The Uncomfortable Relationship Between Parents and Umpires

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The count was 1-2. My son was the lead off batter in the top of the first inning and I was standing behind the backstop recording with my video camera, which I rarely do anymore. He fouled off a fastball and the count was still 1-2. The next pitch came in high and dropped in a little outside, or so it looked to me and some of the other fans, and “STRIKE THREE” was called.


I could hear parents behind me groaning and complaining and I called out to my son, “Good eye, Drew”. I didn’t think much of it at the time, the game went on, and my son’s team ended up winning the game.


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Later that evening when I got home, I loaded the videos from my camera onto my computer. They included a couple of nice hits by Drew and a bomb home run by one of his teammates. Then I started the video of him striking out. To my surprise, the call was probably too close for him not to have swung. Mind you, I was not directly behind the backstop, but off to the side a little, so maybe I didn’t have a view as good as the umpire. But the video made me cringe, and not only because like most people I hate the sound of my voice on recordings, but also because it was a rude, crappy dig at the umpire.

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This got me thinking about the relationship between parents and umpires. Obviously, coaches and players have their own issues with umpires, but I hadn’t really thought much about the tension the umpires feel from the parents. I’ve seen many umpires get angry with parents and many parents get angry with umpires. It’s all part of the game. But when do the outbursts get to be too much?


“A good umpire is the umpire you don’t even notice.” ~ Ban Johnson


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On the other hand, umpiring is one of the only jobs you can be crappy at, and no one is supposed to complain. You can literally do a bad job and not one person is allowed to call you on it. That’s kind of annoying. I know that if an umpire is really bad, eventually he’ll stopย being hired by leagues and for tournaments. But that doesn’t help us in our game that day.


We also have to remember that sometimes umpires are just kids and in order for leagues to keep the costs down for parents, they use teens who they can pay a little less and may not be as thoroughly trained and experienced. Like most jobs, good training is important and there are also umpiring books to learn from and review to brush up on their skills, and go over things they may have forgotten.


umpire and parentsI guess the bottom line for me is that as parents, we really should just keep our mouths shut. I know it feels good to mumble a little, “Come on, Blue.” But, at the end of the day, it will make no difference in the outcome of the game. The umpire is not going to change his calls or his strike zone based on your comments, and in fact, he or she may be more inclined not to give your team that close call when you need it. Yes, they’re supposed to be impartial, but they’re human and they get annoyed just like us. And I think most umpires do a pretty darn good job. It’s just that the bad ones seem to stand out more.

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People who umpire need to have really thick skin. It seems to me that umpiring is one of the most hated jobs there is. That and those parking ticket people. I know I could make good calls, but I would not have the patience to deal with the parents, coaches, and sometimes players who might be questioning my every decision. I’m way too mouthy for it. My teenage son tried it and he only lasted a couple of games before he realized that it’s not that easy to deal with the people involved.


dad watching baseballSo everyone…let’s cut the umpires a break. I’m sure they’re trying to do their best and don’t want to make lousy calls. But like all of us, they’re entitled to make mistakes. ย For the rest of days, there will always be bad calls by umpires, but we shouldn’t complain because at least we get to sit in the shade.


Here is the video so you can judge for yourself.




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  1. Sally

    A few thoughts.

    Firstly, I don’t think saying, “Good eye, Drew” is necessarily rude to the ump. It’s encouraging your son.

    As for the call, that last pitch looks just like the one the ump had already called a strike. Gotta be swinging at that with 2 strikes.

    • Yeah, it looked way outside when I saw it live, but when I saw it on the video I knew that he should have swung. Lesson learned. I probably should have said something else encouraging my son like, “Get ’em next time.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Gary C Jones

    Good article! I do agree with you give Blue a break! I coach Minors baseball (9 – 10 yr. ) And try to teach them to respect the position regardless of the call. If it is awful my job as coach is to call out the ump (politely) Your job is to do the best you can at the game. I did watch the video and I think if you watch where catcher caught the ball you should have swung!

    • Oh yes, I totally agree that he should have swung. It was way too close to watch it go by. Thanks so much for reading my article and visiting my page. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. J Foster

    The first called strike was a fastball lower and along the outside corner. The last called strike was higher approaching curve ball thrown by a rightie pitcher, a pitch which could look outside or even high but if it drops as it is supposed to probably did catch the outside corner enough for Blue to give it away. No biggie. Life goes on.

  4. MonkepalRandy

    I have coached Little League many years . You never no what quality ump you will have . You must be very very aggressive with 2 strikes. If you can get your players to buy in to that , the rest will take care of itself. I have never had all buy in, there is always a couple on the bench crying it was not a strike.

    • I totally agree. My son is a very aggressive batter, but he is the lead-off hitter and he has been taught to try to judge balls and strikes very well because he needs to get on base. He very rarely strikes out because he is pretty good at it, but that one had him fooled. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great, honest article! Having umpired for many years and just recently joined the coaching ranks, I do find myself wishing quite often that coaches and parents would have the “opportunity” to umpire a real game and feel the pressure to be scrutinized for two straight hours in a thankless job. I do love being on either side of the plate, though, to see kids play and grow.

    I often remind my players that a single call never, ever makes or breaks a game. We can always look back and recognize numerous situations in a game where we could have saved or gained an extra run.

