Those who have dreams of becoming a Major League umpire, or those who just want to refine their skills behind the plate, will have a chance to do either at the third annual MLB Umpire Camp.
The camp begins Saturday with a free clinic, and the regular camp will be held from Nov. 10-14.The Los Angeles-area camp -- which is held at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., with the classroom work being taught at the Holiday Inn Long Beach -- will be run by several former MLB umpires as well as supervisors from the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp.
Among the former MLB umpires who will help those of any skill level are Bruce Froemming, Larry Young, Steve Rippley and Rich Rieker, with MLB Medical Services director Mark Letendre lending a hand as well. Participants will learn the basics of umpiring and get to experience just about every facet of the job, including the chance to call a real game. "They get two hours of class time before they start the field work," said Rieker, who is MLB's umpire supervisor and the camp's coordinator. "They learn fieldwork, health, nutrition, safety and they get ball-and-strike work in the batting cage." The umpires then are versed in the two-man system of umpiring, instead of the four-man system seen in the Majors. This is because the Minor Leagues use just two umpires, as do most amateur leagues. "We do it because some umpires could make a career in the Minor Leagues or take what they learn to their local leagues," Rieker said. The camp has seen many of its participants reach the Minor League level, with 16 umpires from the past two camps now working in the Minors and many others working in other professional associations. The camp also awards eight scholarships for other academies, such as Jim Evans' Academy of Professional Umpiring and the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. This year's camp is also special because it will feature 10 international umpires who will be working the World Baseball Classic next spring. The camp will give those international umpires the chance to get familiar with the four-man system of umpiring in the Major Leagues. "The umpires need to learn the four-man system because umpires are coming from outside of the United States," Rieker said. "We'll have two U.S. Major League umpires and two foreign umpires, so they have to be able to cooperate with the four-man system." The international umpires will get a chance to learn from former MLB umpires who have plenty of experience in the four-man system. But even those who have no previous umpiring experience will learn from the former umpires this week. "They do it because of the love of the game," Rieker said. "It's really a one-stop shop this week."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.