A few posts back I provided some information about a new umpire school in Cocoa, Florida: Oceanside Umpire Training School. O.U.T.S. is the brainchild of professional umpire Bob Bainter who agreed to answer a few questions about his school:
MWU: Hi Bob! Tell me a little bit about the Oceanside Umpire Training School.
Bainter: The Oceanside Umpire Training School (O.U.T.S.) is an idea that I have kicked around for a long time, and it finally came to fruition this fall. When I first started umpiring in professional baseball in 1995, I came to the Cocoa Expo for the secondary UDP (now PBUC) camp. I loved working the games, and at the time, it was also the site of the Brinkman/Froemming Umpire School. The Expo was the first place I considered for a site for O.U.T.S., and it's going to be very different than most schools and clinics. The timeframe is really the key difference, not to mention the game evaluations.
MWU: What is your staff like?
Bainter: I'm very blessed to have met and worked with the guys on my staff over the course of my career. Greg Chittenden and Darin Williams were both crew members of mine when I was a crew chief in the Eastern League (Chittenden) and in the International League (Williams). They are guys I trusted when I umpired with them, and I trust them as instructors now. Greg owns the Mid-American Umpire Clinic in Springfield, MO, so he brings a wealth of knowledge on instructing techniques and how to run a clinic/school properly. Bret Bruington, Todd Olinger, and Larry Allen are all successful collegiate umpires, with Todd and Bret working Division I NCAA and Larry getting closer to that level. I've known the three of them for almost twenty years, and I am confident that our students will find them, as well as Greg and Darin very informative, knowledgeable, and just fun to work with and learn from.
MWU: Why should an amateur umpire consider attending a school run by professional umpires?
Bainter: The main benefit of attending a school run by professional umpires is the combined experience of the staff. Lets say an umpire works 75 games a year. It would take almost 27 years to reach the 2,000 game mark. It took me 10 years of professional baseball to hit 1,700, plus another 300 or so before and after, probably 14 years total, if I remember correctly...lol...and I don't say that to toot my own horn, but when you combine our current staff experience, we have over 14,000 games between us. That's a lot of experience and a lot of "been there, done that, seen that" so when someone asks a question, we hope we have the right answer. I admire anyone who umpires any level, from tee ball to the major leagues. It takes a committment and a sense of pride and resolve unlike any other profession I know. Being a "professional" umpire doesn't make you any better than an "amateur" umpire, it's just for six months out of the year for a decade, I lived and breathed it, day in, and day out.
MWU: What does O.U.T.S. offer during a two week course that is different from a weekend clinic, or a three to five day camp?
Bainter: At O.U.T.S., we have the luxury of having two full weeks to teach our students as much as we can throw at them. Most three to five day camps go over new rules, depending on the area or the focus of the clinic (i.e., high school certifications, college, etc.). Our focus is going to be on rules and correct interpretations for whatever level the students need, plus theories of umpiring, including advanced positioning techniques, not to mention theories on handling situations, which I believe is what makes an umpire go from good to great. We also will have our students umpiring actual full games between some of the top high schools and colleges in the country. At most 3-5 day clinics, if someone is scrimmaging for the clinic, an umpire might get an inning or two in, and some clinics are just classroom work. At O.U.T.S., we will be able to watch the umpire take the techniques we teach them and give them feedback from their actual game situations. It's going to be much different than your everyday clinic.
MWU: What are the school facilities like? Is the food any good?
Bainter: The Cocoa Expo is the former spring training site of the Houston Astros and the Florida Marlins. It features your typical cloverleaf set of four baseball fields, but there is also the original stadium where the big league teams played in. The stadium is nearly 50 years old, and is a throwback to older parks, resembling an older minor league stadium from the 60's, but it's still serving it's purpose a half-century later. The original dormitories are right on the campus, complete with swimming pool, and the students will have the run of the facility, including game room, workout facilities, etc. We have our own classroom builiding, as well. As far as the food goes, students will eat at the cafeteria located in the main building. I would love to tell you that it's five-star cuisine, but that wouldn't be quite accurate...lol...but, I spent eight weeks there for four years in a row, going down before my spring training, and the food is really better than most cafeteria food you will find. The key was, I wanted to make sure the students had a choice, without having to leave campus and spending gas money and spending money just to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Students are free to go around and try the local cuisine, of course, if they'd like.
MWU: What is a typical day like at your school?
Bainter: A typical day would be breakfast, of course, followed by classroom instruction. We would then break and go out on one of the available fields for on-field demonstrations and drills (Oh! Can't forget the calisthenics!). The afternoon and evenings schedules are still being finalized once we figure out how many games will be scheduled to be played while we are in class. I want to get the students out on the field for games as much as possible. Of course, we always have to worry about the weather, but we will move things around as necessary
MWU: What kind of feedback can a student expect to receive?
Bainter: Students will be evaluated by myself and my staff not only on classroom work and on-field drills, but especially from their game situations. I plan on videotaping each game for the students, so they can review their work, and we can sit down and go over things that we observed that were both good and needing of improvment. Students will get a worksheet with their evaluation after each game, and we will review it with each individual, one on one.
MWU: How important is a recommendation from your school to an amateur umpire that wants to move on to college ball?
Bainter: Unfortunately, some of the best umpires around never get a "shot" at working college ball simply because they don't know who to talk to. Self-promotion is sometimes key to getting the games you want, but a lot of people are much more modest than that. We as a staff have connections all over the country. We will contact whichever association, assignor, etc., that a student needs us to so they can realize their dream. We will not sugar coat things to the assignors, if the students work hard and show potential, we will let the assignors know this. We can't promise placement anywhere to anyone...the professional schools can't, either...but we can get them in touch with the movers and shakers in baseball to get the students names out in front of them.
MWU: Question Nine: What is in store for the future of the school?
Bainter: Boy, good question! I want this to grow into a great training and polishing ground for all levels of umpires. I want to give amateur umpires a professional environment to learn in, not to mention the ability to get away from the cold weather, depending on their location, of course, and enjoy learning from people who truly care about the development of umpires of all levels of ability. For some people, coming here might be the closest they get to umpiring college baseball, and that's a great experience for them! I hope we are known as a great launching pad for many umpires careers!
MWU: What more can you tell us about the Oceanside Umpire Training School?
Bainter: I am excited to announce that we will offer a consolidated version of the school, since time constraints can come into play with people's lives, during the first week of the school. It will be the exact same school, but right now we plan on the majority of week two being where most of our games will be umpired. So, students can sign up for $900 and attend our school during the first week for a shortened version of O.U.T.S. (1 week) There will be more details on our website in the next day or two, but if anyone has a question they contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at http://www.outschool.biz/. My office number is 309-363-9995, and I will return each call personally to answer anything they may have a question about.