About Us - Bergen County Umpires Association

The Bergen County Umpires Association is an organization of baseball and softball umpires certified to officiate high school contests in New Jersey.

Our purpose is:

  • promote the welfare of the games of baseball and softball on the county level by uniformly interpreting and administering the rules of those games as set forth by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS).
  • promote and maintain the highest degree of baseball and softball officiating by following a uniform set of mechanics and have available at all times an adequate number of thoroughly trained and capable umpires.
  • preserve the traditions, foster the ideals, advance the interests and improve the quality and prestige of the baseball and softball umpires through a comprehensive program of classroom training and on-the-field experience and develop a spirit of friendship and maintain a high standard of ethics among umpires.

 

 

NJSIAA SPRING SEASON

To all umpires,
Below is a memo from NJSIAA on Spring Season for 2021.

High school baseball, softball umpires feel the loss of spring season in many ways

Republished from NorthJersey.com
Nick Gantaifis, NorthJersey.com
Published 4:04 a.m. ET March 27, 2020 | Updated 12:18 p.m. ET March 27, 2020

By late March, John Gojdycz’s schedule would usually be booked for the next three months. Most years, he would even have plans set for the following year too.

But for the first time in 38 years, the high school-certified umpire stares at his blank calendar and wonders what his next few months hold.

“No one has experienced anything like this. Normally my schedule’s booked six days a week with assignments,” said Gojdycz, who has served as secretary for the Bergen County Umpires Association for the last 12 years.

“We all feel for the athletes out there and what they’re missing, especially the seniors. We’re praying that we can all get back on the field and salvage some of the spring season.”

Gojdycz, who primarily officiates NJSIAA-sanctioned high school baseball and softball games throughout North Jersey, is one of many umpires across the country experiencing the fallout from a postponed spring season.

The spring season remains in limbo with the state-wide shutdown of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. Extracurricular activities, including team practices, games and scrimmages are canceled until schools reopen.

The lacrosse season was scheduled to begin Wednesday, and baseball, softball, track, golf, boys tennis and boys volleyball were scheduled to open April 1.

There's still hope for a spring sports season, but it certainly won't start for several weeks with schools closed across the state.

A release from the NJSIAA on March 16 said the organization "will make every effort to take advantage of whatever part of the spring sports season remains, including holding championships."

Ridgewood vs. St. Joseph in the Bergen County baseball tournament championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2019. RW pitcher SJ #19 Anthony Panissidi is save at home as RW #10 pitcher Matt Crawford tries to get the out (Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com)

One of the top NJSIAA-certified softball umpires in New Jersey, Gojdycz has called several big games and championship contests over the years, including the annual Tournament of Champions played at Ivy Hill Park on the campus of Seton Hall University the first week of June.

“Most of us call games because we love the game and enjoy being around the athletes,” said Gojdycz, who works full-time as a teacher coordinator in the Passaic school system. “When you factor the time and hours we put in compared to what we get paid, you realize it’s not about the money, but more for the love of the game and the opportunity to see the athletes grow and develop.”

Though umpiring is a secondary job and source of income for most officials, there is a financial fallout as a result of a postponed season.

A person swinging a bat at a baseball gameDescription automatically generated
NV/Demarest #2 Emily Taylor slides on home base High school softball game between NV/Demarest and Ramsey (Photo: Viorel Florescu/NorthJersey.com)

The going rate for umpiring a high school varsity game in New Jersey is $83 per outing. Multiply that by six games a week, and an entire spring season and an umpire could conceivably lose a few thousand dollars of secondary income.

"For some umpires this is a big source of income, especially the retired guys who count on this income at this time of the year," said Michael Johnstone, a Riverdale resident who primarily umpires youth baseball games, including Little League and Babe Ruth level games.

“My schedule is not as structured as high school umpires as it’s more on-the-fly since the schedule is constantly changing with weather and cancellations. My busy time starts in mid-March and carries all the way through the summer.”

Johnstone, who works full-time as a behavioral assistant working with adults and students born with autism, suspected that the spring sports season was going to be postponed after hearing that the NCAA canceled its championship events and Major League Baseball postponed Opening Day.

Two weeks ago, Johnstone and hundreds of other colleagues learned that the annual Cooperstown Dreams Park experience was canceled for the 2020 season. The annual event, which runs for 13 weeks and draws thousands of 12-year-old eligible baseball players throughout the country every summer, serves as a right of passage before youth players graduate to the big field.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve worked two separate weeks every summer in Cooperstown,” Johnstone said. “It’s a working vacation for me and other fellow umpires. It’s an expense for most families for their children to participate in Cooperstown and there’s so much advance planning and fundraising. I feel badly for those who are going to miss that experience.”

