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Friday 23rd May, 2003

Finishing Up, Last WQ, FPOL 14:00 PDT by ike

First things first: I have to send two IkeTheUmp birthday shot outs, to Kup and Haw. Nice job, kids...

I likely worked my last HS game of the season this past Tuesday, with Ygnacio Valley (Concord) falling to Deer Valley (Antioch). It was mighty toasty working the plate out in Antioch -- probably a good preview of things to come in the Midwest...

The final Weekly Quiz of the Competition comes from a play in the softball game last night:

With a runner at first, the batter grounds sharply to short. The fielder boots the grounder, but the ball ends up rolling toward second base, where the second baseman reaches down an picks up the ball with his bare hand while lunging back and tagging the base with his empty glove, ahead of the sliding runner. What's the call?

Finally, the latest from the softball field. Yes, FPOL maintained its unbeaten streak last night -- unfortunately, the team didn't win either, settling for an 8-8 tie. Check out the details here.

Saturday 17th May, 2003

Interesting Partner, WQ, FPOL 9:00 PDT by ike

As the high school season winds down, teams are hurrying to finish out their schedules and make up all the rainouts. As a result, my workload has increased steadily, with:

John Swett (Crockett) vs. St. Patrick's/St. Vincent's (Benicia)
Skyline (Oakland) vs. McClymonds (Oakland)
Pinole Valley vs. Richmond HS
Hercules vs. Alameda, and
Piedmont HS vs. St. Elizabeth (Oakland)

For the JSHS/St Patrick's game, my partner was Ron Barnes, who worked nearly 85 games in the Big Leagues! (Ron was involved in the litigation between Major League Baseball and the umpires, decided his chances of returning to the Majors were slim to none and therefore left Pro Ball.) When I first arrived, Ron popped open the steamer trunk in the back of his SUV and said, 'What color (shirt) do you want to wear today? Oh, hell, let's get crazy...' He then handed me a light grey jersey with the authentic Major League logo on the front -- needless to say, I was pretty psyched...

The game itself also proved exciting, both from a fan's point of view and also as an umpire. St. Patrick's marched out to an early lead and seemed to have the game well under control, but JSHS stormed back in the top of the seventh on the strength of some clutch hitting and some not-that-clutch defense. The St Pat's pitcher finally recorded the last out via the strikeout, and his team escaped with a one-run victory.

In terms of calling the game, an interesting play developed that will serve as the Weekly Quiz:

With a runner at second, the batter lines a sharp single to left, where the fielder charges hard and makes a strong throw to the plate. As the play develops, however, the third baseman sticks out his glove (why, I don't know) and makes contact with the runner rounding the bag. The runner decides to hold at third, but it appears he would not have scored anyway. How should the umpire rule?

(Those that watched last year's World Series may remember a similar play involving Benito Santiago and Troy Glaus.)

In regards to the WQ Competition, next week's quiz (#12) will be the last in this set, and I will declare a winner once I tally the results. Then a new WQC will start once I start working the Northwoods League, and I hope to generate the questions based on my experience there. Since the NWL lasts 10 weeks, I expect WQC #2 to have 10 questions.

Finally, be sure to check out the latest softball news. FPOL won again and now stands at 4-0.

Tuesday 6th May, 2003

Games, WQ, FPOL 10:00 PDT by ike

Amid the persistent rain, we still managed to play a couple games this past week. First, there was the 10-inning marathon between St. Joseph's (Alameda) and Kennedy HS (Richmond), which saw the pitcher for SJ go the distance and also a tremendous diving stop by the SJ second baseman to preserve the tie in the bottom of the ninth and send it to the tenth. In contrast, yesterday's game featured blazing fast contest between Berkeley HS and. El Cerrito -- the pitcher's threw strikes, the batter's put the ball in play and the fielder's made the plays. Special recognition goes to EC's pitcher for firing a one-hitter, and to to EC's center-fielder, for his sprawling catch in the top of the seventh on a sharp, sinking liner. Nicely done...

The Weekly Quiz this week comes directly from the St. Joseph/Kennedy game:

With a runner at first, the batter squares around to attempt a sacrifice bunt. When he contacts the ball, his left foot is clearly out of the batter's box (about eight inches in front of home plate), but his bunt goes foul. Is there any penalty?

Finally, FPOL continued it winning ways with another dramatic, last-at-bat victory. Check out the game summary here.

