Hey everybody. In response to this post, I thought I would try to provide the next best thing. I have worked as a professional umpire in the minor leagues for a few years now, and would be happy to answer any questions about what I do, why I do it, and/or how I got to do it at all.

Obviously, I have to remain anonymous, so I won't answer anything that I feel could potentially reveal my identity in any way; however, I have provided the mods with proof. So ask away!

edit 1: Thanks for the questions guys. I've gotta go be more productive for a while. I'll check back later to answer any other questions that come in late.

Comments: 100 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

go_sens205 karma

How does it feel to be blind?

Iamaump76 karma

I'm surprised this one isn't at the top.

death_to_all_humans17 karma


Iamaump24 karma

I am kind of undecided on this as a whole, but there are definitely situations in which I could see it being implemented. There are also situations where replay that overturned the original call might create a whole new set of problems. In regards to the former, for example, I could see it working for safe/out calls. However, in the case of a fair/foul decision, if the call was originally foul, but replays clearly indicate it was fair, where do the runners get placed? How does one determine where they would have ended up if the ball had been correctly ruled fair to begin with?

I'm not too worried about the expansion of replay. Even if replay entirely takes over the Majors, I'll still be able to umpire quality baseball (i.e. independent ball, college, etc.).

thepriziesthorse12 karma

how much do you make?

Iamaump17 karma

A couple grand a month (during the season and before taxes), plus a small per diem.

gollfprodude10 karma

Do you ever watch the replays of the games you umpire? How do you feel after you find out that you made a bad call?

Iamaump23 karma

Yep. Shitty.

jjw7719 karma

How did you get into being a professional umpire?

Do you referee any other sports?

How long did it take you to get to the stage you are at in your career?

Iamaump13 karma

I have been around baseball all my life. My father coached my older brothers while I was the bat boy, and I played up through college ball. After I got my Bachelor's I got into umpiring to make a little extra cash while I went back to school for a Master's in Education. I ended up falling in love with umpiring and the new perspective it had given me on the game. After I finished my Master's, I attended a professional umpire academy, which is a five week, very intensive school. I graduated with honors, so went on to a two week evaluation by the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation, after which I was lucky enough to be offered a job umpiring Minor League Baseball.

I have refereed wrestling and football in the past. I would love to be able to still do football (it was a blast!), but having recently relocated as well as the fact that baseball season doesn't end until after football season begins, I think it'd be hard to get back into.

I'm still at a relatively early stage in my career. It varies from guy to guy though; some move through the ranks very quickly, while some spend a bit more time at the lower levels polishing their mechanics and getting a feel for professional baseball.

Realitea8 karma

What do they teach you at umpire school? I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the rules of the game, do they just go deep into the nuances of the rules, as well as testing your interpretation?

Iamaump17 karma

At umpire school, every day for five weeks is spent pouring over every word in the rule book. Usually half of the day is spent on rules (i.e. reading them, discussing, taking tests) while the other half is spent out on the field working on mechanics and positioning. Then you go back to your room, do some homework, study, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.

dgunn112358 karma

What percentage of time that the crowd boos over a call do you agree with them in hindsight?

Iamaump17 karma

A very small percentage. They usually aren't booing because they had a better look than me or they know for sure that my call was wrong. They just boo because the call didn't go their way.

jdcoolha8 karma

As a video board director at a minor league stadium, I am so sorry for some fans.

...Not sorry when they are right though.

Iamaump12 karma

Thanks! Honestly, I get a kick out of the fans a lot of the time. Heckling is an art, and I always appreciate a talented artist. The only ones that have ever bothered me are the ones spouting out all of their valuable "rules knowledge" that probably couldn't even tell me what color the rule book is.

fbifriday7 karma

Do you find that the minors actually can be more competitive than the majors?

Iamaump8 karma

In some ways yes, in some no. In the minors, there are more umpires working to move up, and there are tons more just waiting for a chance to get into the game, so being released is an everyday reality. Major League Umpires have more job security, but the pressure on them to be perfect at every moment is incredibly intense.

fbifriday10 karma

I was asking more about the game itself, but thanks for the insight into the competitiveness of your job. I didn't realize there were that many people who actually wanted to get balls thrown at their face and verbally abused for a living, lol.

Iamaump11 karma

Sorry, I completely overlooked that perspective on your question. Tough for me to really say, as I've never had the opportunity to call a game on a big league field. If I had to guess though, I'd say that competition at the AA, AAA, and Major League levels is fairly consistent.

stupid_kids7 karma

I see umpires make a call immediately after the bat is swung. Have you ever wanted to take a call back after you made it?

Iamaump13 karma

In umpiring, one important concept is timing. Timing means seeing the play (or pitch) to its completion, processing it and making the call mentally, and then giving the verbal and physical mechanic. Though it may often seem quick or immediate, trained umpires almost always exercise proper timing. That being said, I have definitely made calls before that I immediately regretted.

argen276 karma

How often do you feel you make the wrong call? Do you ever watch footage to see if you were right?

