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It’s the love for the game behind the plate

umpires, youth first of owatonna
Roy Koenig, Sports Analyst

Umpiring isn’t easy, but it can be fun.

Youth 1st of Owatonna is partnering with ‘Behind the Mask’ to train the next generation of umpires. Veteran umps work with new ones to teach the basics and instill confidence.

Medford student-athlete Landon Seiler’s passion led him to put on the mask. “My love for the game of baseball. As a kid I would just play baseball. The umpire is just such a big part of the baseball game,” he said. “I’ve always wondered how hard would it be to be an umpire. I always thought it was easy and the first game, I’m like, no, this is completely different. Taking balls off the shins, off the mask, hard calling balls and strikes…But it’s the love for the game. It’s really fun.”

Kyle Vatsaas, a Medford teammate, would occasionally question a call as a youth player. “And I was like, it can’t be that hard. So, I started looking into it,” he says. “I did my first game three weeks ago. I [thought] this is ok. I’m doing 10u and it’s already difficult. Can’t imagine what it’s like in varsity or anything else. It was just a real eye-opener.” He’s developed a new respect for umpires.

Longtime ump and mentor Shawn Peters told the Owatonna Live Coaches Show, “What it does is help take the pressure off of the younger guys, especially if they happen to have a coach that is unruly, or if they have a question right off the bat.

“It’s an opportunity to be on the field with them. Because you can tell them all kinds of things in a classroom situation. They get onto a field and it’s not the same…It’s like driving training. You had your classroom portion and then you got hours and hours behind the wheel before you can get your license.”

Respect the ump

Mark Arjes, founder of Youth 1st, says it was important to establish proper attitude before launching the program. “Getting the conduct thing in place and talking about respecting officials. So, once we got the parents and coaches on the same page, that was like, alright now there’s this huge deficit. There just aren’t enough officials. How do we get more high school kids into officiating?”

Seiler said the program is spot on. “They taught me so many different positionings and things to do. The little things that you don’t even recognize. And they would tell you how to do it,” he said.

Coaches, players, and parents have been supportive of the young umpires. Seiler said his first game was U-10 and he felt a little shaky. “But the parents, the coaches, even the kids, they all understood. They were all so nice. I’ve never had any arguments with any coaches,” he said.

Vatsaas says it’s on-the-job training. “I try and first make an initial call on the field. So, then we have something to go off of. Then either the mentor will come over or I’ll go over and ask him, did I make the right call, or did I screw up and have to overturn it? Having that mentor there, it really helps.”

He says being around the young players is fun. “Just to see their joy in playing this game. I just am hoping that they’ll keep it going.”

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