Batters as Artists

I'm trying to figure out if there's something changing in baseball, or if it's just coincidence. In the last 12 months, I've seen six batters (four college-age, two HS-age) draw lines after a called strike in games where I've been involved (including one in the first inning of a DH yesterday.) Prior to that, there was one. Thinking about this clip and some online discussions about it in which a significant number of comments reflected an ignorance of this being an automatic ejection, I'm wondering if a lot of cultural knowledge is being lost when it comes to how players understand what they can and can't do when it comes to disagreement.

I started umpiring in 1995 as a kid working LL games. Thankfully, the internet was taking off and I had the ability to network with umpires of all levels around the country. That's how I became aware of how the profession was changing as a result of the culture of baseball changing. At that time, there were things like the f***-you call in lieu of ejection on players arguing balls or strikes, the confrontational aspect of gamesmanship, less institutional instruction and more word-of-mouth networking and inculcation, and the like. I, for one, am much more comfortable with the profession as it is today, with formal education, evaluation, and synergy among all participants. Parts of it are annoying (every coach requesting that we get help on any call they don't like, which would have been unheard of 20 years ago,) but it's part and parcel of evolution.

However, with this new culture, it has been my experience that players have moved from verbally confronting umpires (in which many cases I have some tools to work with, assuming they don't cross a line too quickly) to physically demonstrating displeasure (in which my options are far more limited because everyone can see it.) My player ejections regarding calls (which are far fewer than HC/AC ejections, as it should be) have moved from them telling me that I suck (paraphrased) to almost entirely physical demonstrations.

Does my experience reflect what others are seeing? Am I getting old? Do they need to get off my lawn?

Original Post

What you need to do is limit your umpiring to all turf fields.  Lakepoint comes to mind.  Near impossible to draw a line in the turf.

But seriously, not sure what an umpire is to do.  As for the instance in the clip, that pitch looked really far outside, so I can't blame the kid completely (although I would blame my kid if he did that on a bad call).  Six instances in the last 12 months does not seem like a huge amount given what I assume is your workload, so it doesn't sound like it is trending and would need to be pro-actively addressed during each game.  I also wonder how grandiose each instance was.  The clip was pretty bad and I (a non-umpire) could see myself ejecting the kid the moment he looked back at me - let him draw a line and walk away, but the condescending look probably gets him tossed.

Those are just my early morning thoughts.  What I really wanted to do was wish you the best of luck in dealing with these types of issues.  Hopefully some others will actually provide some true insight, but please let this serve as my appreciation for umpires and what is oftentimes a truly thankless job.

I saw an umpire friend of mine stop the game and turn around and use his brush to remove the line the kid drew just like he would clean the plate.  Then he drew a line in the dirt that went just across the corner of the plate.  I thought it was funny and the stands erupted in laughter except for the kids dad. 

So Matt, I pretty much agree with you and definitely feel the "get off my lawn" days coming up on me.  But I got to thinking about the clip example...  I know you do mostly college and some HS so my comment doesn't necessarily hit directly home but you posted the clip so...  

The kid is what, 12 y.o.?  He is told never to argue with or talk back to an umpire.  AB's are few and precious in a ballgame.  Unfortunately, in this instance, his "artwork" is very accurate.  The ball was well into the RH hitters box exactly as he drew his line.  He just got one of his precious AB's taken away.  Assuming he is the typical competitive kid, what is his progression of emotions/actions likely to be?  I don't know the background of the particular circumstance of the game (blowout, announced stretched zone, etc. ).  But I can see where that would be a very hard call to take with zero reaction.  I know what we preach to young kids in that situation but what do we really expect and how realistic when the call is this blatant?

If a HS or college kid is that demonstrative with his artistic brush strokes, then yes, of course he needs to get the immediate boot from the classroom.  But, I would hope that a college or HS umpire wouldn't be so abstract in his interpretation of the strike zone.  

MidAtlanticDad posted:

Matt, cultural norms change over time. I'm probably 20 years older than you, and I was startled just a little by your casual use of a spelled out expletive. I guess baseball is similar.

Whoops. I was typing stream-of-consciousness and usually the site filter takes care of that.

cabbagedad posted:

So Matt, I pretty much agree with you and definitely feel the "get off my lawn" days coming up on me.  But I got to thinking about the clip example...  I know you do mostly college and some HS so my comment doesn't necessarily hit directly home but you posted the clip so...  

The kid is what, 12 y.o.?  He is told never to argue with or talk back to an umpire.  AB's are few and precious in a ballgame.  Unfortunately, in this instance, his "artwork" is very accurate.  The ball was well into the RH hitters box exactly as he drew his line.  He just got one of his precious AB's taken away.  Assuming he is the typical competitive kid, what is his progression of emotions/actions likely to be?  I don't know the background of the particular circumstance of the game (blowout, announced stretched zone, etc. ).  But I can see where that would be a very hard call to take with zero reaction.  I know what we preach to young kids in that situation but what do we really expect and how realistic when the call is this blatant?

If a HS or college kid is that demonstrative with his artistic brush strokes, then yes, of course he needs to get the immediate boot from the classroom.  But, I would hope that a college or HS umpire wouldn't be so abstract in his interpretation of the strike zone.  

I agree with you. I would have no idea how I would handle this at the kiddie-ball level, and any time someone who works that asks me advice on game management, I tell them as such. I'll give them some tools to consider, but I really would be at a loss for how to conduct a game like that. I accidentally ended up on a 13-year-old fall game last year, but there weren't any attitudes and the home HC's two older kids both play (one C) at the nearest D1 I work. He was somewhat surprised (as I was) to see me there.


I don't have any insight but I do have an observation and an anecdote.

The observation is that, as Mark Twain said,  "There is no such thing as a new idea," so anytime a kid does anything stupid, chances are 100% that he picked it up somewhere, these days usually from social media or YouTube.  Social media and the internet may have quickened the pace by which dumb (and smart)  ideas permeate the culture, but there have always been dumb ideas.

The anecdote is that I've seen what you describe happen exactly once, in a 13U travel ball game 6 years ago. A huge man-child on really good team we were playing did that and was promptly ejected.  Somebody recently posted the video you linked to on Facebook, and I mentioned this to a guy I was coaching with back then, and he said, oh yeah, that won us the game. That kid was a beast.  

Funny thing is the kid went on to become a great player on arguably the best HS program in NorCal. My son happened to play with him during a showcase event, and while he looked like pro wrestler,  he turned out to be the sweetest kid you could ever hope to meet. He's now a freshman playing D1 baseball.   So the good news is that these kids misbehaving on your field may yet turn out ok.

hsbaseball101 posted:

How as the pitcher doing?  If the kid was walking almost every batter he faced and that's actually one of the semi-hittable pitches he threw, I have seen umpires expand the zone in order to get the game moving along.  

That's the funny thing. This was the third batter of the game. Unless...are you referring to the clip?

It's not just you Matt.  Saw it in a JV game, with a twist.  Batter was out on a called third strike, he looked at the ump but walked back to the dugout without doing anything.  The NEXT batter up came over and drew a line where he thought the ball had been, gave a look to the ump, and started his at bat. Kid hit a double, but still, it was his "protest".

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