Cooperstown Dreams Park (Photo: ALL STAR IMAGING)

Fred Wagner, founder of the Baseball Umpires of River Vale, a local Bergen County-based chapter comprised of about 50 umpires, started umpiring baseball games full time after he and his wife took an early retirement a few years ago.

Like most of his colleagues, Wagner is hoping for some good news in the coming weeks.

“Umpiring is more of a hobby for me,” Wagner said. “Our last meeting was March 12, when we normally review rules before the season starts. But our next two scheduled meetings are canceled and we’re not scheduled to meet again until May 13.”

On Wednesday, the NJSIAA issued a statement saying it still hopes to have a spring scholastic sports season of some sort. It’s assumed that the town and recreation administrators will follow the state’s recommendation as well. It all depends if and when students are allowed to return to school this year.

In the meantime, umpires throughout the state are taking a wait-and-see approach like everyone else.

“We all want to be back on the field and get back to the game we love,” Gojdycz said. “It’s always been about the kids and always will be.”

Optimal Positioning at Home Plate

 

 
The evolution of the mechanics of calling plays at home plate has been fascinating to observe.
 
Plate umpires can make decisions on 250 to 300 pitches in a game, but one call at the plate might decide the outcome of the game. Consequently, the umpire community commits a lot of training to developing the best ways to judge plays at home plate. For many decades, umpires approached plays at the plate using the first-base line extended method, commonly referred to as 1BX. Plate umpires stand at an imaginary line that would extend the first-base foul line into foul territory past home plate.
 
About 20 years ago, a new technique emerged called third-base line extended known as 3BX. This is the opposite position from 1BX with plate umpires standing on an imaginary line from the third-base foul line.

One Call at the Plate Might Determine the Outcome of the Game

The gradual change in this practice recently produced a new tactic called, “The Wedge.”
 
“I first learned The Wedge at a camp three years ago in New Jersey,” said Mike Lum, a 20-year umpire who has worked on the college level for the last five years. “I’ve had conversations with minor league and college umps about The Wedge and we all wonder why we are just hearing about this. I think the major league umpires have been using this method for a while, but someone coined the phrase The Wedge only recently.”
 
From all accounts, The Wedge has been practiced for 5-7 years in the northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., area before blossoming recently into a hot trend on the East Coast over the last 2-4 years. The other dynamic that has widened the use of this new mechanic is the increased movement of catchers who want to avoid violating new obstruction rules during plays at home. Catchers are now starting several feet in front of home plate as opposed to standing on or near it in the past.
 
So why is it called The Wedge? Think of a shape of a wedge or a triangle. The two sides of the wedge represent the path of the runner and the flight of the ball. An umpire using The Wedge would be in between those two lines to see the point of the play where the tag is applied.
 
Chris Marshall is a major advocate of The Wedge. Marshall has worked college baseball for the last 21 years and appeared in his fourth NCAA Division I Super Regional last year at the University of North Carolina.
 
“I’ve completely bought into using The Wedge,” said Marshall, who is the interim president of the New Jersey-based United Collegiate Umpires. “I can remember missing two plays at the plate in a Division I postseason tournament game a few years ago because I was using the old-school thinking. I read the plays correctly but they developed differently than I expected and I got them both wrong. The Wedge now gives me a whole new view of plays at the plate.”
 
The 1BX and 3BX positions have been commonly taught as places to stand and watch. The Wedge, however, is all about movement and putting umpires in a position to see the play completely and correctly. A key difference between The Wedge and the 1BX-3BX methods is that the home plate umpire is keying off the catcher’s movements to gain a good position to see the play. Using 1BX and 3BX, umpires use the flight of the ball. It is a new mindset.
 
“In the past, umpires would choose a pre-determined place to stand, either at the point of the plate or at the first-base or third-base line extended. That puts umpires in a pretty good position to see most plays. But if the play explodes, they will not get the best angle,” Marshall said.
 
Marshall cites four specific plays where The Wedge helps umpires get the optimal view at plays at home plate:
 
  • Swipe tags (when the catcher applies a tag using a swipe motion)

  • Crash plays (when the catcher and runner collide)

  • Block plays (when the catcher blocks the runner from reaching the plate)

  • Dropped balls (when the catcher drops the ball)

“I had been using third-base line extended for years until I learned The Wedge at a clinic two years ago in Binghamton (N.Y.),” said Sal Algozzino, a 23-year umpire who has worked two D-II regionals in his career. “The Wedge allows you to see all types of plays at the plate, but you can’t just stand in one place like we used to do. You must be very aggressive and be ready to move.”
 
