Social-distancing for local umpires in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic will require a removal of the home-plate umpire from behind the catcher, according to Bob Craig, the president of the Kino Umpires Association.
If the Pima County administration and Pima County Health Department allow the Kino Baseball League to conduct its summer-league operations starting in late June at the Kino Sports Complex, umpires will call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound in addition to wearing masks and using gloves and disinfectant, Craig said.
“The umpires in our organization will take the recommendations from the county and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) on how to handle (the safety precautions), but we’ve changed some things that we’re going to do,” Craig said. “Balls and strikes and everything are going to be called from behind the pitcher so we can have enough distance between everybody at least for the summer.
“Everybody seems to understand why, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Umpires will have the perspective television viewers have of the pitch going into the catcher’s mitt. Craig mentioned that is not a better view to call balls and strikes.
“I think it’s the right move to be safe but calling balls and strikes will be much harder because you don’t have as good of a perspective,” Craig said. “You have the perspective that the pitcher has, and you’ve seen it, a lot of times you call balls and the pitcher thinks it’s a strike. I’m sure from his angle, that’s what it looks like.
“So that’s where it’s going to change. The batter’s gotta swing the bat and off we go. It will be consistent for everybody though.”
The umpires utilized by the Kino Baseball League are affiliated with the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The summer league, organized by Bill Leith and Bill Fronzaglio, will include high school junior varsity and varsity teams and college teams as part of the Sun Belt College League.
If social-distancing policies are extended to the KBL’s fall league and the high school season next spring, Craig envisions a pitcher’s mound-umpire rather than a home-plate umpire until it’s safe enough to be close to the catcher and batter.
“Provided nothing really changes going forward, I think behind the pitcher is definitely going to happen through the summer,” Craig said. “They’re going to have to evaluate what’s going on. I mean, is the COVID-19 virus under control? Can we start going back? Are we going to have to stay this way for a while?
“The difference between our level and the pro level is the pro level is a business. If you watch the Korean baseball, they’ve got the umpires with the masks and the gloves and they’re in the normal positions and all that, but again, everybody is adults all around. We’re not around adults. We’re around from college age kids down to 13- or 14-year-olds with JV. So it’s a little different. It’s not adults we’re playing with, it’s kids so we’ve got to pay attention to what they’re doing.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.