The old saying practice makes perfect and having experience at a skill will make everything better proves true when talking about umpires. Umpires are usually the ridicule of fans for missing a call and are subject to a coach’s or player’s tantrum when something doesn’t go their way.
But in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, they have found a way where the umpires are working towards the same goal as the players in the league, and that’s continuing to get better.
Two years ago, the PGCBL started working with Glenn Carnes, Director of UmpNation, who started using college umpires in the northeast part of the U.S. in PGCBL games.
According to their website, UmpNation is an organization that provides umpires for Perfect Game events, such as tournaments and showcases. They are also used by AAU, Triple Crown, USA Baseball, and college and spring training games in Florida.
“I was talking with Brad Clement, who is the liaison between the PGCBL and Perfect Game,” Carnes said. “The umpiring was not up to standards and they were looking to try for an upgrade or improvement.
“I made a suggestion that we try to get the local college umpires to work the league; at least they have a good understanding of college baseball and will understand what’s going on in the league.”
Carnes then established contacts in the New York area and flew out to meet with umpires from different associations to start the collaboration with the PGCBL. He has been a Director of Umpires for Perfect Game for the past 15 years, and was hired on full time when it kept growing.
Since the PGCBL started using local college umpires, Carnes and League President Jeff Kunion both feel it has been better for the league. Before, the PGCBL used umpires who were coming straight from umpire school and who couldn’t find a place in the minor leagues.
“We have a lot of experienced umpires,” Kunion said about the quality of umpires used in the PGCBL. “We have guys who have been in the college ranks or minor league ball who are now working our games as opposed to a lot of kids who would come right out of school.”
One of the aspects Kunion said he noticed a difference when the league started using umpires from Ump Nation is how the game is controlled.
“Where I see more often than any other particular place is how the umpires we have now better control the game,” Kunion said. “They’re not so concerned with having to establish their supervision over the game.
“They know how to handle the head coaches; they know how to let players express some of their frustrations. They’re not concerned that they’re not going to be respected because they already know they earned the respect.”
Another benefit the umpires provide is what the PGCBL does for the players. The league is there to help develop their skills before returning back to school and the umpires are there to improve their skills when the college baseball season begins again.
“I truly believe that what we’re doing right now is the best for that league because these guys go out there and they want to do the best they can,” Carnes said. “They want to work on their game just like the kids are working on their game for the next college season. So basically in that instance, it’s a win-win.”
In the past two years since the transition of using different umpires, Kunion said that there haven’t been any issues with arguments or games getting out of control. Like any baseball season, arguments happen and most happen to fire up a team.
“We have our arguments just like any baseball team when an umpire makes a decision on a close play, one of those head coaches is going to be unhappy,” Kunion said. “I don’t really see that it’s any different than what you find in most leagues.
“What I think our umpires do well is control what happens afterward; they keep the bench jockeying down to a minimum, they keep the temper tantrums out of the game because they know there are times when head coaches have to come out there to protect their teams.”
Aside from the on-the-field benefits the regional umpires provide, Carnes said that having local umpires helps a much bigger cause than just calling balls or strikes.
“I think the way we’ve set it up is not only good for the league, but it’s also good for the umpires in the area because the umpiring money is staying in local hands, which means it’s getting spent locally,” Carnes said.
“And the guys that are doing it are all good college umpires so I think they handle things a little differently than those who are trying to work their way back to pro school for next year.”
With the success of having Perfect Game umpires working PGCBL games during the summer, Carnes and Kunion said they have no intentions of changing things up.
“I seem to think the league is very happy with the turnaround,” Carnes said.
“We have every plan to stick with them,” Kunion added. “I hope that we are able to continue using them.”