LIVE FROM THE AFL CONFERENCE — At major league games, umpires and official scorers have one key similarity: They must have a strong understanding of the rulebook. But their perspectives often differ on which parts of the rulebook they must focus, a fact that former professional umpire Travis Katzenmeier and Arizona Diamondbacks official scorer Rodney Johnson say was made clear to them during a disputed game-ending play in September between the D’backs and San Diego Padres at Chase Field.
Katzenmeier was a guest speaker at the Flame Delhi Chapter’s fall meeting on Saturday, November 5 at the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa, as part of the third annual SABR Arizona Fall League Conference.
Regarding the September 10, 2011, game in Phoenix, the Padres protested the fact that baserunner Miguel Montero did not touch second base after Lyle Overbay drew a game-ending walk with the bases loaded in the 10th inning. But rule 4.09(b) makes it clear that only the batter and the scoring runner are required to touch their bases when a game ends on a walk or hit-by-pitch. (View the MLB rulebook online here.)
Johnson, who was in the press box that afternoon, said he was called down to the umpire’s dressing room — “like I was getting sent to the principal’s office” — by crew chief Tim Welke to discuss the play afterward.
“That was a first for me,” said Johnson, the president of the Flame Delhi Chapter who has been scoring Diamondbacks games for 11 years.
Katzenmeier, who has 13 years of professional umpiring experience — including parts of the 1999-2001 seasons in the majors — and now works as an umpire observer for MLB, said umpires not only have to know the rules but how to enforce them.
“You never know what’s going to happen on the field. As long as you’re involved in baseball, something new will always happen,” he said. “You could be in baseball for 60 years, but there’s always a call you haven’t had to make yet.
“I actually had a very similar situation in the minor leagues once, but it was a batted ball not a walk. So that made it a force play and I had to call the runner out. The rule (in the Padres-Diamondbacks game) did not apply to that situation.”
Also appearing as a guest speaker at the chapter meeting Saturday was MLB.com senior writer Barry Bloom, who regaled a crowd of about 20 with his World Series edition of the 1975 hit song by ABBA, “Fernando”, which he retitled “Ogando” after Texas Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando.
Bloom discussed a wide range of topics, including the Cardinals-Rangers World Series, the growth of baseball and the legacy of Commissioner Bud Selig. Here’s a sampling of his comments:
- On the growth of baseball: “I think history will look back very favorably on the Selig era. From a business standpoint, bringing the two leagues and the umpires under one umbrella, the restructured divisions and three rounds of playoffs … all of it has been great for baseball. The growth of the sport is amazing.
- On the internationalization of the game: “Back around 2000 or so, baseball owners knew they had reached a glass ceiling financially. But they also realized they had many untapped markets around the world. So they funded foundations in all kinds of places where nobody was playing baseball. I think we’re going to see great growth over the next 20 years in China and India and a lot of other countries.”
- On baseball being dropped from the Olympics: “Bud Selig refused to consider any plan that would stop the season in order to send professional players to the Olympics. That’s what the IOC (International Olympic Committee) wanted. Under a new commissioner, if the owners allow it to happen, maybe you’ll see baseball again (in the Olympics). But the World Baseball Classic has been an exciting alternative, especially the games between the rival Japanese and Korean teams, and I hope that continues to grow.”
- On the designated hitter: “I realized during the World Series that I do not want to see Texas Rangers pitchers come to the plate at any time. It’s just silly and everyone in the crowd who is paying $100 or more for a ticket deserves to see real hitters in the lineup. The National League and Japan’s Central League are the only professional leagues in the world not to have it (the DH). It’s going to happen eventually, and I’d rather see it happen sooner than later.”
- On the Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee “Golden Era” selections: “To me, Gil Hodges and Ron Santo are the most interesting candidates, the only ones you can make a strong case for. But with a committee of 15, you have to have 12 votes (to get elected) and that’s a lot. So I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody makes it from that ballot.”
Saturday’s AFL Conference activities continued with a tour of Chase Field, lunch at Friday’s Front Row overlooking the ballpark and the Rising Stars Game at Surprise Stadium.
Here are more photos from Saturday’s activities at the AFL Conference:
For more coverage of the SABR Arizona Fall League Conference and photo galleries of the weekend events, visit sabr.org/AFL.
— Jacob Pomrenke
Originally published: November 7, 2011. Last Updated: November 7, 2011.