Last night I attended a girls’ softball game to watch a neighborhood girl play and her parents coach. Softball and baseball games occur nightly in my neighborhood. Everyone is involved. It is a fun way to spend spring and summer evenings. If my own son is not playing, you can be sure one of the other kids on the block has a game that night. Last night once again, I witnessed something I have seen more and more of this year. I don’t remember seeing it before this year: umpires text messaging while they officiate a game.
I admit, I text message. Sometimes even under the table at a meeting. BUT, the outcome of that meeting does not depend on my 100% attention. At first I witnessed the outfield umpire coming to the sidelines during every change of “at bat” and texting away until the last warm up pitch was thrown. Actually, I couldn’t help but notice since I was sitting along first base line and he would come to within several feet of me to do it. But as I have been watching closer, I noticed that the outfield umps will pull their phone out of their pocket to check incoming messages while the game is being played! I question how close they are paying attention to the game when the big concern seems to be carrying on a conversation. Was that blown call because he/she (yes, I’ve seen both genders do this) was daydreaming about where everyone is hanging out that night and who will be there? I imagine it is to a certain degree. Last night, an outraged parent yelled to the umpire to put her phone away. There seemed to be an awful lot of controversial calls that went against her daughter’s team for the remainder of the game.
If I could have a minute before each game to talk with the umps, this is what I would say. I would not state the obvious - that you are being paid, no matter how much or how little, to do a job and that is where you should devote your attention. What I would like to remind these umpires is this: “You are not much older than the kids playing the game. In fact just a few years ago, it was you rounding the bases and sliding into second. I’m sure you wanted a fair call back then. What you didn’t want was an umpire who was hurriedly shoving their phone into a pocket to get over and make, or possibly miss making the call. You wanted someone whose eye was on the ball the entire time, not just at the crack of the bat. Please remember that our sons and daughters believe their lives rest on the call you make.” Dramatic, yes – but isn’t that what being a preteen is all about?