On a double play by Bautista and Mathis, our writer gives credit to… the ref?!
- by Glen Schwarzfeld
In all sports, umpires are constantly jeered, mocked, heckled and after numerous slow motion replays, proven to be wrong. No die-hard fan is innocent of this. Still, every once in a while, it’s nice to acknowledge a good call. And not just whether the proper call was made, but how it was executed.
Here is one such play. Watch the video first:
With one out in the top of the 7th of Tuesday’s Blue Jays-Royals game, Jose Bautista caught a fly ball and fired a slightly inaccurate throw to Jeff Mathis at home-plate.
The Royals’ Mike Moustakas cut inside to avoid Mathis but also missed tagging home. Mathis jumped back and was able to get himself between Moustakas and the plate, swiftly applying the tag.
It’s one of baseball’s most exciting plays, one which exemplifies a variety of skills needed in baseball. It’s arm strength vs. foot speed as the catcher has to anxiously await a 250-300 foot throw while the runner bearing down is entitled to run him over.
The quiet hero
On this play, umpire Angel Hernandez was the unsung hero. He was calm and patient and he ensured the proper call was made rather than letting the excitement of the play influence him.
Personally, I loved the way he delivers his “out” call by simply nodding and calmly making his signal. An umpire isn’t the star of the play; he shouldn’t play to the crowd and make a huge “YOU’RE OUT!” call just because it would get a great response from the fans.
In a way, Hernandez acknowledged the effort on everyone’s part, adapted his call to match the eventual tag and allowed the players to remain the focus of the play.
Maybe it’s my unconscious empathy for referees after having umpired for one year in my teens, but with all the crap umpires face, Hernandez should be acknowledged for at least one of the many unnoticed good calls he made.