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My Trip to The Show (Part II)
Tom Verducci
April 02, 2007
Two springs after his cameo as a Blue Jays outfielder, SI's TOM VERDUCCI was back in the bigs, this time as an umpire for an Orioles--Red Sox game. All he had to be was perfect. (And what manager, player or fan would ever believe that?)
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April 02, 2007

My Trip To The Show (part Ii)

Two springs after his cameo as a Blue Jays outfielder, SI's TOM VERDUCCI was back in the bigs, this time as an umpire for an Orioles--Red Sox game. All he had to be was perfect. (And what manager, player or fan would ever believe that?)

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2. Beware of balls that explode.

That's umpire terminology for what happens when you try to track a ball as it passes directly over your head, causing you to lose sight of it.

3. Don't chase down a batted or thrown ball; that's the players' job.

Don't laugh; it's happened. Former major leaguer Ron LeFlore flunked umpire school in 1988 for his instinctive reaction to play the ball like the outfielder he once was rather than getting into proper position.

4. Don't get spun around by line drives hit directly at you; you'll fall on your butt or, worse, get pegged there.

Culbreth recalls the time that no sooner had he remarked that he had never seen Jeromy Burnitz hit a line drive than Burnitz nailed first base umpire Terry Craft in the posterior. "It went up one side of his [butt] and down the other," Culbreth says.

5. Make sure your fly is zipped.

Basically, the job comes down to this: If I can quit worrying long enough about wiping out Tejada, about baseballs that either explode, tempt me to field them or put me on my can, and about keeping my pants on properly, then all I need to do is nail every single call. Great.

"Umpiring is a gift," says ump Tim Timmons, 39, who also assisted in my training, "like the hitter who has the skill to hit that 90-mph slider or the pitcher who can do things with a baseball no human being should be able to do. Those are real gifts, and so is umpiring. You can't teach instincts."

Major league umpires are, in fact, closer to perfect than you might imagine. There were 167,341 at bats last season over 2,429 games. According to the 2006 "Umpiring Year in Review," a report put together by MLB officials, the men in blue made only 100 incorrect calls, excluding balls and strikes (and in that discipline they were judged to be 94.9% accurate). Not once did a club protest a game. (A protest can be filed only if a team believes umpires misapplied the rules.)

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