Cancer at the plate, Miracles on deck, Testimony in the hole, ‘W’ is outcome!

By: Austin Alexander – September 21, 2015 For the second straight week, an evil disease called cancer has stricken a member of the DP team – this time it is with a heavy heart that that I report my wife Rita and I got the bad news last Tuesday following a series of doctor’s appointments and tests. Stage 3 breast cancer is the verdict and final preparations are being made to determine our course of action toward victory. In the past few days, the outpouring of support from friends and family has been so incredibly helpful. The countless number of calls, texts and emails from every level of the baseball world has been so humbling. We are being educated at warp speed on a topic we knew little about. People have come out of the woodwork to help steer us in the best directions to fight her dreadful illness. Even in the early stages of this long road, the word “fight” has been a term we had heard often but takes on a new meaning when you are the one squarely in the battle. I have already seen amazing strength from the numbing moment when we found out our fate, then an immediate switching of gears to what I call ‘solution mode.’ Perhaps one portion of this experience that concerned us the most was telling our 9 and 5 year old boys in a way they could understand. But that anxiety quickly moved to a moment we will never forget as both of them took the news like a champ and church broke out in our home, my wife says, ‘the Holy Spirit filled our house that night!’ We are a very close Christian family that prefers not to share our lives publicly, but at the prodding of several close baseball friends, it was suggested that I write this dissertation on Diamond Prospects. We soon realized that it is selfish to withhold information from those who care and really want to help. We also do not want to miss out on any prayers that can be said on Rita’s behalf. For the person still reading this letter on a baseball website, please know in advance that we listen to and read every single thing sent our way, but we just cannot return each one…we are just trying to keep our heads above water right now. What we need the absolute most is prayer so we can grow closer to an awesome testimony of victory. Many of you have asked to be updated. While I am one of the last remaining humans not on Facebook, a very close friend of ours has offered to step up and set up a page for my wife to update others as developments occur. It can be found right here: Prayers for Rita / Rally ‘Round Rita We thank you in advance for your support and prayers as we sprint in the direction of our finish line, our “W”. May God bless you and your family each and every day!

Tony Osterman, DP Legend, Cancer Patient

By: Austin Alexander – September 10, 2015 Diamond Prospects is, and will remain, a landing point for baseball people to check in on the upcoming players in South Carolina, where they are going to college and potentially where they/if they will be drafted. But every once in a while we take a pause and remind ourselves of what is real in life and spend time to pray for those who have given all these players over the years a stage to perform… If you or your son have ever attended a DP event from Day 1, or have just been to a Lowcountry ballpark circa 19-something to present day, you probably know this guy. He is the most humble, hard-working, loyal and kind human I have ever met. I challenge any one of you to find a more selfless person. This guy has a name and a family too. His name is Tony Osterman. He has been with DP from our inception and he needs all of us to pray for him…to support him…to be there for him like he has been for so many of us. He has bladder cancer and chemotherapy is on deck, most doctors say his future may be bleak. But the Tony Osterman we love is not going to back away from this challenge either. We affectionately call him TO. We also do not want to him to experience any more pain as his goal is to conquer this cancer distraction and return to the diamond. Chances are that you don’t know TO like I do. This dude is a winner and he will tackle the present challenge. Ironically, he only let me know the bad news last Thursday out of fear that he may not be able to help run our November Showcase. I urge each of you who do or don’t know him to lift up in prayer along with his wife Sarah and family, their doctors/nurses and everyone who crosses their path. TO can win this cancer thing, but he needs a little teamwork from us to get the W!

