April 28th, 2005
If you are one of those guys who every time someone offers you a pointer you say, “I do such and such because…,” don’t waste your money going to the Southern Umpires Camp. (Or any other camp.) You will only piss off the other students and make life miserable for them.
If you are a guy who can keep your yapper shut and listen to instruction, you will be well served to attend the camp. As one of my wise old army sergeants said, “Sir, you learn something from everyone you work for; good or bad, you learn something.” Truer words could not be spoken.
Logistically, there were a couple of things that could be done to make the camp that much better. Breakfast was available every day at the hotel for about $6 a day, and lunch was about $6 a meal at the ball park. Students electing to purchase the video package could do so at the time of registration. Those three purchases gobbled up $70-$80 in cash that I had planned on having for incidentals over the weekend. All of the Arkansasgang would have liked the option to include those costs in the registration fee. The camp does not process credit cards, so carry cash.
Transit to and from the airport was confusing and not user friendly. Four members of our group rode the MARTA from the Atlanta airport to the northeast side of Atlanta, where the clinic was held. Detailed instructions about travel on the MARTA to and from the airport would be extremely helpful, especially for us country mice.
The last, and most important, point that needs to be addressed is the lack of attention to FED and even NCAA baseball. Rarely will you find an amateur umpire who calls only OBR baseball. Rather, most call two, or even three codes. If you don’t believe me, ask the editor about his BRD sales over the last 24 years.
At the camp, the two-hour blocks of instruction each on FED and NCAA were little more than lip service. With the plethora of rules experts out there, Childress, Roder, Yeast, etc., surely the camp could bring in a couple of guys who could add to the camp by stopping some of the “What about FED?” questions that so frequently popped up. If I had a dollar for every time some umpire asked “How do they do it in FED?” and the instructor looked back like a beagle staring at a ceiling fan, I could go back next year without spending a dime of my own money.
Naturally, since the clinicians were professional umpires, the OBR instruction was first rate and should continue to be so. But the clinic could only get better by including two respected FED and NCAA rules guys to help.
On Friday night there is an auction that benefits the Helping Hands organization. Helping Hands was formed to aid umpires who were affected by the 1999 resignation of several MLB umpires. Umpires who lost their jobs have no income and are unable to receive their pensions, any sort of pay, or benefits. The auction of baseball memorabilia contributes to the Helping Hands organization.
Saturday is another charitable event. The Southern Umpires Camp has a long history with the Shriners Burn Hospital in Cincinnati, OH. On Saturday, a raffle is held. Tickets are $5 each, and you can buy a maximum of 6 tickets. That entitles you to some sort of baseball memorabilia, whether an autographed MLB umpire jersey or an indiclickercounter donated by Gerry Davis Sports. The Arkansas crew was pretty impressed that Tony and his camp were taking an opportunity to help others.
The camp information tells you to bring all of your plate equipment to camp. But while there, I never donned my chest protector or shin guards. In fact, the only parts of my plate uniform I used were my mask, cup, and indicator. The camp instructs students to bring all protective equipment in order to limit its liability if someone gets hurt.
One of the questions asked was: Will umpires call actual games at the Southern Camp? At the suggestion of past campers, Tony decided to cut the games and go with situations. That method allowed all the umpires to participate and observe. Tony and Paul feel that creating situations is a better teaching method than a three up, three down, seven pitch half inning. This is another of those times when I agree with Tony.
Tony Thompson, et. al., put on a class camp. When training was set to begin, the staff was ready to conduct it. There was no waiting around as there is so often at other camps. The instruction was excellent, focused, and presented by umpires who are motivated, captivating, and knowledgeable. The staff at the hotel was extremely accommodating and pleasant.
Would I do it again? You bet. When I first arrived at the hotel, there was a bald-headed guy talking about how this was his bizzilionth trip to the Southern Camp. I remember thinking, “Good gosh, dude. Do you suck so bad that you need to keep coming back?” In reality, this guy turned out to be much smarter than I. I intend on going back to the Southern Camp, not just the International Camp. Every one of the 11 umpires who attended said that not only would they go back to the Southern Camp, but because the International Camp focuses on 3-man mechanics, attending the Southern Camp would better serve our association.
Alan Roper, a relatively new official, has been calling baseball and football since 2001. He tells us he is constantly seeking to learn new things and help others avoid his mistakes. When not on the football or baseball field, you can usually find him standing over a grill cooking for friends and family. You can reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from officiating.com
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