Iamaump10 karma

It's tough to quantify how often I feel I make the wrong call. It's definitely a part of the game, though, so I guess I'd say more often than I'd like. I watch film whenever possible. It makes me better, and can help me to not make the same mistake again that might have lead to the missed call in the first place.

mockamoke5 karma

What determines whether or not a baseball is rejected for play after it has contacted dirt, grass, backstop, etc? As a fan, it seems that the smallest abrasion results in balls being thrown to the side by the ump, even though the event causing a ball's removal was a single one-hop into the catcher's mitt or a slow two-hop on the grass along foul territory towards third base. Do the minor leagues have similarly strict criteria for this process? Do they use the three dozen balls per game that the majors are said to? And who pays for the balls anyway - home team or visitors?

I played hardball up to the high school level and do not recall any particular attention being paid to scuffs, grass stains, dirt spots, or other kinds of minor imperfections to the surface of a ball during play. Replacements happened only when a ball was "lost" from a long fly into the parking lot/home run, was trapped up there on the top of the backstop fencing, or otherwise rendered unavailable. What's the story?

Iamaump6 karma

Generally speaking, for me personally anyways, any large discoloration will result in me removing the ball (usually, the pitcher would ask for a new one then anyways). Additionally, any significant abrasion, tear, or nick in the leather will also result in removal, as it can affect the way the ball travels through the air.

In the majors, they actually go through between ten to twelve dozen balls a game, and they tend to remove any ball that has bounced in the dirt. The most baseballs I've had to rub up for a game so far is six dozen, although a game in the minors can go through more than that easily (especially on wet days). Umpires in the minors tend to be more discerning on whether or not to throw baseballs out, as the cost of baseballs can become a significant burden on the teams. The home club provides all of the baseballs for the game.

ooolongjohnson4 karma

What is your best umpiring story? Any ridiculous fan/parents? It can be at any level of ball. I've had plenty of crazy parents follow me from the field to my car after softball games...

Iamaump17 karma

After I high school playoff game, I once had a grandma (presumably) that was probably 80 years old stop me on my way to my car from the field to call me a piece of shit.

dgunn112354 karma

Do you think other umpires have made a tough borderline call one way to make up for a missed call they realized they made earlier in the game?

Iamaump6 karma

I don't think any professional would ever consciously do that. A "make up call" isn't really a thing. With that being said, we're all human, and I don't think we can ever completely rule out something subconsciously influence a decision on a close play.

i_am_buttered_toast4 karma

What's the smallest minor league crowd you've ever seen?

Iamaump3 karma

Somewhere between one and two hundred spectators.

dracoolaa4 karma

How do you explain baseball rules to a cricket addict.

Iamaump5 karma

I'd have to understand cricket first. But as I see it: more colorful uniforms, round bats instead of flat, and the ball isn't hit after it bounces.

brak603 karma

As a minor league ump, I'm assuming you're working a lot of two-man crews. What are the benefits and detriments of that set up? Have you worked a four-person crew at all? Does it seem like a relief or do you think it takes you out of the game feeling-wise?

Iamaump5 karma

The two man system has it's drawbacks, but it is important to have the foundation of knowing it forwards and backwards before moving up to three and four man. There are some particular situations, like some balks or pick off plays at first where being in a three or four man crew provides a much better look. I have worked all of the aforementioned systems, and I love working here and four man. I don't think it affects my being in the game, so to speak. I make a very concerted effort to be focused on every single pitch.

patriotsfan13 karma

It seems like each umpire has their own strike zone. Some are more likely to call strikes on the outside part of the plate, some low and away, some high and inside, etc. How do you determine what your strike zone is? What goes into making a strike or ball call on a pitch that is framed by the catcher and is borderline?

Iamaump14 karma

The strike zone is actually clearly defined in the Official Baseball Rules: Rule 2 defines it as, "The area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow of the kneecap. The strike zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."

So really, the strike zone is uniform. Where it gets tricky, is that every batter is unique in how they stand when they get ready to swing, and on top of that, every pitch takes a unique path from the pitcher's hand to the catcher's mitt. In a way, we have clear parameters with which to call balls and strikes, but those parameters are constantly changing. The other thing to keep in mind is that the strike zone is three dimensional. I think of it as a box floating over the plate. If any part of the ball comes in contact with any part of the imaginary box, it's a strike.

If you'd like to read a really beautifully written description of the strike zone, check out Bruce Weber's As They See 'Em. It has a phenomenal section on the strike zone, but it's also a great book for umpires, or really any baseball fan.

Houstoned89-14 karma

Why do you consider yourself a professional umpire when you're still in the minors? I mean wouldn't ANY umpire who gets paid be a professional umpire by that standard? Highschool and peewee included?

Iamaump11 karma

I consider myself a professional because I'm on a career track to become a Major League Umpire (although that is only a small possibility). I started umpiring high school and middle school ball, and never considered myself a professional then. Then, it was an avocation, now it's a vocation. While I work other jobs during the off season, this is my primary job.

Houstoned89-17 karma

So you didn't consider yourself a professional when you were umping highschool even though you have to work your way up to the big leagues? Did you not fall in love with the career until you made it to the minors?

Shouldn't your name be Iamanump?

Iamaump8 karma

No I didn't consider myself a professional then. I fell in love with it then, but I didn't really even know about making it into professional baseball until a mentor told me I should go for it and directed me to a school. Yeah, it definitely should be Iamanump.