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.

 

 

Deaf umpire has been on the job in NJ for years, but first he had to prove skeptics wrong

Republished from North Jersey Record (NorthJersey.com)


Darren Cooper, North Jersey Record (Varsity Aces)

FAIR LAWN — Jonathan Breuer makes it clear. He’s deaf, and you can call him that.

On the softball and baseball fields in North Jersey, he answers to a different title.

Umpire.

The 57-year-old Fair Lawn resident has been umpiring since 2013, and has been working as a soccer official since before that. He loves being involved in sports, helping his community. It makes him feel young.

He also wants to let people know that being deaf isn’t a hindrance to doing what you enjoy.

“I want to show the world what deaf people can do,” Breuer said.

Bergen Tech softball vs. Waldwick in the Donna Ricker Tournament at Wood-Ridge High School on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (left) Umpire Jon Breuer.
Bergen Tech softball vs. Waldwick in the Donna Ricker Tournament at Wood-Ridge High School on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (left) Umpire Jon Breuer.  (Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com)

His speech isn't clear, but it became easier to understand Breuer during our conversation. He’s energetic and engaging, but his best avenue of communication is sign language to his wife, Sari. She’s also his biggest fan.

“I am so proud of him,” Sari said. “I work in the deaf community and I see the discrimination that happens and the challenges they face every day. Jon just goes out and does his job and does it really well. It’s pretty amazing.”

The path to becoming an umpire

Breuer grew up in Brooklyn. He was born deaf; the nerves in his inner ear don’t function. Hearing aids would help, but he grew weary of taking care of them and the impact was negligible.

He said that twice when he was young, doctors tried experimental techniques on him, once electroshock and another time acupuncture.

“Nothing worked,” he said with a smile.

That didn’t stop Breuer from being active and graduating from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf/Rochester Institute of Technology with an engineering degree. He later worked on Wall Street and got a second degree at Montclair State.

Through the deaf community, Breuer became friends with Peter Rozynski, a deaf umpire who has worked for more than 20 years and lives in Florida.

When Breuer’s Wall Street job dried up, his first thought was to become an umpire. Sari went to the training classes with him and signed for him, so he could understand.

He was met with skepticism.

“A lot of umpires have different perspectives, one was in shock and said I shouldn’t be an umpire, he was really angry and said he was going to call [the Bergen County Umpires Association],” Breuer said. “I’m like fine, go ahead. We started the game and after he came up to me and he apologized. He said you did a great job.”

How he makes it work

When you think about it, just how much does a baseball and softball umpire have to verbalize? When working behind the plate, Breuer can bark out "strike," and signal the count with his hands. He said he’s very conscious of giving the count every three pitches.

It’s well known inside baseball and softball that on a close play at first base, the umpire is trained to watch the foot hit the bag and listen for the sound of the ball in the glove. How does Breuer do that? He has an answer.

“My visual processing is about .8 times faster than my hearing,” Breuer said. “I am not saying I am 100 percent perfect. I have made mistakes on close calls, but I believe my percentage of making the right call is very high.”

Bergen Tech softball vs. Waldwick in the Donna Ricker Tournament at Wood-Ridge High School on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (left) Umpire Jon Breuer.  (Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com)

There’s another longstanding joke that coaches want kids from orphanages (no parents to deal with) and every umpire should be deaf (ditto).

Breuer agrees.

“A lot of umpires have told me you are so lucky that you can’t hear,” Breuer said. “I was told the average umpire quits after four years. I have been [officiating] for 13 years and I feel fine. I feel relaxed. You can ignore all that chitter-chatter.”

But what happens when conflict does arise? BCUA President Peter Zubiarre said Breuer carries around post-it notes just in case he has a message to deliver. He said the only accommodation made for Breuer is that he'll often communicate with other umpires through email the night before instead of having a verbal pregame meeting.

Zubiarre said the feedback on Breuer from coaches and other umpires has been positive.

Jonathan Breuer, left, with his wife Sari in their home in Fair Lawn. (Photo: Darren Cooper)

“We’re happy and he’s moving up the ladder,” Zubiarre said. “I don’t want to sound corny, but I look at Jon as almost like someone running the marathon with a disability. He’s admirable for sure.”

Breuer gets a delight from when kids or coaches recognize him and sign "hello" or "thank you." His goal is to umpire a college game in New Jersey.

“I faced oppression and I overcame that, I can’t let people oppress me, I just can’t,” Breuer said. “I know deaf people and I try to encourage them that they can do anything they want to do and I want to show them and the rest of the hearing world that deaf people can do anything.”