My Testimony: Dominican Republic

By: Jake Wright – August 25, 2015, Special for DP My name is Jake Wright and I am a senior LHP/OF from Chester High School and Icommitted to the University of South Carolina to play baseball my junior year. I am a huge fan of the Diamond Prospects organization and have participated in many events over the years.When I was asked to write an article about the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s (FCA) baseball mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I was grateful to be able to share my experience with the organization and its followers. Thanks to Coach Joe Hudak and the FCA, this was my third trip to the Dominican. If you know me, you know how much I love baseball, but Jesus Christ is so much more important to me than baseball. He has forever changed my life, and it is only because of HIM that I can play the game of baseball.  I was the youngest person on this trip because my age group went while my family and I were on a mission trip in Haiti. I went with the Piedmont Pride baseball team – a group of college players from around the country. In the mornings we played baseball games against very talented Dominican teams, which included some former professional players. After the games, we gathered together and had the opportunity to share Jesus Christ and our testimonies with the other players. This gave us a chance to see what life was like for the Dominican players, and to make a connection with them. Although there are vast differences in our countries and culture, we still had so many things in common. It always amazes me to see the love of Jesus overcome the language barrier and allow us, through interpreters, to speak to them about their salvation. We had to establish a relationship or “common ground” with them first by playing a baseball game. In the afternoons, we visited schools, orphanages and a sugar cane village. It humbles me to see the children’s’ smiles and hear their laughter, despite their hardships. Here are some of the “highlights” from each day: Day 1– My first day started with a Bible study where we talked about how players should react on the baseball field. Our FCA leader, Scotty Rouse said, “How we act on the field is REALLY who we are as a person”. As baseball players or coaches, we can all relate to this quote because in the game, as in life, we face all kinds of failures and surprises. Our reaction to these things is what defines us as a person and a player. Our true colors show when we face failures. God wants us to have good attitudes and mental focus and to be hungry for the next at bat or pitch. After the Bible study we visited a school for underprivileged kids and painted their faces as a fun activity for them. It was incredible to see how something so simple could make them happy. After that, we went to a local baseball field where kids were waiting to meet us and watch us practice. Day 2 – Our morning devotion was about endurance and everything that Jesus endured for us on the cross. We played two baseball games that day. My teammate, Andy Santana, is originally from the Dominican Republic. He now plays shortstop for Geneva College in Pittsburgh, PA. He got to see his family again for the first time in two years. This was really special for him and it was an honor to meet his dad.               Day 3– We didn’t have baseball games scheduled for this day. We went to a boy’s orphanage and I got to see some of the kids that I’ve met on previous trips. Two years ago, I met a little boy named Stephen. He is eleven years old and is one of the most talented kids I’ve seen. He plays shortstop and can switch-hit. It wouldn’t surprise me if he plays professional baseball when he is older. We made a connection when we met two years ago, so to be able to see him again this year was the highlight of my trip! He was very happy to see me and he didn’t leave my side for the whole two hours we spent at the orphanage.  Day 4 – We had a game this day and won 6-5 against a very talented Dominican team. One of my teammates gave his testimony after the game. His testimony was very inspirational. We also went to a girl’s orphanage and played baseball with them using a tennis ball and a wooden 2×4. After that, we went to a church event with the girls where there was music and dancing. It was great seeing them having so much fun, and the presence of the Lord was very real in the church. Day 5– We played and won our last game for the week. After the game, I got to share my testimony. I told them how Jesus had given me a fresh start, and that he would do the same for them, as well. I explained to them how they could become a Christian, and they seemed to really be listening to what I was saying. After the game, we went to the sugar cane village. This was a small community, but it was full of excitement and energy. A little boy stayed on my shoulders wanting me to run nearly the whole time. I had met this little boy before, so it was great to see him again. We had a great time just playing with the kids.                                                                       Day 6 – This was our last full day in the Dominican Republic, since the next day would be spent getting ready to go to the airport and traveling. We went to church and had a great worship service and listened to the pastor. I had a lady sitting beside me to translate what the pastor …

