Play ball! MLB to host 6 umpire clinics in '15

Day-long events open to all ages, all skill levels of profession

Play ball! MLB to host 6 umpire clinics in '15

Now's your chance to pull on the mask and call the strikes.

Major League Baseball will host the first of six umpire clinics on Sunday at the College of Southern Nevada, and the event is open to anybody who'd like to learn about the craft. Several umpires with dozens of years of big league service will be on hand to personally teach the tricks of the trade.

The clinic will be open to potential umpires of all ages and skill levels, but applicants under 18 will need a parent's signature to sign up. Rich Rieker, the director of MLB's umpire development program, said Thursday that he's thrilled to see the new faces involved in the umpiring profession.

"Our program worked last year," he said. "We found 19 qualified candidates from our various camps, and we're prospecting and looking for potential umpires as well as instructing umpires at all levels. It's the right thing to do, and we're trying to provide opportunities for those who can't afford to be seen."

This year, MLB will be at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., on May 17, and it will host a clinic at Marlins Park in Miami on June 27. St. Louis will host an umpire clinic at Busch Stadium on July 25, and the Urban Youth Academy in Cincinnati will stage a clinic in August. The final clinic of the season will take place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Nov. 14, and Rieker hopes to see hundreds of applicants along the way.

2015 MLB umpire clinics
Date Place
April 26 Las Vegas, College of Southern Nevada (Henderson, Nev.)
May 17 Chicago, North Central College (Naperville, Ill.)
June 27 Miami, Marlins Park
July 25 St. Louis, Busch Stadium
Aug. 15 Cincinnati, Reds' MLB Urban Youth Academy
Nov. 14 Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium

"Word's getting out. Last year, we had a gentleman from Iowa come to our Atlanta camp. We had a kid that came from Oakland with his brother to the Atlanta camp, because they wanted to see the A's play the Braves," said Rieker. "We're getting candidates that just want to learn from former Major League umpires, and we get men and women that just want to be better at umpiring in Little League or high school or college. And we get some candidates that want to take a shot at a pro scholarship."

Ed Rapuano, a former big league umpire who now works as an umpire supervisor for MLB, said it's a lot of fun to get back on the field and work with umpires from scratch. Rapuano said he feels like a steward of his profession, and he also said he's proud to be helping to mold future umpires.

"I love the profession, and unfortunately I was forced off the field by one too many injuries," he said. "But I still have a lot to offer, and when you see these kids get out there, some of them have aspirations to work in pro ball. I didn't invent this profession, but I'm proud to pass down information that was passed down to me."

The umpiring clinic can last for four to six hours, and the veteran umpires have decades worth of wisdom to impart to their various charges. Of course, they can only get so far in one day. A participant perhaps shouldn't expect to learn what it's like to work an All-Star Game, but they can certainly hope for an elementary grasp of the profession.

"The easy part is you're teaching them basic signals, basic mechanics," said Rapuano. "We're teaching them tricks that have been there for 100-something years. The men and women that come to our clinics come from different levels and they ask questions about their work. A lot of them may be older and don't have aspirations of working professionally, but they want to better themselves as amateur umpires."

At each of the six camps, the veteran umpires are keeping their eyes open and taking notes on potential umpiring prospects. Some of them will be invited for a minicamp later in the year, and if they're successful there, they may even win a scholarship to a professional umpiring school.

Nine applicants won that scholarship last year, and Rieker said many of them are working in the Minor Leagues this year. But even if you don't have that ambition, said Rieker, you're more than welcome at any of the six clinics.

"It's fun to get out there with these students and to train them and to have a good day," said Rieker. "It really depends on who shows up as far as how many are qualified at any given camp. But it's tough to have a camp today and not find someone deserving of a scholarship."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.