For 45 years, I’ve assigned officials from Little League to major college. In that time, I’ve developed pet peeves. I’m sharing them because I think that most assigners feel as I do and that these can hurt your career.
I recently asked a younger baseball umpire to switch with a crewmate with a health issue and take the plate. He grudgingly said, “OK,” but noted that he had already had one of the teams behind the plate three times this season. I thought fine — if you want to balk, I’ll ask someone else. I asked a veteran umpire with many years in pro ball and he said, “No problem.” Good answer.
When I started out, if my assigner said, “Jump,” I asked how high. I’m not saying you need to kiss an assigner’s rear, but if you’re going to accept an assignment, do it without letting them know what a great favor you’re doing them. If you’re new, this applies in spades; a reputation for being difficult acquired early in one’s career can have a long shelf life.
Repeated turn-backs are a big issue. Assigners know that last-minute stuff happens, but often? If you do this, know that assigners will at some point reduce their headaches by choosing a more reliable person to begin with. No one is so good that they’re irreplaceable.
Don’t let your sense of self-worth make you complain about the caliber of games you get. Others think they’re pretty good, too. Maybe your assigner doesn’t agree or thinks that for whatever reason someone else is better suited for that game.
Many factors enter into the assignment process. Have you had one team a lot of times? Has bad blood developed so that it may be healthier for everyone to keep you and a team apart for a while? Is the assigner getting orders from someone else? Does he or she want to mix newer and older officials? Is he or she spreading the wealth so that everyone gets some top-, mid-, and not-so-great assignments? Does he or she feel that the crew chemistry would be better going with someone else given the personality of whoever was already chosen? Etc.
Game-shopping is a flagrant offense. I’ve assigned for smaller college conferences and had officials who also worked in larger ones. If you get an assignment from me and then get a last-minute opportunity in a larger one (not a lateral move), I’ll gladly replace you if you’re honest about what happened. But when assigners find out that you lied and said you had a work issue, etc., so you could get out of a game and take someone else’s, you’ll pay later on.
Don’t trash-talk other umpires to me or try to kiss up to gain a better footing; you won’t. And take it to the bank that trashing an assigner behind their back will get back to them.
Now many assignments are done via the internet. Don’t wait until the last second to accept or, worse, not accept by the due date. Assigners get worked up about having to send out continual reminders about past-due acceptances, especially to the same people.
I know there are assigners who act like kings, protect a handful of their buddies, and treat everyone else like minions who must dance to their tune. I’ve dealt with a couple, and if you work for one, all I can tell you is to do what it takes to get along. Most assigners try to be fair; even so, we can’t help but be affected by stuff that officials do that causes us heartburn. The best thing is to cause as few problems as possible. Don’t pester us about upcoming games that you’d like to have, take what you get and keep quiet even if you don’t like it, turn games back only if something huge arises, be 100 percent honest with us; don’t back-stab or game-shop, and take care of business in a timely manner.
Jon Bible is a college football replay official and former college baseball umpire who worked six D-I College World Series.
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