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"COACH, YOU ARE EJECTED!"
JULY 18, 2017 - ADVENTURES IN UMPIRING - In the past few years I have worked hard to improve my sports officiating skills. This brings with it lots of adventures, the latest of which took place here in Orem at the PONY Baseball State Championship Tournament. I was fortunate to be assigned to work games with my son Adam... Enjoy the read!
"Your partner has blown four calls" the assistant coach stated directly.
With a 2 second pause I looked him in the eye and said calmly, "Coach, you are ejected."
He looked at me stunned. My partner, Adam, looked onward in total awe and almost disbelief as he had never seen me throw anybody out of a game before. Anybody who knows me very well knows that I go out of my way to avoid sending anybody out of the game. So why was this situation so different?
In this case, the assistant coach was directly questioning the competency and "judgment" of my partner. Not only was he arguing for one play call, he was keeping a running tally of plays he felt were called wrong. Had he approached me about my calls, then I would probably have talked rationally, but he approached me to complain about my partner's abilities... Right in front of my partner. That totally crossed the line and there was no other course of action left available.
After my telling the assistant coach abruptly that he was ejected, I followed with, "You are not even the head coach. You are an assistant coach and not to be heard complaining from during our games. Your team needed you, yet you chose to be removed from the game. I just don't understand your decision."
And with that I turned away and started to talk with Adam. The coach also turned away and as he walked towards his third base dugout he stated, "That's okay, I wanted to be at the other field anyway." He entered his dugout, collected his stuff, and left the confines of the field. His team went on to lose the game and end their run at the PONY Baseball Mustang State Championship.
This ejection was interesting because nobody knew that it had even taken place. There was no fanfare. There was no raising of voices. There was no heated interaction. Instead, it was calm, direct, and decisive. The assistant coach chose to behave badly by crossing the line of counting supposed botched play calls and then complaining to another official about a partners call.
It was fun debriefing with Adam about what happened. We discussed ways that we might have diffused the situation earlier in the game. There were some clear steps that could have been taken on our part, yet the coach chose to act the way he did. Here are some observations....
1) THE PLAYS IN QUESTION - There were 6 plays in the game involving runners sliding into the base, four of which were called out. Each were plays of beauty. The throws were on line, the runners slid into their bags, tags were applied. The plays were close, bangers, and a couple looked like 50/50's depending on your angle. In every case Adam was in the right position to make the call. He hustled to the spot, watched the plays, and then made the calls. On none of them was he blocked out, moving, or guessing as to what happened. He was spot on and did everything right. The calls were not rushed and they were sold appropriately. There was nobody in sight of the action that could have thought that Adam had any doubts about his calls. They may not have liked the outcomes, but with no vested interest in either team, the calls were made based upon the merits of the play.
2) PRIOR COMPLAINT - It was obvious that the team in the third base dugout were getting frustrated because they kept sending players and getting called out at second and third. They had good angles and a total bias for what they wanted the outcome of the calls to be. On each play going against them, the coaching staff was rather vocal about their dissent. As the third out was called at third base in the second inning, Adam cleaned third and was walking towards me at home, the assistant coach approached Adam along the baseline midway to home. I saw words being spoken and then a short response by Adam who then commenced walking towards me near home. I asked him what was said. He stated that the coach was complaining about his calls and Adam listened for a moment and then cut him off by saying, "You are an assistant coach and not to be heard from. If you want to have your head coach come and talk to me, then that would be fine." Adam then walked away from the assistant coach. This interaction was abruptly stopped by Adam's clear statement.
In hindsight, Adam felt that he was completely justified, by book, in how he handled the third baseline complaint, but he learned firsthand that this wasn't the way he would like to handle it in the future. Another layer of listening might have brought about better results... Or maybe not.
3) CROSSING THE LINE - Adam watched my ejection and thought that the assistant coach felt he was going to make his statement and then get a warning. It is true that we often let a coach vent and then give a warning, doing our best to keep them in the game. But there are some lines, that once crossed, the coach or player cannot just receive a warning. Adam went on to share, "The ejection was textbook. In fact, we had this very same play at our umpire clinic this year. When a coach comes to you with a count of your errors, they are ejected.... Period!"
Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah