Whether you are playing on the diamond or watching your young slugger, it’s easy to overlook the importance of umpires. They provide an unbiased regulation of our game and allow for pure competition to transpire. They are the third team on the field and can dictate how a game goes. In this article, the Bat Experts at JustBats take a look at what it means to be an umpire and the steps to follow if you want to become an umpire. Let’s dig in.
Path To Become An Umpire
Each Umpire will carve their own path. Many start in Little League or at the local youth league. Often times you will start with machine pitch or coach pitch. There are many different ways to get behind the plate and start your umpiring career. Here is a list of ways to get started at the youth level:
- Contact the local Rec department or Little league
- Your local association should be able to help you get contacts as well
- Volunteer for the local Little League
- Talk to umpires at games/tournaments
From the youth level, you will be able to work your way up to high school and beyond. The basic requirements to umpire at the high school level will be a high school diploma or GED and becoming certified through the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). To start at the high school level it is best to contact the NFHS where they will get you certified and in contact with your local umpires association. Although there will be different certifications for both softball and baseball, they are typically both run by the NFHS.
Most umpires then move to the college ranks. These leagues range from NCAA D1- NAIA and NJCAA levels. Each level and league will have its own sets of rules and requirements for umpires. A majority of umpires start at the lower levels such as NCAA D3 and work their way up after calling quality games for multiple seasons.
How Do I Become an MLB Umpire?
Each umpire that you see on TV has had years of experience in the field. There are some basic requirements to focus on the take that next step to become an umpire for Major League Baseball.
Some of the basic requirements are:
- High school diploma or GED
- 20/20 vision (with or without glasses)
- Good communication skills
- Quick reflexes and good coordination
- Decent athletic profile
- Required preliminary training for the job (i.e., MLB umpire camp invitee)
- Previous experience as an umpire
The umpires that meet these requirements oftentimes will have to work their way up through the MiLB. Doing so will allows young umps to gain more experience before entering games with the best of the best.
Umpires Rules and Duties
As an umpire, it is of utmost importance to know the basic rules of baseball/softball and the duties of the job. Below are some of the rules and duties the umpires must follow regularly.
- Knowing the game is very important
- Basic rule knowledge is a must
- Check each player's equipment to ensure it is legal
- Looking for the USA, USSSA, or BBCOR stamps
- Ensure all baseballs are up to standards
- Check that the field of play is up to standards
- Make sure the lines are chalked and the holes are fixed
- If lights are needed, make sure they are on
- Ensure that players, coaches, and spectators are enjoying the game in a safe manner
Rules will change with the level that you are umpiring at. Oftentimes, upper-level umpires have fewer daily duties but have more rules to focus on. At the higher levels, it is also important to know every rule to ensure you are calling a fair game.
What Equipment is Needed to Become an Umpire?
Having the correct umpire equipment is important for your safety and success in the game. Below is a list of basic umpire equipment:
- A mask with a throat protector
- Umpire hat
- Umpire shirt (Some organizations include this)
- Gray slacks
- Inside chest protector
- Protective cup (for men)
- Shin guards
- Plate brush
- Protective plate shoes
While it can vary, the ballpark cost for acquiring all the necessary equipment is roughly $350. This will vary depending on the equipment and uniform requirements of your league. Finding hand-me-down or gently used gear can help cut down the cost.
How Much Do Umpires Make?
The pay of umpires often varies on experience and the level you are currently working at. As you work your way up the ranks, you will begin to see a pay increase.
- Youth leagues:$10-$50 a game
- High school: $50-$100 a game
- College: $100-$400 a game
- MiLB: $2,800-$4,500 a month
- MLB: $150,000-$450,000 a year (median income as of 2023 was $235,000)
When can an Umpire Eject a Player?
There are many different reasons and times that an umpire can eject a player. Each umpire will have the discretion to disqualify a player, coach, manager, or spectator. It is important to be able to understand each individual situation and approach it with a level head.
Some of those reasons could include:
- Foul language
- Endangering other players, coaches, or officials
- Arguing calls excessively
- Unsportsmanlike conduct
Why are they Called Umpires?
Across sports, we see those in charge of enforcing the rules called many names. From official to ref to judge to umpire, they all sport different titles. But have you ever wondered why we call baseball and softball rule enforcers umpires?
The word umpire derives from the Old French nonper or “odd number,” which refers to the third person who helps settle a dispute between two others. It’s easy to think back to the origin of baseball (in the 1800s) and imagine how quickly players realized they needed a “third party” to mediate things such as out vs. safe and ball vs. strike.
Fast forward to the present day and we see that an umpire is one of the most important positions in all of sports. Without them, we would not be able to enjoy the game of baseball or softball as we know it. So if you have any interest in taking on the challenge, we encourage you to become an umpire and better the game we all love.
The next time you’re behind home plate and see a player in need of a new baseball bat or softball bat, don’t forget about the team at JustBats. Our Bat Experts are always happy to help with anything you may need. You can contact them by text/phone at 866-321-2287, email at email@example.com, or you can click here to live chat.