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TMCNet:  Umpires practice their game at Little League Southeast headquarters

[October 19, 2011]

Umpires practice their game at Little League Southeast headquarters

Oct 19, 2011 (The Macon Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- WARNER ROBINS -- To better improve the strike zone, these Little Leaguers aren't swinging a bat. Nor are they pitching, unless you count feeding the ball into the pitch machine.

These are volunteer Little League umpires. About a dozen of them came to the Southeastern Region Little League headquarters last week for five days of intense training to hone the skill of making the right calls.

From Oct. 12 through Sunday, these men from all around the Southeast spent eight-hour days learning about game management, field and plate mechanics and the rules of the game.

Some of these umpires have been on the field less than a year. Others have been on it for more than 25.

Four instructors worked with the men, who listened to the critique of stances, calls and movements.

Marshall Casey, of South Carolina, went to the Little League World Series as an umpire in 2007. He videotaped umpires as they made calls in the batting cages.

Rich Ealy of Virginia watched closely and told the umpire what call to make.

Part of the clinic focuses on safety for the umpires.

Casey pointed out to one umpire the importance of keeping his hands and elbows inside to prevent a baseball from hitting an unprotected area. "Keep everything this way," Casey said, as he gestured to the front.

On the other side of the batting cage, Ealy explained to another the need to relax.

"Don't robot it," he said.

Bill Crane from St. Augustine, Fla., has been an umpire for less than a year. He has two boys who play Little League who inspired him to volunteer.

"I'm learning the right way to do it," Crane said.

Ealy said during the clinic, the umpires spent part of the time in the classroom going over rules and regulations, such as the type of equipment allowed.

Then the group spent a few hours each day in the batting cages. Ealy said after just one day, he could see improvement from some of the less experienced umpires.

What Casey wanted to see from the new umpires was how to keep the game moving along. His goal is to get the players the most playing time as possible.

The clinic is not a requirement for umpires nor is it a stepping stone to advance to calling games at the tournament level. All of umpiring involves practice and establishing fundamentals. This is what the clinic was about.

"Players don't learn new techniques in the game," Casey said.

To contact writer Angela Woolen, call 923-5650.

___ (c)2011 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) Visit The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) at www.macon.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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