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Playing the umps on the field

The 2006 Thomson High School baseball season under new coach Terry Holder got off to an unusual start last week. On Wednesday, Aquinas beat the Bulldogs 15-12 in 10 innings and on Friday the Bulldogs downed Jefferson County 19-4 in a mercy rule shortened three-inning game. The bottom line is the Bulldogs played only 13 innings in two scheduled games. Even with the three extra innings in the opener the team still didn't get in the expected 14 innings of play.

Wednesday's season opener was not highlighted by the play of the two teams but was totally sidetracked by the ineptitude of the home plate umpire. A good sized crowd from both sides gathered at the Thomson High field in anticipation of the lid-lifter for both schools. When the game started it didn't take long for fans of both teams, coaches and players to become unglued.

The young lady calling the balls and strikes embarked on a bad day, and night. The game was headed toward four-hour marathon status as the lady in blue exhibited her misjudgment of the strike zone. Sitting directly behind home plate, I counted at least 50 pitches that crossed into the left-handed batter's box that she called strikes on right-handed hitters. After a couple of innings of the fans giving her pure heck, I finally observed that she aligned a full foot behind the catcher. I submit she was making her mind up as the pitch was about halfway to the plate. The catchers had to be blocking her view. She was equally bad for both teams, so at least I can say she was consistently rotten.

It didn't take the fans long to figure out they could yell a little and talk this lady into making calls after the fact. Several calls such as catcher's interference and hit batsmen occurred that she never noticed; until the crowd not so politely pointed it out to her. Only then would she step out from behind the plate and, in the voice of a chipmunk, call something. She had absolutely no awareness of what was happening in front of her and no control of the game.

Wednesday's game was a sad commentary on the state of officiating/umpiring in our area. I felt sorry for the young men playing on both teams. They were all obviously keyed up for the opener and at the same time nervous. I should have even felt sorry for the umpiress or "Miss Blue" as one fan called her, but she asked for the job, I guess. She, and not the players, was the center of attention and that's what made it really bad. It was a discouraging scene to say the least.

The Bulldog hitters didn't get much of a chance to improve on Friday in Jefferson County. The Warrior pitchers were not just wild; they were as wild as the proverbial buck. The team appeared more relaxed than in the Aquinas game, as evidenced by their sharp base running and fielding. As for hitting, I couldn't say because they never got much to swing at. At least the umpire was calling it right.

At the end of the third inning and the Bulldogs holding a 15-run lead, only Coach Holder seemed to know the mercy rule. He had to politely ask the umpires if the game was over, and after a lengthy conference, the "men" in blue decided that it was. It took just over two hours to play these three innings, and I'm sure Coach Holder didn't want his team on the field for another four-hour game against an opponent. Little could be gained from that.

My observation of this Thomson High team is they have some pretty good baseball skills, but may lack a little confidence. As the season progresses, they will learn to support one another through the tough spots, and Coach Holder and his staff won't have to remind them of every little detail. Coach Holder has exhibited great patience with this team, and I won't be surprised to see a more finished looking product by the end of March than I saw last week.

The next four games are at home; March 14 vs. Harlem, March 17 vs. Butler, March 18 vs. Burke County, and March 21 vs. Glascock. Saturday, March 18 is Diamond Day and the team and boosters will be selling BBQ chicken plates for $6.

Mmmm...barbecue and baseball.

Web posted on Thursday, March 9, 2006

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