Three strikes and you’re outta here

We never write about Little League baseball or softball unless a team wins a state title or is possibly heading to the World Series—because we don’t have the time or space for it. However, I’d like to share a story about Little League from a different perspective.

I have umpired baseball and softball for six years and refereed basketball and soccer for a year each. In all those years I have never ejected a player, coach or fan until June 21 at the Kitsap Fairgrounds with 13-year-olds.

I have had some wild stories with police being called, fights in the stands and some words said to me over the six years when I umpired in California. However, most of the events happened after the game or too far away for my jurisdiction as an ump.

Even though fans and coaches here are much nicer in general than the parents and coaches in California, my first ejection came at the Silverdale Pee Wee Seniors division between the Red Sox and Astros.

I am usually a very lenient umpire who loves to crack jokes with fans, coaches and kids. Even in this game, I gave the Astros coach three strikes before he was out.

The first strike came within the first couple of innings when the Astros coach called time out and came up to me to angrily discuss my ball and strike zone.

He believed I was not calling it in his favor, even though no one else complained. As an umpire, you judge a strike and ball based on where it first crosses the plate, not where the catcher grabs the ball or where the batter is standing. Therefore, several pitches hit the outside corners and ran across the batter’s letters.

The coach’s second strike came around the fourth inning. The Astros were in the field with two outs, and a Red Sox batter hit a grounder to third base. It looked like the runner may have beaten out the throw, but the first baseman’s foot lifted off the bag before he caught it.

The coach ran out with anger and asked me what I saw. I told him to talk to the base umpire because my view would not help his case. He began to walk furiously down the first baseline before getting in the other ump’s face. After yelling and arguing for a few minutes, he walked back to his dugout and yelled to the Silverdale Little League athletic director that he was being yelled at and never got to plead his case.

The coach’s third and final strike came in the top of the seventh inning when the game was tied. The Red Sox pitcher obviously balked and before I could call it he called time out and yelled it’s a balk. I tried to tell him that he cannot do that.

He yelled: “What do you know? Have you ever played in the pros? I don’t think so.”

I tried to hold my laughter in before yelling, “Coach, you’re gone.” The fans and players almost cheered in unison as they were relieved the Astros coach could not try to impose his will on the game anymore.

Despite being tossed, the Astros won in eight innings 9-8 in the first round of the playoffs.

I later found out that was not the only third strike for the coach. He’d been tossed out of two other games this season.