A love of baseball inspired one man’s commitment to the rules of the game.
Seventeen years of baseball games can pass in a blur, but one moment remains frozen in time for John C. Shaver, FHFMA.
It was the evening of the first game Shaver had umpired when the moment dreaded by all umpires arrived. The game was tied, and the next run would decide the winner. That was when the batter unloaded a long fly ball down the third-base line.
Shaver yelled “Foul,” but the players on base took off running anyway—because the junior umpire behind the pitcher’s mound had yelled “Fair.”
The coach of the team that scored immediately and angrily confronted the new umpire.
“You may know the rules real well, but when you get a large male adult in your face screaming at you, it’s really difficult to focus,” says Shaver, CFO at Noble Hospital in Westfield, Mass., and a member of HFMA’s Massachusetts-Rhode Island Chapter.
It was an early illustration for Shaver of the importance of a deep and thorough knowledge of the rules even in something that’s supposed to be a pastime. That is why, despite years of previous experience as a coach for his son’s little league team, Shaver started off his work as a volunteer umpire by enrolling in a little league umpiring school. Much like an HFMA certification, the umpire certification requires annual training on changes in the rules and requirements of the league.
That attention to detail and commitment to making the right call is all part of Shaver’s commitment to a game he has loved his whole life.
“Behind home plate, you’ve got the best seat in the house,” he said. “If you love baseball, there’s nothing better than being behind home plate calling a baseball game.”
So what are some little known facts about umpiring?
For one, it’s a workout. By the end of each season, Shaver can expect to lose 15 pounds.
“The umpire, if he’s doing his job, with the two-man system, generally runs his head off,” he says.
For coaches, Shaver allows two strikes—when it comes to discipline. Like business employees, inappropriate player behavior sometimes requires disciplinary action. The second insult will get a coach ejected.
Among the surprising rules Shaver has discovered in his study of the game is that players are not required to run in straight lines from one base to the next—commonly referred to as the base line. Unless opposing players are making a play on the base runner, a runner can go almost anywhere on the field.
He also has learned that umpires are legally liable for allowing play in unsafe conditions, like a lightning storm that results in an injury.
But understanding the rules also requires knowing what and when to communicate with coaches, players, and other officials. For instance, the rules required the umpire in Shaver’s position to judge whether the baseline hit was fair.
“But it goes back to communication, and knowing your rules and being trained well,” he says. “I always remember that I am on the field to provide a safe, fair environment. I am there for the players.”
Publication Date: Tuesday, October 01, 2013