America loves family baseball, this Blue’s call is an official, Joyful 4th for all

Parents watching their 9-10 yr. olds play baseball in relentless, 88-degree heat – and VERY glad to be doing it after a year away – makes a starting point Americans can agree about. (Knights Stad., 2017)

Not homeless update

My Charlotte nephew, Ian, offering a spare bedroom – in the house he’s had for all of twelve days – changed my potential homeless gig over the last week. It’s a very nicely done brick, small 3/2 bedroom, hardwood throughout, quiet, well-shaded yard, and I wasn’t just stashing stuff elsewhere to be out of the house last Wednesday.

That immediately made umpiring all weekend easier to handle – I had better than just a place to take a shower and lay my head available. I’m keeping a couple boxes and my umpire gear in the car, a reminder of that short distance to much different.

For the record, that the Spain people were willing-able to assess a $500 fee for clearing out what was left behind, I’d say it was legit. I pared my stuff down to barely a room, left 20 years of hard cover journals behind. Bro felt the need to continue working at the office up till the last day, so umpire judgment-wise, maybe a bad call by him…

I heard Mike say $200 to guys across street for two queen mattresses. They didn’t come pick them up, knowing he’d wind up leaving them behind the next day. That’s how moving situations roll.

On the Tuesday before I’d normally be considering the second part of my big move back into the Real World, apparently the guy I’m renting from “Isn’t 100% sure what date the guy I’m replacing is going to be gone-gone.” This also, is how moving rolls.

I brought my large, 3-tree potted palm to Ian’s, one branch proudly waving out the front window, and that sense of flag-fluttering pride is recreated thousands of times a weekend across this country at family baseball games.

Over two days, nine games, *nobody* disagreed playing was HUGELY satisfying after nothing last year.

Glenn, ‘Blue’ 6/28/21

Family baseball is bedrock America

One thing for sure, nine hours of 88-plus heat, from after the 8:30 game (of five) on Sunday till the end, you had to WANT to be in that blast furnace. Little ones and adults still chase down foul balls. Tents aren’t a visiblilty factor as much as a recognized need, the periodic, “Hey Blue, I got plenty of water, maybe a Gatorade?” works for me.

I actually found out about Stella’s Mom promising the sub-5 foot, left-handed sometimes catcher would protect me at the plate, because I had her on Saturday. She actually clunked me in the back of the head with a throw while playing 2nd base late Sunday – said the protection guarantee only counted while catching.

And we had plenty of hooo-hah! to officiate. NOBODY is kidding when they say, “The kids are fine, its the adults you have to watch out for.”

An international rules overtime game, starting with bases loaded and one out was an above my pay grade call. From moments like this are small heroes made, so great to watch, and glad to make the call at the plate in the Bigger Picture.

Everyone I talked to – they are ALL glad to be playing ball again, and collectively they believe we can trust again. You can barely imagine how much these kids wanted to mix and talk instead of just tipping caps post game. Pitchers want to know how somebody throws such a good curve, and its shared with pride.

Umpires do not turn down Gatorade. Nobody expects my strike zone to change because I’m staying alive.

Pitchers with that ‘extra’ pitch usually telegraph it by smiling when their catcher signals for it. One chunky kid thought we should go heads up with his newly minted curve…

Making a Difference – 9 Umpire POVs

Head first slides

Early on, one kid slides into home head first. It’s a Little League rule- head first back to a base only – but most tournament 10 year old games use high school rules that allow it. One coach says he’s not for it, but… I remind him of that when a second kid does it. That he recognizes the moment as an immediate teaching time is great stuff – no more head first slides.

When the other coach approaches me with his own star kid, asking about head first sliding, I repeated situation with first coach, adding, “You probably don’t need to do it either.” He walks away, Dad-coach says, “He wants to get a sliding mitt so he can do it without jamming a thumb. More equipment…”

Thanks for asking, usually

I appreciate gentlemen coaches LOTS more than broadcaster-screamers (obviously). Regarding balks, one said, “Not trying to actually deceive,” with some move, that works for me. 12 year olds have to know better, but I’m inclined to give a 10 year old trying a pickoff and flubbing it to become their coaching time, more something we can discuss aside vs. scaring him from trying, y’know?

I tightened up my chest protection this week and a foul tip still found ‘meat.’

Yay! for rookie scorekeepers

Speaking with a first weekend rookie Mom doing the official scorebook, these are the people who make youth sports so truly wonderfully good for all. She loved the extra of knowing a backward K indicated “struck out looking” vs. swinging. I gave her the explanation for Stella’s run to glory, and why she hadn’t been out after striking out and a catcher-runner collision at home plate.

