As an umpire, whether it be behind the plate or in the field, you have to know the rules of the game, the strike zone, the infield fly rule, catcher’s interference, and so much more. As a player, you only hear these rules when they apply to you or your team or a game you are watching. As the umpire, you need to know these rules to help manage the baseball game.
- Gain valuable communication skills – During the game, an umpire is asked to call balls and strikes, convey safe or out calls on the base paths, and explain why a run is allowed to score or not. An umpire must be clear and confident in their decision because any wavering will create an opening for a persistent coach to argue and argue the call in his/her favor. As a junior umpire, you are learning how to overcome conflicts and communicate your message.
- You see the game from a different perspective – Standing behind the plate or behind second base, the umpire gets to see the flow of the game in a much different way than a player. The stress of catching the ball or pitching a strike or even hitting is gone. Your job as an umpire is simply to call balls and strikes, determine outs in the field, and be observant of the game itself. Umpires are not for nor against either team. The umpire is a neutral party in the game, yet one of the important parties in the game.
- Helps you gain confidence to make quick decisions, process information – The home plate umpire must call a ball or a strike after each pitched ball. There is little or no time for thought. The call must be made to keep the flow of the game going smoothly. Similarly, a field umpire must make a call of out or safe when a runner is sprinting towards first base on a ground ball to second. Junior umpires can learn how to process information, make quick decisions, and build confidence in their ability to do their job.
- Allows you to give back to the younger kids and help them have a better experience with baseball – A junior umpire is most likely a former player in your league. He/She has played in multiple divisions and has spent a lot of time at the fields, with various coaches, and playing baseball. A junior umpire can take a moment to show a player how to stand at the plate or how to hold a runner on or why he/she made a certain call. You can be a leader and show a younger player how they can improve and get better. Believe it or not, kids pay attention to older kids as much or sometimes more than coaches and parents.
And I can’t help but mention that it is a paying job for most leagues. Juniors make money by umpiring games. You get paid to be outside, around the game of baseball, and learning a ton of great life skills. To learn more about becoming a Junior Umpire, contact your league’s President today.