Friday 25th April, 2003

West Coast Classic, WQ, Summer Ball 12:00 PDT by ike

I didn't have any regular NCS games this week, but I was on duty for the championship game of the West Coast Classic, a prestigious tournament held at Santa Clara University. The matchup featured Mater Dei (Santa Ana) vs. (host) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose), and saw MD take the see-saw battle 7-5.

My depleted schedule this past week resulted in a lack of fodder for the Weekly Quiz, so I'll draw from something that occured in the A's/Texas game Sunday night:

At the beginning of the inning as the batter digs in, the pitcher waits on the rubber and licks the fingers on his pitching hand to get a better grip on the baseball. What's the ruling?

And finally the exciting news about my umpiring plans for the summer: all signs indicate that I will spends 10 weeks calling games in the Northwoods League in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ontario! The teams consist of collegiate-level players, similar to the Cape Cod league. I'm very excited to see a new part of the country and umpire some excellent baseball...

Friday 18th April, 2003

Birthdays, League Rivals, and Acronyms 16:15 PDT by ike

Before getting into the meat of the report this week, I want to extend more birthday wishes. Paul Biggs and Aaron Kocian, happy birthday, guys...

I only have one game to report, but it was a big one: unbeaten El Cerrito vs. unbeaten Encinal (Alameda). Many fans and several members of the local news media were on hand as Encinal jumped out to a big early lead, which they proceeded to squander slowly but surely over the course of the game. In the end, ECHS broke through to take the lead and hung on for a thrilling victory.

The play of the game goes to the left-fielder for Encinal, who, with the bases loaded late in the game, made a diving, backhanded catch on a line drive smash toward the gap, saving three runs -- one hell of a play...

Now its time for the acronyms. The first is WQ, which you know stands for Weekly Quiz. The question isn't actually based on anything that happened during the game I umpired this week, or even any game I watched. Instead, it's based loosely on something that occured in my softball game last night. Here goes:

In a Major League game, the pitcher delivers what he thinks is a strike, but the umpire calls it a ball. The pitcher looks bewildered, and from the dugout the manager says, 'Where did that pitch miss? That's right there!', to which the umpire responds, 'You can't argue balls and strikes.' Is the umpire correct? At that point, does the umpire have sufficient grounds to eject the manager?

Finally, we come to the second acronym, FPOL, which stands for the Finer Points of Life, my softball team from said softabll game. We pulled off our second come-from-behind win last night to start the year 2-0. Yeehaw!

Friday 11th April, 2003

BDAYS, WQ, and FPOL 13:00 PDT by ike

There are two birthdays this week worth noting, so special iketheump celebratory wishes go out to Munish Puri and Liz Kleinerman. If you see either of these two prancing about, give him/her a hug!

I finished up last week with Salesian (Richmond) vs. Albany Friday, and then the double-header Saturday of Carson (Carson City, NV)(!) vs. San Ramon Valley HS and Carson vs. Mt. Diablo HS (Concord). An interesting play developed during the second game that will serve as the Weekly Quiz:

With first and second and no one out, the batter attempts a sacrifice bunt. His bunt strikes the ground in fair territory, then rebounds and contacts the bat (still in the batter's hands) a second time above fair territory. The catcher then pounces on the ball and throws the batter out at first as the two runners advance. What's the ruling?

Finally, last night marked the first game of the softball season, and our team (The Finer Points of Life - FPOL) pulled out an exciting 12-11 win. Check out the details here.

Friday 4th April, 2003

Busy Busy 11:00 PST by ike

Sorry for the delayed post, loyal readers, but it's been a busy week in the Bay Area...

First things first: time for another special iketheump birthday shot-out -- Andy Hoey, happy birthday. You earned it, Big Guy.

Second, this week welcomed the opening of the Major League regular season, which is notable for a couple reasons.

First, you have the excitement and anxiety of a new season: will the Cubs be any good? How close will the Red Sox get to making the playoffs before failing? Will the A's finally get over the hump?

The gang out here has already attended two A's games, Hudson's eight-inning gem opening night and Zito's equally effective (if not especially dominant) performance the next night. Yeee!

But the second reason for getting pumped about the baseball season, which is perhaps more relevant to this website, is to watch the Major League umpires (especially those that instructed down in FL) in action. A little research on mlb.com reveals that three of the umpires that worked with us down there umpire on the same crew together in the Big Leagues (Holbrook, Marsh and Vanover), and two more are together on another crew (DeMuth and Layne). I'm eager to see them at the Coliseum!

HS umpiring update: had some interesting games since the last report, including...

