© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


The Real Poop

"C'mon, blue! What are you, blind?!" shouts the coach from the dugout.

So that's how it's going to be, huh? Bring it on.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty, need me to bring you some coffee, or are you going to wake up?"

Please. He can do better than that. You have thick skin.

"Ump, you're missing a real great game!"

Okay, now you're starting to get distracted. Wait, was that a ball or a strike? Focus.

"Stevie Wonder could've seen that one!"

All right. Enough! You turn to the coach.

"You got a problem?" you say.

"Yeah, I got a problem!"

"Well, so do I! And it's you. Get off my field before I give you a real problem to think about"

Suddenly, you're up in each other's faces. You can feel the coach's spit landing on your face. You feel your face turning red from screaming. He thumps his chest. You shout. He stomps his feet. It's like the field has become a National Geographic wildlife episode.

He reaches out to push you.

"That's it! You’re out of here!"

"Oh, trust me, I'm gone! I am so, so gone!"

The coach storms off. You turn back to the terror-stricken players. Like they've never seen a fight before. This is tame. No missing teeth. Not a single broken bone. Heck, not even a single blow dealt.

"Well, then, get on with it. Play ball!"

Are you continually getting into shouting matches with other people? Hate it when other people break rules? Do you defend yourself at all costs? If so, give some thought to becoming an umpire.

In baseball, the umpire is the guy who "officiates" the game. When you think of baseball, you might first think of cotton candy, mystery-meat hot dogs, or your favorite baseball player. But what about the people who make all that possible? No, we don't mean that umpires are making cotton candy in their free time. But they do make baseball itself possible. Because baseball needs rules, and rules need total downers to enforce the rules. So sure, umpires aren't cool. No one brags to their friends about meeting an umpire. And they can sometimes be a real drag when they make a bad call. But on the whole, they're pretty darn important to the whole baseball thing.

And wouldn't you know, it takes a lot of talent, amazing luck, and grim determination—not to mention an enthusiasm for tucked-in, collared shirts—to hack it as an umpire. Very few people succeed. Every year, hundreds of people attend one of the two professional umpiring schools, but only top students in the class get the good job offers. By the way, "good" here means low-level, low-paying jobs in the minor leagues. This isn't The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, working your way through the minor leagues can take ten years, and once you do, there is often only one opening per year in the Major Leagues.

But let's just say you're one of the Chosen Few who make it to the majors. It's a pretty sweet deal, right? Watching baseball, calling the shots, rubbing elbows with legendary coaches and up-and-coming players on the team's charter jet. Wrong. The life of an umpire is a grueling one, featuring early mornings and late nights, musty hotel rooms, and lonely meals. Oh, and no charter jet for you. You'll be flying coach on a commercial airline.

Alright, alright, you're thinking. It's hard. But I love baseball, you say. You've memorized the 23 different ways a baseball player can get on base. You were still trading rapidly depreciating baseball cards even after all your friends had invested their stocks in Pokémon cards. You have a limited edition gold-plated cup signed by your favorite baseball player. That's good. Because to be an umpire, you have to really love baseball. Like really, really love it. The Major League season may be 162 games from April to September, but a typical umpire will also be expected to officiate during Spring Training and post-season, and sometimes All-Star games too. That's a lot of baseball.

But as an umpire, you're not just watching baseball. You're right in the thick of it, judging the location of small objects moving very, very fast relative to an invisible box called the "strike zone." This is to say, you need to be able to think on your feet. (Maybe now's the time to mention the fact that umpires spend a lot of their time standing.) There's a reason some former Marines and other military-inclined folks pursue a career in umpiring.

In addition to lightning fast reflexes, a good umpire needs a lot of common sense, confidence, and patience. You won't always be the most popular kid in town. We can tell you that with 110% certainty right now. In fact, umpires face almost constant scrutiny from sports commentators and fans. When you get home from the field late at night and turn to ESPN, guess what you might see? Yup, you. Getting picked apart like a slaughtered deer by bloodthirsty vultures. Instant replay or slow-motion cameras spare no mercy. Oh, and there's not much you can do about it. Umps don't often defend their decisions in the media, and they can't send hecklers and jeerers to the guillotine. Sorry, but no.

Umpires can, however, eject players and coaches from the game. Talk about the ultimate "time-out." In fact, what the umpire says, goes. If the ump says a player's out, there's not much he can do. He's out. The umpire has the power to directly impact the outcome of the game in a way that even a baseball player or coach can't. And of course, there's the fact that while umpires need to understand and appreciate the game, they don't have to be any good at actually hitting or catching the ball.

So, is umpiring right for you? If you're cool under pressure, have a sharp eye for detail, and love baseball, it might be worth looking into umpiring professionally. Trust us, if you're not right for the job, you'll learn that really, really quickly in umpire school. In which case, you can always apply your sharp eye and even temperament to other jobs. Sniper, anyone?