Read More

MLB Draft Breakdown

By: Austin Alexander – June 9-11, 2015   In a year that professional scouts will admit there was far less draftable prep talent in South Carolina than recent years, only three young men managed to have their names called over the three-day event… but one in the first four rounds for the fifth straight year!   The more you peer into this year’s draft, the event itself took on a very different look due to drastic changes within the rules pertaining to signing players and by reducing the draft by ten rounds over past seasons, thus affecting who and how many in-state guys were selected.   The longer you follow the draft, the more you think you understand it. Just the opposite is true, however! Any baseball sage will tell you it is really a crapshoot.   Many variables come into play when you sit back and look at the picks, the rounds they fell in and the names that get passed over.   One term people must understand is “signability”. Especially near the top of the draft.   In many cases, most of the players selected in the first 4-7 Rounds are similar in ability. Maybe in the Top 15 Rounds? Conventional wisdom tells you that the first pick in the draft must be the best player and that the last pick is the 1,530th best player in the country. Not so. A player’s signability can vault him near the top of the board; low signability can force that player to fall through the draft entirely.   Scouts often spend more time researching a player’s signability than they do evaluating their talent. We’ve all heard of clubs that take a kid in the top two rounds and cannot come to terms with him. Sometimes it is because the area scout has not done his due research or he would have known better than to select that player that high in the draft. But it has also happened before that a player and his family or advisor was not truthful as to their dollar figure. Sometimes a player’s “advisor” or his known desire to attend school will force his draft stock to fall, though he may be a first rounder ability-wise.   A couple of examples:   In 2006, Florida University first baseman Matt LaPorta fell to the 15th round and 433rd pick of the draft. It was believed LaPorta was a sure-fire first-rounder but in the days before the draft he hired agent Scott Boras to represent him. Boras’ reputation with big-leaguers is well-earned as he has some of the top clients in the game. But, some big league organizations had begun a trend, however, of steering away from his players in recent drafts to avert expensive, drawn-out negotiations.   As high school seniors, South Carolina products Justin Smoak and Reese Havens were projected to go high in the draft. In the moments leading up to early picks for the Boston Red Sox, both were contacted once more in an attempt to agree to terms before they were selected. Both declined lucrative deals citing that their intention was to play college baseball. As a result, Smoak fell to the 16th round, Havens to the 29th. Both were later selected in 1st Round as college juniors out of USC.   In each case, though for opposite reasons, these players had a “low signability” tag, thus falling to lower rounds.   Clubs have until midnight of July 13th (up from August 16 in 2011) to agree to terms with a draft pick. Some of the early rounders will forego the drama and sign quickly so they can begin their journey to the big leagues. Others will drag it out until the deadline in an attempt to drain every penny out of a club. Many players chosen will continue to be under the watchful eye of the organization that selected them in case they make a significant jump during the summer, in which the club may, then, offer a contract or “up the ante” in an attempt to sign the player.   Draft picks are made largely on a players present “tools” and how he “projects” down the road. Many selections will turn the heads of baseball people. More selections will blow the mind of casual fans because the layman only sees black or white, ie. base hit versus out, win versus loss.   Understand, just because a pitcher strikes out Kep Brown does not automatically vault that arm to prospect status. If a good high school pitcher beats Socastee High School with Dylan Thompson (right) on the mound, it does not mean he will see his name on a draft board. When a “punching judy” flairs one into the outfield off of Adam Hill, that does not guarentee that he will even play past high school. If a fast runner steals two bases off of Robert Jolly, it does not necessarily mean he has a future in professional baseball! See where I am going with this? Scouting is not a science. Players do get over-scouted and some do get over-looked. By in large, however, these guys who scout for a living are good at what they do. VERY good, in fact! They run up tens of thousands of miles riding through the countryside away from their families looking for the next Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout. Sure, they’ll miss on guys from time to time but they are still smarter than most of us and their eyes keener than you can imagine. Did they find the next MLB All-Star in our state in 2015? Only time will tell. Below we have broken down the 2015 Draft: *Note: Players accounted for either played high school or college baseball in South Carolina this spring. Selected Day 1 (1-2 Rd) Day 2 (3-10 Rds) Day 3 (11-40 Rds) Total SC Players 0  14 15 29 College players 0 12  14 26 HS players 0  2  1  3  Pitchers 0  7 10 17  Catchers 0  1 0  1 Infielders 0  4  …