Encinal (Alameda) vs. Alameda
Berean Christian (Walnut Creet) vs. College Prep (Oakland)
McClymonds (Oakland) vs. Oakland Tech
El Cerrito vs. Pinole Valley

The play of the week must go to the shortstop from Encinal. In a one-run game, in the bottom of the last inning, with runners on second and third, the Alameda batter hit a sharp grounder up the middle, and for some reason the Encinal SS wasn't wearing his glove! I guess he either wasn't ready for the pitch and had his glove off to start with, or he threw it off in a bizarre display of machismo to impress his intra-city rivals. In any case, the kid calmly ranged to his left, scooped the ball bare-handed, and then fired to first in time for the final out of the game. Incredible.

It's Weekly Quiz time, and this week I'll draw from a play I saw in one of the final Major League pre-season games this past weekend: The offense has a runner at first, who's stealing on the pitch. The batter swings and smokes a line drive that hooks down the left-field line. A fan reaches over the wall and catches the ball, which is still in flight, in fair territory below the top of the fence. In other words, the ball would have hit the wall on the fly in fair territoty had the fan not interfered. Where should the umpires place the runners?

I plan to post answers to the first five questions shortly. At this point in the competition, Giz and Ken B. are vying for the lead, with Brian Surrency close in third. Nice job, all. I also promised Munish I would mention him, so I will: good job, Mewn -- stay sharp.

Wednesday 26th March, 2003

WQ and Waxing Poetic 23:00 PST by ike

The teams in the area are starting to get into their league seasons, and I've seen some more good action. I had the plate both Friday, for Skyline (Oakland) vs. McClymonds (Oakland), and this afternoon, with Pinole Valley HS vs. Encinal (Alameda). The PVHS/Encinal game proved especially exciting, featuring four homers (a nice breeze coming off the water didn't hurt) and Encinal scoring three times in the last half of the 7th to take the game 10-9...

The HBP streak survived and now stands at five games. However, nothing unusual/interesting happened from a rules perspective in either of the games, so I'm forced to delve into the depths of baseball errata to generate the Weekly Quiz. Here it is:

With a runner at third, the pitcher throws a pitch in the dirt. The catcher successfully blocks the ball, but it rolls several inches in front of him. The catcher removes his mask with his right hand, and as he glances down to third to check on the runner, reaches out with with the mask and scoops the ball back towards his body. What's the ruling?

I want to mention, though, that despite a lack of plays testing the limits of the rulebook, I was struck by something working these last couple games (especially the one Friday, which was played at a public park in West Oakland). Between innings, I noticed that the games had attracted an interesting cross-section of spectators: parents, of course, but also kids from the neighborhood, a BART official, three police officers taking a break, and residents of the apartment complex across the street in deep right field. People wonder nowadays if baseball is still America's Pastime, and at the professional level I agree the sport has lost fans to football, NASCAR, etc. But it seems there's still something about kids playing baseball that's unique and pure and that almost everyone can enjoy...

Wednesday 19th March, 2003

PBUC News, Weekly Quiz 22:20 PST by ike

Apparently the structure of the PBUC course was different than I first thought: it lasted but 10 days, ending over the weekend. So, my friends that advanced to the PBUC course have already learned if they will receive Minor League job offers. John called to say the news was good -- he, Vic, Dan and Rafael all earned contracts, as well as Shauna (which league, etc still unknown). Congratulations all!

Meanwhile, back in the Bay Area, I continued doing more high school ball, taking the plate for Castlemont HS (Oakland) vs. Oakland Tech. Sure enough, a play came up that ought to make a great Weekly Quiz:

With runners on second and third with one out, the batter lifts a popup to the shortstop. For some reason, however, everyone on the field believes there are two outs: both runners break when the ball is hit, and after he makes the catch, the shortstop rolls the ball toward the mound as he and most of his teammates jog off the field. The runner from third crosses the plate, but the runner from second sees the catch and veers straight to his dugout from a point halfway down the third base line. Needless to say, some confusion ensues as coaches start yelling and players from the team just at-bat start taking their defensive positions. Amid the chaos, the catcher (who never entered his dugout) runs over and picks up the baseball, then goes and steps on third base. The questions are: should the umpire uphold this appeal? Does the run score? In fact, there are many variations on this play, but let me pick just one to explore: suppose that after the catch, all the defensive players simply head to the dugout and all the offensive players come out to play defense. How should the umpire rule? Whacky...