“Just in case anyone else wants to know, they had to step on the bag at first or tag her, and guy didn’t make the tag.”

They listen – I’m an expert

It’s terrific to impart a specific point to nine and ten year old pitchers and others, like an explanation of seeing one obviously fiddling with his grip in mid-delivery. Everybody knows your ‘out pitch’ is coming, but no sense rushing yourself.

“Not inclined to call time” effective in pre-game talk

I’ve made NOT giving batters time to constantly step out a part of pre-game talk at each dugout. I’m not bitchy about it, some kids its deeply ingrained, but telling them “I’ve called balks three times and its cost people runs. You can get set, but once pitcher is going, I’m not inclined to call time so you can get three more practice hacks.” It’s been effective.

“Of course I didn’t use the rule until I needed to!”

Every coach has something they’ll want called in the clutch. Sunday is was a runner at first shuffling feet around as a distraction, which everyone does, but… After pulling in the tournament director, and a cell phone call to higher ups, the appeal resulted in an OUT that caused an overtime situation with international rules. That’s bases loaded, one out, a situation made for being a hero.

The joy of that runner scoring off a passed ball was shared by the entire team.

Framing pitches is legit, no posing!

Every catcher is now coached on framing pitches. It’s legit – my standard is just no posing! because people question, “How could he call a ball when your glove is right there?” I *know* where they caught it, 4-5 inches from what fans think they saw, just no “want to change your mind?” posing like I’m not doing my job.

Umpires get to rub it, a little

Being right on top of plays is a point of pride, and somehow, taking a foul tip juuuust below the collarbone, missing the mask and inside the chest-shoulder plates has a certain effect on others. I showed off the stitching ‘tattoo’ on left hand, and told the crowd and players, “Umpires get to rub it, a little.” You’ve probably heard ten-year olds aren’t supposed to…Taking four in the mask, pssshhhh.

Yes, one call can do it

I can’t help myself, even knowing it only takes ONE CALL to turn a buddy in the crowd against you, I’m still a talker. Eleven hours for Demetri and me too, and no shade on that hard Carolina clay infield aside, I’ve had a gas “Being Blue.”

Stella, Heroes, Winning still counts

Most important play of the day? Glad you asked.

Our second consolation game was between REDS and TIGERS. Both are first year clubs, and playing four games in two days makes a difference, especially for next season, like September. The Reds lost by a run in their previous game, then immediately had to re-gather at another field, playing 20 minutes after the loss.

Watching them pre-game, they were sloppy, listless. Their man-child 10 yr. old first baseman waved at warmup throws, there was no chatter. They gave up seven runs in the first, it could’ve become a sorry, very hot, hour thirty-minute zombie march…

Things changed when the extra-large batter – only his coach was bigger, including me – drove a 3-run homer over the temp fencing to put a charge in the game. The defense made plays, a scrawny-lean young black man with dreads – who got pointers about throwing, possibly for the first time, and lasted almost three innings – allowed the Reds to come back and tie the game.

Going up against a time limit, Stella is at bat, a runner on third is dancing on every pitch. The large kid is playing catcher, and after Stella strikes out, the pitch gets past him, the runner comes from third, and 4’5″ STELLA is walking towards the dugout.

Technically, I’m in Low-C position, behind and to right of the pitcher, watching for pickoff plays at third, staying out of throwing lanes for catchers to second base and shortstops are considerations.

As runner GOES! the coaches yell for Stella to run to first, which happens a lot with wild pitch third strikes, and she manuevers around the pile at home plate.

I check the plate umpire, he signals safe at home, and a throw comes out of the tangle – but the receiving person isn’t on the first base bag, or able to tag the diminuitive Stella.

How important was that? If the play at the plate had been an out, Stella would represent the final out. Two bang-bang plays, and still only one out was the result. The Tigers score three, so in the bottom of the inning, holding the Reds to two is a win, three ends in a tie.

Without Stella legging it out, the game would’ve been a tie based on time, BUT…

The Reds score FOUR, winning their first game ever. As an athlete, YES! you absolutely do gain a stronger sense of self, of succeeding and doing things as a team, having others care just a little more, after a comeback victory.

And yes, its still about the size of the fight in the dog. Competition made this country great, so you go, Stella! Cheering FOR something always beats crying about the losses, and that’s not just a judgment call.

I’ll also continue to congratulate those American families who pull packed wagons, with tents and snacks for six, and my fellow Blues – things just don’t work quite as well without us and snacks.

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