Read More

MLB Draft Preview: 2015

Compiled By: DP Staff – June 5, 2015 The workouts have concluded, the notes have been made, scouting miles have been logged and final organizational meetings have been had… and now it’s finally draft time! The First Round begins on Monday, June 8 on the MLB Network. As we mosey around South Carolina throughout the calendar, we are often asked to make predictions on the upcoming draft, who will be taken, which round will they go in, who is most signable, etc. We’ve asked a few questions of our own to some ‘bigwigs’ and threw in our two cents as well. But this year is a different animal altogether… Check out the drastically new draft rules from year’s past: 2014 Draft / Slotted Signing Bonus 2015 Draft Tracker The entire process has always been a crapshoot, even for those making the final decisions so we aren’t going to take a stab at which round, but below is what we did come up with regards to who has a chance to be drafted this week. Admittedly, every single scout that we spoke with said we would learn alot from this draft to be a little more bold with our prognostication in future years. Our crystal ball comes with far less confidence than past years, with no sure thing, but here it is: -Palmetto State Players Receiving Pro Interest this Spring-  Name  High School  Position  Signed  DP’s $.02  Trent Autry  Chester  RHP  USC-Lancaster  Doubtful  Britton Beatson  Sumter  RHP  C of C  Doubtful  *Kep Brown  Wando  OF  Miami  Definite  Grant Cox  Greenville  SS  Clemson  Possible  Jake Crawford  Belton Honea-Path  RHP  Furman  Doubtful  Shane Faulk  Myrtle Beach  OF  Coastal Carolina  Possible  Clay Helvey  Fort Mill  RHP  C of C  Doubtful  *Adam Hill  TL Hanna  RHP  South Carolina  Probable  Clay Hunt  Nation Ford  INF/RHP  C of C  Doubtful  TJ Hopkins  Summerville  OF  South Carolina  Possible  Graham Lawson  Woodruff  RHP  Clemson  Doubtful  JK Love  Latta  RHP  C of C  Possible  Sheldon Reed  Emerald  RHP  Sptg Methodist  Doubtful  Kipp Rollings  Andrew Jackson  RHP  Limestone  Doubtful  Jack Schoefield  Christ Church  RHP  Wake Forest  Doubtful  Colt Springs  Marlboro Co.  RHP  Presbyterian  Doubtful  *Dylan Thompson  Socastee  RHP  Coastal Carolina  Definite Key: Definite, Probable, Possible, Doubtful {chances to be drafted} *Selected in 2015 Draft

Generations, Baseball, Relationships

By: Jeff Kerr – April 16, 2015 Most athletes will tell you that at some point in their lives they were influenced or inspired by someone outside of their own family such as a teacher or coach. As a young athlete I had many individuals who took time with me and provided me guidance as I was deciding on my future such as which college to attend to play baseball. However the biggest influence I had was my high school baseball coach Bob McCullough. I first met Coach McCullough when I was 16 years old (1978) prior to transferring from Lake Howell High school to Lyman High School (Longwood, Fl) where Coach McCullough was the head baseball coach. There were lots of reasons I transferred but let’s just say the main reason I transferred was to play for Coach. When I graduated high school and went off to college I rarely returned home other than to visit family. Having spent my summers playing baseball in the Valley League (Staunton,VA) I just did not have a lot of time. Once I graduated college I stayed in South Carolina but my relationship with coach has always remained. When I do go back to Orlando the first person I go see is coach and it typically is a lunch then a trip to the field to talk baseball. Coach retired about thee years ago after serving as the head coach for 36 years. He is one of the winningest coaches in Central Florida and never had a losing season having won a state championship in 1995 and was runner up in 1996. He remains active with the program as he still maintains the grounds at the baseball field (Bob McCullough Field) every day. During my time in college and playing in the summer I played on very few fields nicer than the one I played on in high school. I could write a short story on the influence he has had on my life and the friendship that we have had for the last 36 years. He was also a groomsman in my wedding. That is not the purpose of this. Many who are reading this and know me know that my son, Austin Kerr is a senior pitcher at Coastal Carolina University. As Austin was growing up and I was coaching him many of the same philosophies and disciplines I instilled in Austin and the kids I coached were a direct result of my relationship with Coach and what he taught me as a young player. Something I am most proud of is since Austin started playing at Coastal Carolina coach McCullough has been able to see him pitch each year making the trip his freshman year to Myrtle Beach for the series against Winthrop and making a trip last year to see the team play at Winthrop and staying with me at my home. Plans are already in place for him to come to Raleigh in May for the series with NC State. I know there have been other situations similar to this where a former coach has been able to watch one of his/her former players son/daughter compete in a college event but I have to believe it is not a very long list. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have the one person who was most influential in my life as a young student/athlete to be able to see my son play. It is something that I look forward to every year. It is a chance for us to catch up and talk about the “old days”. When I was 16 years old I feel sure I did not think that when I was 51 that I would still have the relationship/friendship that occurs today but I am forever grateful. It is nice to sit around at the dinner table with Coach, Austin and myself and talk baseball just like the “old days”.

