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Get Your Own Whistle!

March 8, 2012

By JOE SPAULDING

    I've refereed in similar conditions before.
    A cold, biting wind of about 15 mph and temperatures in the upper 20s.
    But this was different, because I wasn't on a football field (I think in some states football is REQUIRED to be played in weather like that), This time it was a baseball field, on March 5, for a college doubleheader. In my 38 years of balls and strikes, I've never umpired a baseball game before the high school boys sectional was over.
    And what about the tradition of having snow at the time  of the boys' BB tourney? It certainly could have happened Monday.
    I thought surely they wouldn't play when I walked outside Monday morning. I certainly wouldn't want to try and hit an 85-90 mph fast ball with a bat in those conditions.
    But, alas, when I arrived at the Indiana Tech baseball complex in Fort Wayne, there were baseball players in uniform and from two different teams. Baseball 2012 had arrived and partner Greg Koons and I were soon to call our first game of the season (it was also the first game of the year for the two teams).
    The big question was--how to stay warm, or at least not to suffer frostbite. I thought I was prepared--double up on every item of clothing from socks to long johns to turtleneck insulated shirts. Padded gloves helped but after the first game was over I think my fingers appreciated the warmth of the nearby Tech fieldhouse room where we dressed more than anything.
    Greg and I had a pretty thorough pre-game session of how we were going to handle certain situations (a must for umpires at any level). That was fortunate because one of those situations arose. The team from Michigan had a runner on second when a grounder was hit to short. The initial play went to first so--WHACK!--we have an out call there. After the throw was made, the runner on second went to third.
    It use to be the home plate umpire would hustle down the line in this situation and make any follow-up call there. Several years ago, that mechanic was changed and it was decided to let the base umpire make that call as well. So after making the initial call at first, I had to pivot and try and get a good angle on the play at third. I saw a tag first so--WHACK!--another out which meant a double play and the end of the inning.
    It doesn't get any better than that if you're an umpire--especially with no argument from players or coaches.
    Tech proceeded to get two runs in the fifth and captured a 4-2 win in a game that took just one hour and 45 minutes to play. Our best case scenario continued in the next game when Tech won 10-0 in a run-rule game.
    It's only been for the past couple of years that I've worked games in March and that usually wasn't until the last week of the month. This year I have 14 games scheduled this month. It's good to be back on the field, let's just get the temperature up a little!

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