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When It Rains, Be Ready Before It Pours

When a flood comes or lightening strikes nearby, any umpire would suspend the game. When the field is mushy enough to make it a tough decision whether to start, or continue play, but it is not clear cut, one way or the other, what do you as the umpire-in-chief do to prepare yourself to make that decision? Safety of the players must play the pivotal role your determination.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind when faced with that decision:
  • " Final check of the weather - on TV or Internet for a last minute weather forecast. If the game is at 5:30 pm and rain isn't due until midnight, well and good. However, if heavy moisture is expected in two hours, it is good to know what to do if it does.
  • " Meet with both managers - before the game and let them know what you know and when the weather is coming. See what they know. The decision regarding the field and whether to play is their decision. The decision works better if it is a collaborative one.
  • " Schedule improvisation - means seeing if the game can be postponed, and if the schedule will allow the game to be played on another off-day for both teams.
  • " Ground rules to cover the conditions - includes understanding if the game has to be played to its conclusion, or just 3-1/2 to 4 innings, or if suspended, will the game be resumed, or ended.
  • " Know the teams situation - including if a team really needs to get the game in, or whether the other team doesn't care and could use the rest. Understand that the teams, while moaning and yapping about playing or not playing under the existing conditions may belie their real reason to continue or quit the game.
  • " What's available - in the way of a tarp or Diamond Dry to help dry out the field. How much water will the field hold, or does it drain well?
  • " Key areas of the field - are the mound and plate area. Next the base paths and infielders normal locations. The outfielders can play in slop and wet unless it becomes a lake. Ask the pitchers if they are slipping on the mound. Once the players are sliding around, the game has gone on too long.
  • " Know the rules - means that a game may not be called for at least 30 minutes once it is suspended. Get both managers involved again. If they agree to play or to stop, the umpires are off the hook. If they cannot agree, then the umpires must decide. If someone at the game can use their cell phone or laptop to look at the weather, it can help with the decision.
  • " Lightening - is not to be messed with. No game is worth someone getting struck by lightening. If the game is suspended and lightening is spotted in the area, someone can get struck just sitting on the sidelines under cover.
  • " Legal stalling - will start the minute the weather becomes an issue. The team behind will want to hurry everything to catch up. The ahead team will move at a snail's pace. The team in the lead will try to make three pitching changes and then start to make other defensive substitutions. When at bat, the winning team will want an offensive conference in which the coach tells his batters not to swing at anything. All these tactics are not legal. Keep the game moving at the same pace as if there were no rain.
  • " Not everyone will be happy - with the called game, or the playing in a really damp environment. It is tough on veteran and new umpires alike to have to deal with all the whining and begging. In the end, do as much advance planning about the coming storm, the team standings and the conditions of the field as possible, and then do the best using good judgment and instincts to deal Mother Natures and two teams.

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