Introducing Gridiron Prospects

Gridiron Prospects is a web-based football player and team analysis endeavor that you can trust. Landon Bradley, Alkeem Sherman and Jonathon Sharpe are the starting lineup for Gridiron Prospects based here in South Carolina. The three-man team all have something to bring to the table when looking for talent. They all played high school football together – then pursued collegiate and, in Sharpe’s case, professional football careers. Combine all of this with their high school coaching background and relentless work ethic, it is safe to say they know football. This trio of entrepreneurs make a perfect team for finding high school talent and providing a trustworthy analysis of your skills both on and off the field.  Their main goal is to provide an opportunity for talent to be found where it may have been overlooked in the past. Simply put, if you want the STAY IN THE GAME after high school, Gridiron Prospects is committed to finding the college team for you. GP makes this happen by focusing on these three factors on the field performance, off the field performance and going the extra mile.  On the field, Gridiron Prospects will analyze your personal and team performance as it would ‘project’ to the next level. Gridiron Prospects will be looking at players based on several key aspects of performance at their position. This is done by looking for your strengths and weaknesses as a player in live games, game footage and practices. This information will then be posted on the GP website for their readers to enjoy and discuss. This is beneficial to the player in two ways. First off, being an opportunity for you to gain exposure that otherwise you might not have had. Secondly, this is an analysis that can be trusted which will allow a player to look over what we say, and this will allow you to take in the suggestions and become a better player.  Off the field, Gridiron Prospects will be adamantly involved in finding out who you are and what kind of person you represent yourself as. With the advent of the plethora of social media outlets and small town communities, there is always someone watching you. With that being said, GP wants prospects to use football as a catalyst to propel themselves into greatness in the future. However, this cannot be done with someone disrespecting themselves or others. More and more you are seeing collegiate and professional athletes under severe scrutiny because they are in the limelight. Taking the attitude early on that you will not fall prey to these vices ensures your longevity in football and life. GP wants to be posting the good things you are providing for your living and online community. Gridiron Prospects has an extensive online presence and you can tweet or share something with them and they will be sure to pass the good news along. Once more, this will allow people of your community and potential future communities to hear about your great contributions off the field.  Gridiron Prospects wants to go the extra mile. As already stated they have an online presence throughout social media, but their performance does not stop there. Gridiron Prospects wants to go further than any analysis team has before by implementing every portion of technology possible to football. They will be providing video interview both in person and using video teleconferencing software. Along with this there will be a multitude of photos and videos of your performances on the pages with the analysis. These videos could even be of point-of-view action cameras along with drone captured video. GP is really pushing the envelope when it comes to football and the adaption of technology to the game.  Gridiron Prospects is based out of and will be starting off here in South Carolina. The three-man team is dedicated to excellence and dedicated to you as a player. These three have come up with an excellent platform for looking at talent on the field, and they have a multitude of ways of analyzing a player outside the game.  If you are a current player, the parent of a player, a coach, a fan, or just generally excited about what Gridiron Prospects is doing, reach out to them, they want to hear about it!  You can visit the website, send them a tweet, like or share something on Facebook, or just send an email!  STAY IN THE GAME! Contact us: Website: Facebook: Twitter:           @ContactGridiron Email: [email protected] *DP Note: Diamond Prospects is not affiliated with Gridiron Prospects but we have fully given GP our stamp of approval.

Pro Day: FREE Mental Game Feedback

By: John Holmes – January 13, 2015 The Right Profile is excited to announce a partnership with Diamond Prospects, South Carolina’s #1 Coverage of High School Baseball. The Right Profile will provide the TAP 360 survey for all DP events and participation is completely optional for each individual athlete. In 2012, Dr. Robert Troutwine co-founded The Right Profile, combining the TAP with predictive analytics technology to develop the ground-breaking TAP 360 System™ , an end-to-end online system for evaluating, developing & coaching athletes for optimal performance based upon the athlete’s unique mental-makeup. To date, well over a dozen MLB and NFL teams use this asset for current and potential players. Being a parent of two athletes who have played baseball pretty much all of their lives and are presently in professional baseball, I understand more than ever that developing strong mental skills should be very high on the priority list. Confidence and consistency are crucial to the performance and success of an athlete, being mentally strong enables the athlete to face adversity and maintain a stable progress. Being mentally strong also creates the ability to embrace the struggles as opportunities to become stronger.        “The mental part is the hardest part, and I think that’s what separates the good players from the great players.” – Michael Jordan While there are a tremendous number of people who talk about the importance of the mental game, The Right Profile through the TAP 360 system gives you access to the tools and techniques to develop your strongest mental performance possible. The TAP 360 Mission: Why we do this: To empower all athletes, coaches and teams to “TAP” into their full potential in the mental game   For Athletes: Participating in competitive sports is a tremendous opportunity to change one’s life for the better and learn life’s lessons in a manner that is hard to duplicate in other environments or activities. We believe that empowering athletes to develop the mind as well as the body leads to better athletic performance and an overall better experience.   For Coaches: Coaching a team of athletes is an awesome responsibility as coaches must juggle directing the development of individual athletes and bringing a diverse group of athletes together to accomplish team success. Empowering coaches with the insight and tools to direct the individuals on the team to make the most of his/her talents in coordination with the team is at the core of our mission.   For Parents: Parenting an athlete can be a challenge in today’s ultra competitive environment. Providing parents with a deep understanding of their son/daughter’s mental makeup allows them to better communicate with their athlete and assist them in developing the psychological and emotional skills crucial to success in athletic competition and in life. In providing understanding and direction to the parents, the overall athletic experience can deepen relationships and build life-lasting, positive memories.   For Teams: Sports teams are woven deep into the fabric of American life involving not only the athletes and coaches but also team staff, parents, community members and fans. The essence of the TAP 360 System is helping a team get the most out of its athletes and coaches – making the entire experience more enjoyable and fulfilling for all involved.   This is an extraordinary opportunity to access the information that will provide a blueprint for coaches, athletes, and parents to better understanding and interact with one another. These relationships are valuable and powerful when working together, look at them as an investment and not an expense. Much more info: To take the survey for FREE: Click Here For questions or information on TAP 360 and The Right Profile, please email: [email protected]

