Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review of Maximizing the Two-Umpire System

Umpires are often isolated and universally despised. We are expected to be calm islands, towers of strength, and impenetrable fortresses of impartiality. It is mentally challenging to be an umpire. We never get to relax and just enjoy being at a game. Add to this the requirement of complete knowledge of the rules, knowing the correct application of the rules, knowing how to handle situations, and knowing how to physically perform the job of umpiring. Well, that’s a lot of “knowing!”

The rulebook tells us that the “[m]ost important rule for umpires is always “BE IN POSITION TO SEE EVERY PLAY.” Even though your decision may be 100% right, players still question it if they feel you were not in a spot to see the play clearly and definitely.” Rule 9, General Instructions to Umpire.

There are not many resources available that teach this “most important rule.” Teaching umpire mechanics is a small, niche market. Some umpires don’t consider the study of correct mechanics to be that important (what?! “THE most important rule,” remember?). Add to it that umpires tend to be a conservative group and also conservative with their dollars. While there are many cutesy books on the baseball rules written for coaches and fans, there are very few books that instruct an umpire on proper mechanics.

The Jim Evans book Maximizing the Two-Umpire System is a treasure of umpire literature. It is the most important book for an umpire to own after the rulebook. Perhaps I am overstating my point?

No. This book is outstanding.

Maximizing the Two-Umpire System is 283 pages long. That is 283 pages you need to study to learn the two umpire system. This is the same instruction given to students at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. This book is meant to be comprehensive and teach the reader how to umpire on the field.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Evans.

Maximizing the Two-Umpire System is authored by Jim Evans, Dick Nelson, former field supervisor for Major League Baseball's Umpire Development Program, and with special thanks to umpire Jason Klein. The book devotes 17 pages to a glossary of umpiring terms. The reader is introduced to basic umpiring concepts that are explained in direct and clear terms. Pause, Read and React; Watch the Ball, Glance at the Runners; Ninety-Degree Theory. You may know or think you know these terms, but the Maximizing the Two-Umpire System breaks the concept down and allows you to learn it the right way.

The second chapter summarizes the umpire’s basic responsibilities which are organized into a Pre-Game Checklist. Does Evans really expect umpires to use this 14 page pre-game checklist? YES! This is important stuff and can mean the difference between getting the call right and handling your situations, and dealing with a sh*t house.

Evans provides his Seven Laws of Umpiring:

1. Anticipate all play possibilities but not their outcome.

2. Proper positioning is defined by proper angle and distance.

3. Proper angle is primary to distance.

4. Proper positioning is a function of time.

5. There are three possible positions for every play.

6. The call is a mental process and the signal is physical.

7. No play can be considered routine until it is over.

Do you want to get better? Learn the laws, live the laws. Not because Evans preaches it, but because these concepts are fundamental. Heed the laws and strive to perfect your mechanics on the field.

Evans provides diagrams and explanation for eight runner situations. The reader is shown the proper position on the field and the responsibilities for the plate umpire and the base umpire for each base runner scenario. Tips and tricks are provided to help the umpire attain the proper position and anticipate play possibilities.

Finally, the last chapter of Maximizing the Two-Umpire System explains umpire communication and signaling.

If you have read this far you will think that I was either paid to write this article, or I am somehow good friends with Jim Evans. I have never met the guy and I am not paid to write this review. I personally think very highly of Mr. Evans for what he has done for “my profession” (as Doug Harvey calls it) I think he should be praised. Thank goodness we have people like Jim Evans to help us be better umpires.

Maximizing the Two-Umpire System is available at the following on-line retailers:

Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring - $69.95

ABUA Website - $69.95

Fair Or Foul?
This book goes yard. It is absolutely fair, no video review necessary. It is simple: if you want to be a better umpire, first study the rules. The second thing to do is buy Maximizing the Two-Umpire System and read it cover to cover.


Steve said...

Not sure if you are doing the UMPYs for 2011, however, I would like to nominate Evans's balk video for Best Training Aid.

1. There is no other publication that comes close to accomplishing what this video accomplishes.
2. This video meets one of the greatest training needs in our market.
3. While it may not be as comprehensive as "Maximizing", it has no competition. "Maximizing" has complimentary and competitive titles, although none as good.

Anonymous said...

I just returned from the 2011 Desert Classic with Jim Evans and purchased the Maximizing book there. This is a text book for umpires, not a manual, not a situation guide, a text book. Anybody using the two man system should have this book. If you want to improve buy the book, if you want more respect as an umpire, buy the book, if you want to lounge right where you are....well save the money and stay right where you are. You'll just be less competition for good games for the rest of us.