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There is nothing quite like a practice game for an umpire. The only pressure you have is the effort you want to exert on yourself. Paris invited Cergy to Pershing stadium at the beginning of September for a practice game before the playoffs and I was invited to help out, alone and for no pay. I readily accepted.
It was a fast and hotly contested game. There were no arguments about anything. I was all by myself behind home plate. Hits to the infield require running like a madman for the pitcher's mound to make calls at first and second. I lost about three pounds but I kept my head in the game.
I applied some rules of home plate umpiring that Gilbert had spelled out to me in theory: Don't move on a pitch. Go into your stance behind the catcher. Get ready. Breath. Stay in position. Watch the ball go into the catcher's glove. When the catcher throws back to the pitcher, come out of your stance. Make the call and signal the call.
I applied these precepts with fanaticism. My plate calls improved dramatically. Nobody came out to congratulate me later. Nobody even noticed. But nobody noticed anything to criticize. I was invisible during the whole game. This was good umpiring. Nobody saw me.
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