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A Bad Day
Two weekends later I was back in Limeil-Brévannes with Xavier, my first teacher of umpire mechanics, for a double header between Savigny-sur-Orge, northern leaders, and Rouen, 4th place team in the northern division. Xavier had taught me the fundamentals of umpiring three years ago, when I was an aspiring parent. He was the best-trained umpire in France (again half my age). Here we were back together again in Division 1 baseball.
Savigny got off to an early lead with a run in the first. I was behind the plate. Rouen evened the score in the second. In the bottom of the fourth Savigny loaded the bases with no outs but was unable to score. Rouen marked three runs in the top of the next inning. I called one of their runners out at home plate, but changed the call when it was obvious the catcher had dropped the ball. I made the call too quickly. To remain consistent you must be calm.
Four to two in favor of Rouen the game continued into the ninth. I called inside strikes and low strikes that surprised the batters. On a play at first, Xavier called the runner out, the first baseman dropped the ball and the coach roared onto the field. I huddled on the sidelines with Xavier ask if he wanted to reverse the call. He told me there was no way he would reverse the call, the first baseman had control before losing the ball.
Rouen went on to win the first game six to four (two runs each in the ninth), and we went on to game two with Xavier behind the plate.
Xavier coached me on my stance between games. If I stood wider or deeper I would be more stable. It was obvious I was lining up too far away from the catcher and the plate. I was also not lining up in the same spot consistently. My low balls were probably too low. Outside, inside and high I was inconsistent. It was no accident one of the players let drop a remark I couldn't miss: "If he has to be so bad, why can't he be consistently bad?"
Savigny came back with a vengeance in the first inning with six runs. Xavier corrected my positioning on the bases. With no runners the base umpire stays behind first base near the grass. With a man on first, the ump moves in between first and second on the infield grass and covers pick-offs on first and plays on second. In almost any other situation, the base umpire lines up between second and third base under European conventions, even with two out. You must run farther to cover plays at first, but you are better positioned to see steals and scoring situations.
On a play at third I called the runner safe, but Xavier reversed my decision on the overslide. Again I was too fast on the call.
Rouen tried to come back in the seventh with two runs, but Savigny countered with a run in the bottom of the inning. In the eighth their first batter hit a home run. The game was over in the ninth, 9-2 for Savigny.
Savigny would be leaving tomorrow for Moscow for the European "C" Championships. This tournament is organized for teams that finished in third place last year.
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