Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicago NCAA Clinic: Fun, Food, and Jim Evans!

Hida-hey, baby, don't you wanna go?
Back to that same old place
Sweet home Chicago
-Sweet Home Chicago

The Midwest Region NCAA Baseball Umpire Clinic is back where it belongs: Chicago. Last year’s clinic was moved to Dallas and did not have the same charm or feel . Although, surprisingly, the temperature at both clinics was about the same - cold.

The Chicago clinic was a great success. Friday night I was able to have dinner with Jim Kirk from Ump-Attire and his creative director Amanda Tricase (the designer of their new catalogs). We shared thoughts on umpire equipment and protection over Giordano’s pizza. Fantastic!

The NCAA clinic was presided over by Gene McArtor, NCAA National Coordinator for Baseball Umpires and presenters included Tom Hiler, Director of Umpires, and Jim Paronto, the NCAA Baseball Rules Editor. The clinic was well managed, was brisk and informative, and unlike some clinics in the past, did not end with many unanswered questions.

On Sunday the Collegiate Baseball Umpires Association hosted a morning training session with umpire guru Jim Evans. This 4 hour mini-clinic included tips and instruction on plate mechanics as well as an overview of obstruction/interference. Evans is an entertaining speaker who is genuinely passionate about the art of umpiring. Speaking to a room of generally veteran umpires, it is easy to believe that this presentation was 90% review and maybe 10% new material. In fact, the way Jim Evans demonstrated even simple plate mechanics as heel-toe-heel-toe seemed refreshingly new. Thanks to Jim Evans and Rich Fetchiet of the CBUA for making this training happen. It was appreciated by all who attended.

I counted three vendors at the Chicago clinic: Honig's, Purchase Officials Supply, and Ump-Attire. Support those companies that support you. 'nuff said.

In all the Chicago NCAA Baseball Umpire Clinic was a great investment. One word of caution: the expenses can add up quickly. The NCAA room rate in Chicago was $121 per night, however there were several quality hotel choices close to the clinic site (Hyatt Regency on East Wacker Drive). Some of these hotels are connected by underground walkways and include stores and restaurants. While the hotel restaurants were serving breakfast at over $20 a plate, the Dunkin Donuts in the tunnel not 100 yards away had better coffee and warm donuts for about $6.00 (the breakfast of umpiring champions!). I thought Giordanos two blocks from the hotel was reasonably priced and a nearby Houlihan’s restaurant served a decent burger for around $15 with fries and a drink. An umpire friend from Des Moines was able to take Amtrak and save on gas and parking fees (hotel parking is $35-50 per day). Smart guy.

I'll go next year, hopefully "back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago!"

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