Campers learning umpiring lessons

Campers learning umpiring lessons

Compton, Calif. -- The 33 campers participating in Major League Baseball's first West Coast Umpire Camps are soaking in all the tips and advice they can as they spend time learning from Major League umpires during the week-long camp.

Fifteen Major League umpires and six Minor League umpires are working with the campers as instructors at MLB's Urban Youth Academy complex in field drills each day. A classroom session is held each morning at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, Calif., where participants learn about the rules of the game and how to interpret them for various plays.

The instructors also conduct question-and-answer sessions and show video from Major League games to give examples of plays the umpires might encounter. Then, in the afternoon, everyone heads out to the Academy, where the instructors demonstrate the plays discussed in the morning and help the campers learn how to call the shots in each situation.

They participate in simulated plays on the field and take turns in the batting cages, where they can practice calling pitches behind the plate with a pitching machine. The instructors offer advice as the campers go through each play and as they call pitches, and they evaluate their performance to help improve their umpiring skills.

The campers also are umpiring several games throughout the week, in which baseball players from local colleges -- including Compton Community College, where the Academy is located -- and the Academy's high school-age teams are participating.

The new umpires rotate in each inning throughout the game, giving each a chance to experience game situations. Following their inning, the instructors talk with the campers about their performance in the game and answer questions about situations they experienced.

The campers also have the opportunity to attend fitness sessions with MLB's director of umpire medical services Mark Letendre. He teaches the campers various stretches they can use to warm up for games or, in this case, their daily field drills. He also offers tips on how to stay healthy and avoid injury while working a game.

Allan Reyes, 24, from Masaya, Nicaragua, is a camper this week. He currently works for the professional winter league in Nicaragua.

"Where I come from, we don't have enough resources to get better as an umpire," Reyes said through a translator. "I'm looking forward to improving my career while I'm taking this course. I have the dream to become a professional umpire here in the United States."

Reyes is appreciative of the opportunity to take part in the umpire camp.

"First of all, [being at the camp] is a dream come true," he said. "Second, I believe that I've already improved and I can be a better umpire right now."

Reyes said he was impressed with the Academy's fields and the overall complex.

"The facilities are great," Reyes said. "We don't have facilities like this back in Nicaragua -- it's awesome."

Fred Ealey, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles who was a third baseman and catcher at Texas Southern University, said it has been fun learning the game from another perspective at the umpire camp.

"This is the first time out here for me. I'm getting to see what [umpiring is] about. I'm definitely learning a lot," Ealey said. "If it wasn't [in Los Angeles], I wouldn't have come. I work as well, so I wouldn't have been able to get that time off."

Ealey said he's enjoyed learning more about the rules of the game and how to interpret situations on the field.

"It's very informative. Going in knowing nothing, of course you're going to learn a lot," he said. "I've definitely been able to absorb everything they've been telling me. It's been an enjoyable experience."

Ealey works as a recreation coordinator in Los Angeles' recreation and parks department, and he said he looks forward to sharing what he's learned at the camp. He also umpires in the department's youth baseball league.

"I'll be able to take this back and teach some of the other umpires that we have and some of the younger kids," Ealey said.

Nick Phipps, 23, from Pasco, Wash., said he would like to become a professional umpire someday.

"I umpire back home. I'm the current umpire chief of the Pasco Little League, and I do high school and middle school," Phipps said. "But I like to work at the younger levels with the kids, because that's where I believe it all starts."

Phipps said he has learned a lot working with the big-league umpires at the camp.

"The camp is pretty good; they've got good instructors," Phipps said. "They take time out of their personal life to come here and help us. I think that's really nice that they do that. It's kind of cool just to talk to them."

Phipps has taken the opportunity to ask the umpires questions often in class and on the field to learn as much as he can. He plans to continue working toward a career as an umpire and said the camp was a great experience.

"Hopefully maybe one day I'll make it to either the Minor Leagues or Majors," he said.

The Major League umps serving as instructors in the camp include: Ted Barrett, Gary Cederstrom, Derryl Cousins, Kerwin Danley, Paul Emmel, Brian Gorman, Jerry Layne, Alfonso Marquez, Randy Marsh, Bill Miller, Paul Nauert, Jeff Nelson, Tim Timmons, Tim Tschida and Larry Young. The Minor League umpires include: Cory Blaser, Takeshi Hirabayashi, Roberto Medina, Alex Ortiz, Alan Porter and John Tumpane.

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