11/11/06 7:45 PM ET
MLB wraps up first week of umpire camp
Inaugural event draws great reviews from students, instructors
By Richie Brand / Special to MLB.com
Along with the usual morning classroom sessions in nearby Long Beach, the 33 students participating in the first of two week-long camps also continued their on-field work here with training sessions, as well as live-game competition at MLB's Urban Youth Academy.
On-field instruction focused on many aspects of umpiring that people may not normally consider, such as angles, pivoting, stretching and body positioning.
The strike zone was also a major focal point of the day, and campers even took a shot at calling balls and strikes in afternoon games played by members of the Urban Youth Academy, as well as players from area schools.
Current MLB umpires instructing at the camp were watching their every move, even grading and evaluating the students' performances for review after the games.
Saturday's activities wrapped up an intense week-long program to offer professional instruction both inside a classroom and on the diamond. The sessions were all-encompassing, to the extent of providing campers with guest speakers on topics like finance and nutrition.
Students like Joseph Swanson, a high school umpire who traveled here from Olympia, Wash., says the week was a success.
"Everything from the guest speakers in the classrooms to the actual work on the field has been great," Swanson said. "To be a part of the first-ever camp of this kind has been really special, and it will only get better in the future."
This week's umpire camp was indeed the first of its kind. According to Chris Jones, an MLB umpire supervisor, this marked the first time that professionals consisting of MLB umpires, Minor League baseball umpires, MLB umpire supervisors and members of the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation have come together to hold such a comprehensive camp.
One of those umpires, 10-year MLB veteran Kerwin Danley, is a Los Angeles native, and thinks the students have progressed well over the week-long sessions.
"At first I didn't know what to expect, but they have really soaked up all that we are teaching them," Danley said. "This is a great camp, and as the years go on, eventually, I think we'll find some Major League umpires from this camp."
In conjunction with the final day of the first week's umpire camp, MLB also invited 60 local area umpires from the California Baseball Umpires Association (CBUA) to attend a free one-day clinic at the Urban Youth Academy. The group of mostly high school baseball umpires jumped at the chance to participate and receive instruction, said CBUA scheduling coordinator Al Walters.
"My guys are ecstatic about working with Major League umpires," Walters said. "The knowledge they pass on is mind-boggling. We're taking notes left and right on all the info we get ... since this is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Fifteen current MLB umpires were on hand to give instruction to the CBUA umpires, and they went through drills ranging from positioning your body behind the catcher to "selling" an out or safe call to the runner.
The CBUA will also have eight of its umpires participating in the second MLB week-long umpire camp, which begins Sunday and runs through Nov. 19. Another free one-day clinic for 60 local umpires will be held Nov. 18 in conjunction with the second week-long camp.
Urban Youth Academy Director Darrell Miller says the first week was a rousing success, which is why next year's camp has already been scheduled for Nov. 4-11 at the same location.
"Getting guys to the big leagues isn't just about players. ... There is also a vocational aspect to this, and teachings like these umpire camps here at the academy make the difference," Miller said.
Richie Brand is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.