Behind the Mask, Part II

By: Tome’ Higgins – January 8, 2015 There are a couple do’s and don’ts coaches should refrain from when questioning a call. First, do not shout from the dugout how bad you think the call is. Yelling and shouting will typically get a warning thrown your way. Make sure a timeout is granted and walk to the umpire who made the call if there is a question. Running toward an umpire will get coaches an early exit to the bus or locker room. Running shows that you are the aggressor. Coaches should also refrain from bringing rule books anywhere near the field. Umpires go through intense on-field clinic and classroom sessions. Hours are spent teaching and learning the rules of the game. I can guarantee you that if it is in the rulebook, umpires have covered it multiple times.  When it comes to calling balls and strikes, I am sure every coach and umpire will say they would rather have strikes called. An umpire’s best friend on the baseball field is a pitcher that can throw strikes and a catcher than can catch those strikes. The more strikes a pitcher throws, the more of a pattern I get in as an umpire. It’s like muscle memory. I often refer to it as singing a song behind the plate. I will be the first to admit that my strike zone is a little larger than others. Nobody comes to the ballpark to see walks. We all love to see batters hit the ball. The average high school baseball player has thirty inch arms and swings a thirty two inch bat. It is not fair to force a pitcher to throw the ball over a seventeen inch plate.  It not my goal to take the bat out of a kid’s hands by forcing him to swing at balls that are ridiculously out of the strike zone. I often tell umpires to call that ball two and a half balls off the plate. He may get a few weird looks by the batter at first and the coach may toss a few words his way but if that call is made consistently, batters will begin to tell his teammates that pitch on the outer part of the plate is being called so swing the bat. Games tend to go a little smoother and I find that more balls are being put in play.  Over the years I have always heard people say that baseball is a game of inches. I find that to be very true. Well it is also a game of superstitions and myths. After a batter has gotten hit by a pitch on or near his/her hands, I am sure you’ve all heard someone yell, “The hand is a part of the bat.” I have heard it too many times. Well, I wasn’t a great student but I remember my science teacher telling me that the hand was a part of the body. How about when there is a close play at first base and someone tells you that the tie goes to the runner? I have read many rule books and I can’t even remember seeing the word tie in any of them. I have never heard an umpire make a tie call. The runner is either out or he is safe. Contrary to what a lot of people think, umpires don’t play as big of a part in a game as most people may imagine. The game typically governs itself. I have worked quite a few baseball games by myself and in several of those instances I have been told by coaches that they didn’t notice there was one umpire on the field until around the fifth inning. The job of an umpire is a little like a police officer. We patrol the field keeping everyone safe and abiding by the rules. The baseball, bats nor gloves are ever in our hands during a live ball moment in a game.  I have come a very long way as an umpire. When I first started I didn’t know what a timing play was. During one of my first scrimmages my partner signaled to me that the timing play was on. Well to signal the timing play one points at his wrist area. I thought my partner was asking me what time it was! I immediately called time out, took my mask off, and uttered to him, “It’s six thirty.”  From the look on his face I knew I screwed something up.   Twelve years later I have umpired some of South Carolina’s biggest state championship games and traveled to some of the country’s premier baseball venues. I have had the pleasure of working from historic Riley Park in Sumter, SC to Cooperstown Dream Park in Cooperstown, NY where I was inducted into the Youth Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. I have been asked many times why I work multiple games during the summer in over one hundred degree heat index. Many people have speculated that I do it because the money is great. Well, I am not a huge fan of the heat. I like the idea of sitting by the pool with an ice cold drink a little better. After factoring in travel, weekly professional cleaning of all uniforms, and food I wasn’t making too much money either. I came to the realization that I umpire baseball because I love the game. I have a passion for it and do think I am pretty darn good at it. I have had the opportunity to umpire teams coached by former Major League players such as Pat Borders, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Orlando Hudson and Tony Womack. I have the pleasure of umpiring games that Matt Wieters, Justin Smoak, Jordan Montgomery, Chris Owings, Matt Price and Michael Roth have played in. I’d say that alone is worth more than any amount of money in the world and worth standing in some intense heat. This has been a little insight on …

