Area clinic designed to help umpires

Woodstock/Edinburg Little League president Bill Rice talks during an umpire clinic at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock on Sunday. Tommy Keeler Jr./Daily

WOODSTOCK — Being a baseball umpire can be a very difficult and thankless job.

Woodstock/Edinburg Little League president Bill Rice is doing what he can to help make that job a little easier for all umpires in the area. On Sunday, Rice instructed an umpire clinic for all Little League umpires in District 3.

“we try to take advantage of the offseason time to make ourselves better,” Rice said before the clinic, which was held at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock. “I pretty much feel that it’s our duty to these kids to give them the best experience we could possibly give them, whether that be the best coach that we can find or the best umpire we can find. Anybody can put this uniform on. Anybody an stand behind a plate and say they’re an umpire, but it’s just like anything you do. If you don’t make yourself better and seek out the knowledge, you’re not going to become any better.”

District 3 is made up a portion of Augusta County, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, Warren, Frederick and Clarke counties.

Rice said they have a field mechanics clinic in the fall, where they actually go out onto the field and go over with the umpires where they need to stand during the game. The clinic on Sunday was to go over the rules, and rule books were handed out.

Rice put different scenarios up on a slide show, and talked about each scenario with the umpires. He said they started this type of clinic last year just within Shenandoah County to see if it worked.

“We had really good feedback from it,” Rice said. “So that’s why we decided to do it again this year and open it up district-wide.”

There were 17 umpires that showed up for the roughly two-hour clinic, and it was a positive experience.

“He’s talking about calls that happen a lot,” said Tommy Spiggle, who is with Woodstock/Edinburg Little League. “He’s not talking about the random things. He’s talking about calls you’re going to deal with all the time.

“It sharpens your skills. It refreshes your memory.”

Rice said they also have a scrimmage on opening day, which allows all the umpires to get some game experience before play actually counts.

“We’ve found out over the years since we’ve been doing that, it also relieves a lot of anxiety from new umpires,” Rice said of the scrimmage. “The last thing you want to be is behind that plate during a real game with parents hollering at you, kids being upset at you because you don’t know what you’re doing or because you’re nervous. So we try to take a lot of that away, and hopefully the umpires will become more relaxed and do a better job for the kids.”

There were several youth umpires that were in attendance at the clinic. Rice said they have a junior program, which allows youngsters to umpire as well. They are only allowed to umpire age groups below the one they are in.

Miles Gayles, 13, is an umpire in the Frederick County Little League, and also plays. He will be entering his second year of umpiring, and he said it was a lot of fun last year.

He said he thinks playing the game helps him when he umpires.

“It’s easier to know the calls, because you hear about it when you’re playing,” Gayles said “Then when you see it while you’re umpiring, you know what the right call is.”

Rice said it’s important to keep youngsters involved in the game.

“We try to get the younger youth involved, because these guys are our future of this league and every league around,” Rice said.

Of course, helping with Little League in any way is always voluntary. Rice said anyone that wants to umpire or help with Little League can get involved at any time.

He said what’s important is trying to help the kids.

“Our vision here at Woodstck/Edinburg is that every child is given the opportunity to develop memories that will last a lifetime,” Rice said. “It’s all about the kids. It ain’t about me, it ain’t about the parents, it’s about the kids. And to give them the best opportunity that we can, so that they can make those memories. That’s what it’s all about.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com