NFHS 2019 Softball Rules Changes - Focus of Equipment Rules Addressing Risk Minimization

 

Equipment rules designed to reduce risk of injury, as well as a clarification that the media area must be located in dead-ball territory, are among the high school softball rules changes for the 2019 season.

The four rules changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee at its June 11-13 meeting in Indianapolis were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

With revisions in Rules 1-1-7, 2-22-4 and 5-1-1, the home team or game management may designate a media area in dead-ball territory if the facility dictates.

“Requiring the media area to be located in dead-ball territory minimizes risk and continues efforts to improve the safety of participants, officials, fans and other essential personnel,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison for softball.”

In another risk minimization change, Rule 1-8-4 permits an eye shield to be worn attached to the face/head protection only if it is constructed of a molded, rigid material that is clear and permits 100 percent (no tint) allowable light transmission. This change aligns with other softball equipment rules that currently prohibit tinted eye shields.

“The prohibition of tinted eye shields already exists in Rules 1-6-7 and 1-7-1,” Searcy said. “In an effort to promote risk minimization, tinted eye shields should be prohibited for defensive face/head protection.”

Among other rules changes was a clarification to Rule 1-5-2a, which permits a softball bat to have an adjustable knob, provided the knob is permanently fastened by the manufacturer. Any devices, attachments or wrappings that cause the knob to become flush with the handle are also permitted.

The final change approved by the committee in Rule 6 stipulates that the penalty for an illegal pitch is limited to the batter being awarded a ball. Previously, the batter was awarded a ball and all base runners were also awarded one base without liability to be put out.

“The new language creates more balance between offense and defense,” Searcy said. “In NFHS softball rules, the illegal pitch is designed to deceive the batter and, therefore, only the batter should receive the award.”

According to the 2016-17 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 367,405 girls participating in fast-pitch softball at 15,440 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.”

NFHS 2019 Baseball Rules Changes - Focus on Pitching Mechanics

 

The elimination of the requirement for the entire pivot foot to be in contact with the pitcher’s plate is among the changes approved for the 2018-19 high school baseball season.

This revision in Rule 6-1-3 was one of three changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Baseball Rules Committee at its June 3-5 meeting in Indianapolis. All changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“We are very fortunate that the state of high school baseball is in an excellent position, which is indicative of the few rules changes that were passed,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and staff liaison for baseball. “We appreciate the hard work of dedicated coaches who, in addition to minimizing risk associated with the sport, teach the game in a way that makes our young people enjoy playing for their high school. We must also acknowledge the highly professional and responsible game umpires. Without their thorough knowledge and implementation of NFHS rules, we would not be able to enjoy the small injury rate and increase in player participation.”

The rationale behind the change to Rule 6-1-3 is a result of the difficulty for pitchers to consistently make contact with the pitcher’s plate when pivoting. Before starting the delivery, the pitcher shall stand with his entire non-pivot foot in front of a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate and with the pivot foot in contact with or directly in front of and parallel to the pitcher’s plate.

“The committee concluded that many pitching mounds are such that it is problematic for a pitcher to have his entire pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate,” Hopkins said. “Therefore, no advantage is gained by having some of the pivot foot not in direct contact with the pitcher’s plate.”

The committee also approved two new umpire signals. The two new signals, indicating calls for “Correct Rotation” and “Information Available,” were approved to further improve communication between partners.

“It is always wise to be able to communicate clearly with your partner(s) during a game,” Hopkins said. “With so many moving parts (defensive players, base runners, umpires), it is imperative that umpires communicate easily and inconspicuously from players and fans. These mechanics say a lot without brining attention to the signaling umpire.”

The “Correct Rotation” signal comes when in a three- or four-man mechanic, the umpires indicate to their partner(s) where they are rotating to a specific base for coverage of an anticipated play. The umpire(s) points with both hands in the direction of the base that they are moving toward.

To assist in providing pertinent information between partners, the “Information Available” signal occurs when the game umpire is indicating that he/she has some information that is relevant to their partner by tapping two times over the left chest (heart).

Additionally, the NFHS Rules Review Committee extended the implementation date to January 1, 2020, for baseballs to meet the NOCSAE standard. According to the 2016-17 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 491,790 boys participating in baseball at 15,979 schools across the country, and 1,145 girls playing the sport in 269 schools.

A complete listing of the baseball 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 “Baseball.”

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