Read More

Behind the Mask, Part I

By: Tome’ Higgins – January 6, 2015 I often hear people say that they could never be an umpire. The thought of getting hit by a pitched or batted ball, yelled at by fans and coaches, or the fear of missing a call scare most people away wanting to become a baseball official. My name is Tome’ Higgins. I have umpired high school, American Legion, Dixie Youth, and travel/showcase baseball for twelve years. If it can happen on a baseball field I have probably seen it. No umpire will have the same perspective on how he or she sees things from an umpire’s standpoint. Since day one I took the simplest approach to officiate baseball. Hopefully my insight on the game can give a better understanding of what we as umpires deal within a typical game. In 2002 I was a recent college graduate with a wife and newborn baby. Like many newlyweds, my wife and I struggle financially and needed an extra income to help with bills young couples incur. I pondered for hours one night trying to figure out what I was going to do to make some extra money. I wanted to do something fun. Suddenly during the early morning hours I sat up in the bed and said to myself, “I can umpire baseball!” Excited about the thought of being an umpire, that morning I called the high school league office to inquire about becoming a member of the umpires association here in Columbia. After contacting the booking secretary I attended my first umpires meeting and to my surprise, I learned that there was much more to the game than calling balls, strikes, safe, out, foul and fair. Who knew there was a specific rotation umpires made when a ball is hit to a certain part of the field? I thought the plate umpire called balls and strikes and the base umpire was responsible for anything that happened on the bases or in the field. Boy was I wrong.  I had played the game of baseball competitively in high school and on the collegiate level but I had no idea that umpiring baseball took so much preparation. It felt like the first day of school and I was the new kid in class. I quickly remembered what my mother had told me all my life. She would always tell me that anything worth having is worth working for.  The association members saw that I was interested in becoming an umpire and they collectively stood behind me every step of the way. If there was a question I had someone was always willing to help. Twelve years later I have blossomed into a decent umpire. I endured many bumps along the road and today I still seek ways to get better. Coaches and umpires have better relationships than most people would think. I don’t think coaches wake up in the mornings thinking about how they can make the umpires officiating their game that day a living nightmare and vice versa. Coaches expectations are simple. They want umpires to know the rules, be consistent with their calls, be in position, hustle and be professional. It is the umpire’s goal each night to possess those five qualities.  He/she knows that if I perform those essential duties to the best of their ability, the night will normally go smoothly.  That’s not true all the time.  Some nights umpires just don’t have it. No matter how hard we try, our timing is a little fast occasionally, our judgment on balls and strikes aren’t consistent, and yes, we get some calls wrong. Those are the nights we dread and coaches hate.    I can remember two specific games in my career where I wanted to walk off the field. My timing was bad and my judgment was awful. That game couldn’t get over quick enough. Later that week when my check arrived I contemplated sending it back. That is how terrible I was that night. Those nights don’t happen too often but when they do, that is when things can get pretty ugly between coach and umpire. The coach feels like he/she isn’t being treated fairly by the umpire and they want to let you know that they aren’t happy. A lot of situations on the field between coach and umpire can be defused without the big blowups we see on television and YouTube. Coaches will normally tell you what they saw and asked how you came up with the call you made. Umpires will then explain what they saw and inform the coach why that call was made. More often than not, they will both agree to disagree and the game will proceed. Part II, coming tomorrow…