Finally, rest assured that the HBP streak survived another test to reach three games. And speaking of streaks, since Dartmouth was denied a bid, I think it's time for Cal to go on a little six-game winning streak and take the NCAAs -- Bears, baby...

Wednesday March 12th, 2003

Back In The Saddle, WQ #3, PBUC Update 12:30 PST by ike

After my HBP Streak ended last Tuesday, I was hoping to get back on track as soon as possible. I had the plate Friday for Drake HS (Marin) vs. Piedmont HS, and sure enough a kid got hit. I think the defense was smarting more than the batter, though, as the HBP came on an 0-2 pitch, with two out and the bases loaded. Then yesterday I was behind the plate again for Castlemont HS (Oakland) vs. Richmond HS, and easily 4-5 kids got drilled. 'The Streak' is alive and well again at two games...

Time for the Weekly Quiz, which is a variation on something that came up during Drake/Piedmont. In that game, the Drake manager was using a Designated Hitter (DH) for his pitcher. In the fifth inning, the manager pulled his pitcher out of the game, and brought his DH in to pitch. In doing so, gave up the DH -- all of his position players batted from that point on...

Now for my question: at the Major League level, suppose the manager brings in a new pitcher, moves the current pitcher to right field, and takes the right fielder out of the game. Is this move legal? What happens to the DH? Assuming the right fielder was batting second and the DH was hitting seventh, who hits in which spot now?

Finally, I spoke to my Ump School friend Dan, who just arrived at the PBUC course in Coco Beach (the couse is for the top 25 graduates from each of the two umpire schools, Wendelstedt and Evans). It's too early to report many details, but Dan said he expects to work a ton of high school and college games these next few weeks in the hopes of earning a contract to umpire Minor League ball this summer...

Wednesday March 5th, 2003

A Birthday, More HS Games, WQ #2, and 'The Streak' 20:00 PST by ike

Special iketheump happy birthday wishes go out to Eunnok, who celebrates his 24th today -- way to go, kid!

This past week featured some more good high school games:

St. Elizabeth (Oakland) vs. Richmond High
California HS (San Ramon) vs. Berkeley HS (JV squads)
Skyline (Oakland) vs. Campolindo
Pinole Valley HS vs. Salesian

I especially liked two items from the St. Elizabeth/Richmond matchup. First, the unusual 5-3 double play, turned by Richmond, where a runner from second was stealing on the pitch as the batter grounded sharply to the third baseman, who fielded the ball, lunged back to tag the sliding runner, and then got up and fired to first in time for the second out. Second, the squat, somewhat pudgy kid on St. Elizabeth that went by the nickname 'Biscuit.' (Gotta say, though, the kid was an absolute gamer, starting on the mound before sliding over to short.) Nice...

Weekly Quiz update: I've decided to postpone providing the answers to the first quiz for the time being to allow a few more responses to arrive. I do, however, have the next question, which comes directly from the Skyline/Campo game:

With a runner at first, the batter swings and misses the first pitch, which hits him (in the shoulder, I might add -- I guess if that thing's about to hit you, you might as well swing at it!). As the ball rolls away from the catcher, the runner advances to second. What's the ruling?

Finally, speaking of getting hit by the pitch, I had my streak of 'consecutive games calling the plate where at least one kid got hit by a pitch' broken yesterday at four. Nuts. Sure, it wasn't like Kobe, or DiMaggio, or THE A'S, but a streak's a streak. I'll just start over friday at Piedmont...

Wednesday February 26th, 2003

High School Action 11:15 PST by ike

To keep the skills sharp and become more relaxed on the field, I joined the high school umpire association in my area and started working games in the East Bay Division of the North Coast Section. The teams are still a little sloppy since it's so early in the year, but I have no doubt that soon the quality of baseball will be excellent.

Yesterday, I had the plate for a scrimmage between John Swett HS and El Cerrito HS. From a fan's perspective, the play of the game was an atttempted squeeze by JSHS where the catcher for ECHS jumped out from behind the plate and fielded the bunt himself, then lunged back and tagged the sliding runner in time. Nicely done.

But from the point of view of an umpire, this play was the most interesting:

With a runner on first, the pitcher comes set, then makes a pickoff attempt by simply turning and throwing to the base. Unfortunately, the throw ends up in the dugout. So, where should the umpires place the runner? If the pitcher had stepped backward off the rubber before making his wild throw, would the award change?

These questions will serve as the first Weekly Quiz. Even if you're not completely sure of the correct ruling, send in a guess! Good luck...

Finally, Ken B. took some pictures at yesterday's game -- nice action shots, Dad...

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