“I’ve never questioned the integrity of an umpire. Their eyesight, yes.”—Leo Durocher, former professional baseball manager
It’s not easy being an umpire.
Ball, strike. Safe, out. Fair, foul. There are a lot of split-second decisions to be made that can determine the outcome of a softball game at SaddleBrooke. Yes, it’s senior softball but the players still want to win so those calls by umpires can sometimes come under scrutiny.
But that doesn’t seem to faze the 31 men who put on their blue shirt and hat to officiate the 15 weekly games during the winter season. Friends or neighbors on the field be damned, they have a job to do and take it seriously. These volunteers attend clinics, review two rule books, and discuss game situations online.
As umpire King Mitchell says, “We bring sanity and reason to where otherwise there would be chaos and anarchy.”
The men umpire because they want to stay involved with the game they love, they realize volunteers are needed and they enjoy the camaraderie with the other umpires and players, whom one called “the salt of the earth.” Many also play on teams.
“We just enjoy the whole atmosphere of the game,” Steve Grabell, who can no longer play but wants to stay connected, says.
Following in his dad’s umpiring footsteps, John Sentowski stresses the team aspect of officiating—working together on which base to cover, anticipating close plays, keeping the game moving. His biggest challenge is not to second guess himself. He says you make the best decision you can at the time.
“You just have to remember to call them as you see them,” John said.
Ken Crossman, who’s been umpiring here for 15 years, agrees. He says umpires can only make a call on what they see and it often comes down to judgment. What a player “sees,” he acknowledges, can be completely different from the umpire’s view. But if there is a disagreement, most players get over what they may consider a “bad call” in a matter of seconds and move on, he says.
Paul Fisher finds humor helpful when dealing with the occasional complaints but eventually he’ll let the players know that the umpire has the final say, the play is over, now play ball.
“For an umpire to be truly effective, he has to be respected. How they earn that respect is up to them,” Paul said.
A long-time baseball and softball player, Stu Kraft’s approach to disagreements is to “tactfully ignore them.” He focuses instead on making sure the games are safely played and completed within time constraints.
Two people play key roles in supporting the umpires at SaddleBrooke, Debbie Seguin and Dennis Marchand.
Seguin does the scheduling for the Monday through Friday 15-week season and has been doing it for close to eight years. She says she now has it down to a science. She must because despite the inevitable last-minute cancellations, there are always two umpires on the field ready to go every game.
Marchand is the chief umpire and resident rules expert whose responsibilities include training and education. He started umpiring Little League games at 13, progressing to higher level leagues and eventually softball. He has been umpiring here for the last seven years.
The umpires often seek him out to ask questions and get clarification on unusual game situations that inevitably arise.
For people who might consider umpiring, Marchand highly recommends it, noting that there is a tremendous amount of support and as much training as needed. He rarely leaves the field without having had a lot of laughs and a fun day, he says.
“The players consistently compliment and thank us after every game for donating our time. They are genuinely appreciative,” Marchand says.
If you are interested in softball at SaddleBrooke, visit the website at www.saddlebrookesoftball.com to learn more.