Committee Hears Umpire Report

Umpires look for their own book.

By Staff

Coaching Management, 9.6, September 2001, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm0906/bbumpire.htm

Dave Yeast, the NCAA Division I national umpire coordinator, presented a report on the Umpire Improvement Program during the NCAA Baseball Committee's July meeting. Like major league baseball, the committee is searching for ways to ensure a consistent application of playing rules around the country.

"There are a number of Division I schools across the country that are still hiring their own officials, more so for non-conference games," Yeast says. "Since one of the criteria for deciding what teams make the NCAA playoffs is non-conference records, and those games are being officiated by people no one knows, the committee became very concerned that the majority of the country has no oversight at all in non-conference games. We want to make sure there's some oversight so there's some accountability when it comes to ensuring the competency of those officials."

For example, the 2001 rule change, which altered the definition of the set pitching position, resulted in balks being called much more frequently in certain regions of the country. The College World Series record for balks was broken during this past postseason, leading many coaches to complain that their regular-season games had not been called using the new definition.

"We struggle with getting the word out for interpretations and rules," Yeast says. "We try to get more consistent calls across the country. But where there's the no accountability it's hard to bring that about."

One step toward finding a solution is a Web page, ncaa.org/champadmin/baseball/umpire, which provides information on rules changes and other officiating information.

Yeast also received a go-ahead from the committee to initiate discussions with the Collegiate Commissioners Association aimed at producing a printed umpires' manual, which would illustrate mechanics and philosophy for collegiate umpiring. "Other organizations--major league, minor league, and high school baseball--all have an umpire's manual or guidebook," Yeast says. "Except for a small pamphlet, all we've ever had is the NCAA rule book, but there's a lot more that goes into umpiring than what's in the rule book. So I'm working with the NCAA's Publications Department to produce a manual. We feel there is a tremendous need for it, so we hope to get it done by January 1, 2002."

Yeast also discussed with the rules committee ways of ensuring umpires make the correct calls on the field, even if it means reversing a previous call. "What we've done is come up with a philosophical statement which is similar to that of major league baseball," he explains. "There are times, although they're limited to certain situations, when a major league crew will get together to discuss a call, and possibly reverse a decision. They have a statement to encourage umpires to discuss it and ultimately get the play right. So that's what we're working on.

"But we want to stress its limited application," Yeast continues. "There are thousands of officials who work college baseball, and we don't want them thinking they'll have to reverse their partners' calls. But we're looking to design a statement on 'getting the call right.' At times, our egos have prohibited us from asking for help on the field, so we're trying to take that out of the game."