When using The Wedge, some instructors say umpires should act like backpacks for the catchers while others urge umpires to stay on the catcher’s glove-side hip. Here are the mechanics of working the wedge:
 
  • Locate the ball.

  • Position yourself 2-3 feet immediately behind the catcher, lining up with the catcher’s left hip.

  • Move in-step with the catcher and remain 2-3 feet behind him.

  • Be prepared to make a final step — the “Read Step” — to see the tag applied. Marshall added, “Umpires need to take quiet, purposeful steps as the ball arrives to put themselves into that window to see the play.”

Two key parts of The Wedge mechanic contradict traditional thinking about home plate coverage, according to Marshall. First, umpires have been taught to keep 4-8 feet away from the play to have a wider field of vision. Second, umpires have been advised not to go into fair territory to call plays at the plate. Umpires using The Wedge often wind up in fair territory in front of the plate or even up the third -base line.
 
Marshall said, “The Wedge can be difficult to grasp right away but it is worth sticking with it because of the advantages it gives you in seeing the play. The game is changing and we need to change with it. As umpires, we might see a close play at the plate once a month so it may take a while to practice it. I wish we had more bangers at the plate so we could work on it.”
 
Tim Gaiser, a 23-year umpire who has worked college baseball for the last 18 years in upstate New York, is another proponent of The Wedge.
 
“I learned The Wedge four years ago and I now apply the wedge fundamentals to plays all over the field,” said Gaiser. “The Wedge has helped me immensely. I look at it this way: I umpire baseball games involving boys ages 15-22. They stay the same age every year but I get one year older every year, so I need to find ways to be more efficient. The Wedge challenges what has been taught for years, but it puts us in the best place to see the play. It makes us better umpires.”

NFHS 2020 Softball Rules Changes - New Definition for Damaged Bats Highlights High School Softball Rules Changes

 

A new definition for a damaged bat is one of three high school softball rules changes for the 2020 season.

The three rules changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee at its June 10-12 meeting in Indianapolis were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

A damaged bat will now be defined as a bat that was once legal, but is broken, cracked, dented, rattles or has sharp edges that might deface the ball (Rules 1-5-1, 7-4-2, 2-4-3).

Previously, a damaged bat was considered an illegal bat, with the penalty being an out when the batter entered the batter’s box. Now, damaged bats are simply removed from the game without penalty.

“This rule defines damaged bats and distinguishes them from non-approved and altered bats,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Softball Rules Committee. “The committee clarified the course of action that should be taken when a damaged bat is discovered in the game.”

Additionally, in Rule 1-5-1, the USA Softball All Games certification mark is now acceptable on bats. The new mark is in addition to the current ASA 2000 and ASA 2004 certification marks. Bats must bear one of these three marks and must not be listed on USA Softball’s Non-Approved Bats With Certification Marks, a list that is available on www.usasoftball.com.

“Bats bearing the 2000 and 2004 certification marks are still permissible, provided they meet specifications in Rule 1-5-1 and do not appear on USA Softball’s Non-Approved Bats with Certification Marks list,” Searcy said.

Another rules change is an adjustment to Rule 6-1-1 regarding fast-pitch pitching regulations. Pitchers must now take a position with the pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. Previously, pitchers were required to have the pivot foot on or partially on the top surface of the pitcher’s plate.

“The change allows for different styles of pitching and permits them to place their feet where pitchers feel most comfortable,” Searcy said. “The rule now clarifies that part of the foot must simply be in contact with the pitcher’s plate.”

The final change is a tweak to Rule 9-1-1 involving the scoring of runs. Under Exception “C,” a run is not scored when the third out is obtained by a preceding runner who is declared out on an appeal play. Previously, the rule only covered runners who were declared out for failing to touch one of the bases.

“There are two types of appeal plays that can be affected in this exception: failing to touch one of the bases and leaving the base too soon on a fly ball that is caught,” Searcy said. “The previous rule did not include both scenarios. The use of the phrase ‘a runner who is declared out on an appeal play’ addresses both situations.”

According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 367,861 girls participating in fast-pitch softball at 15,544 schools across the country, and 1,589 boys playing the sport in 35 schools.

A complete listing of the softball rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Softball.”

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