Thursday, March 19, 2009

Umpire Teacher Review

The first thing you notice when visiting Mike “Bugsy” Segal’s Umpire Teacher website is that Mr. Segal is a man of vision in the field of training future umpires. His vision corresponds to the changing way people learn and obtain information in this age of computers.

The second thing you notice is, and I mean this with all sincerity: Bugsy is nuts! Umpire Teacher is charged with an energy that is infectious. It comes straight from the top, from Bugsy himself. He obviously has a passion for umpiring and teaching. Bugsy’s high energy style keeps the student actively engaged in each lesson (as well as entertained).

Umpire Teacher is the first umpire instructional website to use video and message boards for feedback. Students view video lessons and can ask questions directly to Bugsy, retired MLB umpire Vic Voltaggio, or to the “power team” members which includes professional and veteran amateur umpires.

During the video lessons Bugsy likes to emphasize the important points and adds his comments. The insight is terrific and really drives the point home. The best thing about the video lessons is that you can return to the lesson for reference at a later date. The first lesson I reviewed was a beginning lesson about the strike zone that featured a discussion by the late John McSherry while at Bugsy’s camp a few years back. A sample of this lesson is provided free at the Umpire Teacher YouTube site.

After discussing the basic mechanics of the strike zone and positioning, I moved on to the advanced strike zone video. These videos are terrific in teaching the large and fine points of calling balls and strikes. The mechanics are broken down into simple, easy to follow instructions. The video is clear and smooth, and the audio is exceptional. All lessons are instructive and insightful for both the beginner and the veteran umpire.

The price plans are reasonable for the information provided. For example, $9.95 per month gets you in the door as a paying member (AA Member Level), while $124.95 gives you total access for one year (Big League Level). The price difference mostly involves a larger video screen (which makes sense because of the increased bandwidth. Larger bandwidth means a greater cost to the company). I would recommend trying the site out at the $9.95 level before upgrading as the entry level video is very acceptable.

Umpire Teacher is very generous in offering free content that I encourage you to check out. First, Umpire Teacher has a YouTube site with free video samples. Also check out the Tips of the Week. Finally, Bugsy writes a newsletter that you can signup for here. Some past newsletters are archived here.

Online continuing education is an idea that all umpires should get behind. Continuing education is a real problem for most umpires during the season largely resulting from a busy schedule and burn out. Self study can be tedious. However, the Umpire Teacher website is open 24 hours a day with all lessons available anytime, and trust me, Bugsy is never tedious. Do yourself a favor, skip two fun meals at your local burger stand and pay the $9.95 for this training.

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