    • Thank you very much for reading it and for your comments. I can feel how hard of a job it is and I’ve totally learned my lesson. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. An Umpire

    Very good article and I could expand on this in many ways. I will give 1 example though. 8u travel baseball I am working base with my Father on plate. For the record, I am in my 40’s and my Father in his 70’s so no this is not a teen with his Dad. ๐Ÿ™‚ Runner on first is stealing 2nd, I bang him out on the tag. Immediately I hear Mom and Dad screaming at the top of their lungs at me that the tag was high and he was under the tag, his feet were ahead of him. Yes, they were able to see that from over 100 feet away. But at 5 feet away I was able to see his feet and legs never touched the base. Yes, he was under the tag. But he didn’t touch the base. So he was out. Mom and Dad with that better view of the play over 100 feet away were merciless in their screaming. Which resulted in no change in the call and their head coach getting a stern warning that if he couldn’t control his parents that he would be held responsible for his parents. In the coaches defense, he was very apologetic and handled his parents promptly.

    The point is that it comes down to distance and angles. Instead of yelling about a call you perceive to be a bad one, take into consideration where you are, how far away you are, and the angle that you have of the play. More often than not, the umpire has the best angle / distance on the field over parents and coaches.

    Another case. I had a runner stealing 3rd in an 11u travel game working the game solo. Now, when I work solo I do my best to cut down distance on plays. But when the play is a runner stealing, you just can’t do that. You can’t leave the plate until after you see the result of the pitch. In this case I called the runner out. My view of the play and best judgment was that even though the tag was high, the foot appeared to be behind the bag on the play. The coach came to me calm and we had a short discussion. He told me the runners foot got the back of the bag. I explained to him that my judgment was he was behind the bag. I also told the coach “Coach, if you tell me he touched the bag I believe you. You have a much better view on this play than I do. But I have to make a judgment call with the best angle I can get. I have to stick with my call.”. The coach accepted, said thanks for hearing him out, and we moved on with the game. He respected that I wasn’t going to be talked into changing my call.

    A lot of what needs to happen is changing the culture. Parents, players, coaches, and yes umpires too. I prefer to be approachable and enter games with a manner that is not standoffish. Introduce myself to the Managers at the plate, maybe crack a joke to lighten the mood. Shake all of the assistant coaches hands before the first pitch. Shake hands with the catchers and ask how they are doing in school. Before any of that, I greet the parents on both sides with a “Good morning, I hope everyone is having a good day and enjoys themselves”. Maybe comment on the weather, have a pleasantry or joke or 2. Smile. Wins people over fast. Yes, still hear a comment or 2 if they don’t like a call but it ends much quicker. I do believe it makes a difference though in how people react to calls. The bottom line, I as an umpire am doing my part to change the culture and I am working with parents / coaches as well to change the culture. That is when the players will change as well. Articles like yours are a good start in that direction as well. Well done.

    • Thank you for your wonderful comment and the examples you’ve shared. I feel like umpires have a hard, mostly thankless job and I’ve learned my lesson on being a smartass and yelling at them. I know they’re trying their best to make perfect calls, but life isn’t perfect. Also, are kids’ games that important that you’re going to yell at someone who’s doing their best? Being an umpire is not as easy as it looks. My son umpires from time to time for Minors games at the local Little League and he encounters some difficult situations. Thank you for being a patient and kind person and doing your best at the games. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Blain Walton

    Here is my issue. Right up front, I’ve been told before that I have a bad attitude for an umpire.

    Umpires don’t make much money. I certainly do not do it for the money. 15-20 per hour and we pay for our own equipment and training. I umpire so that the kids have a unbiased official on the field. I want to stay involved in the game that I love and was once good at. My POV, parents and coaches should be happy to have any umpires on site at all. Either that or prepare to pay significantly more money for umpires to show up.
    10 years ago, coaches told parents to keep their mouth shut toward the umps. Coaches called time out and came out to discuss calls they disagrees with. 1/2 The umpires on the field did it for fun or community.

    Now, if a coach disagrees with the call, the whole ballpark knows. People come running from 100’s of yards away to see the latest fight between the coaches and umps. The only people who umpire are desperate for money and untrained. I am the last person in our crew who does it for fun or community.

    Parents and coaches have ruined little league baseball. Why? Some of it has to do with the stress and cost of travel ball. You expect a professional umpire and great coaching when you pay 5k for a season. Then the coaches feel pressure. They feel like they need to make a show if their kids are losing. They need an excuse to blame the umpires.

    How will the end? Nobody wants to umpire. Nobody wants to show up and be cussed out by some idiot who does not understand the game and is not in position to see the call. On the few occasions I might be wrong, the coaches and fans act so horrible, I dig my heels and refuse to reverse the call. So, I am in my last year of umpiring. I started at age 22 after playing college baseball. I am now 41. I physically could umpire for many more years. We umpire many games by ourselves and braindead parents and coaches still complain. The parents and coaches have a choice. 1. Pay significantly more money for umpires. At least double what is currently being paid. 2. Keep your mouth shut. No comments to the umpires at all. Any comment is an immediate ejection. 3. Umpire the games yourself. Those are your choices…

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