I have some very fond memories of our recently-ended 2020 NCAA college baseball season. First and foremost, I am grateful for having the opportunity to travel the first four weekends and watch NCAA Division I college baseball games and to observe officials. Not only – did I witness very large crowds/sold out games in February, early-March ( mind-you ), but some very-talented student-athletes – very enjoyable to watch this speed and athleticism, but I imagine even better to officiate this talent in this type of atmosphere…
If these four weekends were a harbinger of what was to come in 2020; believe me, college baseball has never been in a better place, and Baseball Programs all across this great country will build on this and return more formidable than ever in 2021.
Speaking of officiating: whether Starkville, Oxford, Miami, Minneapolis, Columbia, Clemson, Malibu or Los Angeles, I witnessed some very solid officiating throughout all the games. During these visits, I spoke with several Game Operations Staff- they were appreciative of the Video and FAQ MEMO regarding Mandatory Bat Testing; I saw no issues with teams and non-contrasting bat colors; and the 20-second action clock rule gained momentum as the season progressed; to the point: warnings were being properly-issued at games with and without a visible clock- with no real objections from head coaches, either…Finally, I witnessed umpires (3B) managing the visible 20-second action clock’s nuances, (with and without runners on base) – almost flawlessly throughout, and the device was rarely out of their front pant pocket.
Two final comments, refreshing to see a consistent flow to college baseball, now, and that ejections and suspensions were down 60% from a year ago…
Successful leaders possess two characteristics. They are well-grounded and well-surrounded.
I am grateful for Jim Jackson, Bill McCallum, Jr., Mark Ditsworth and Bob LaBelle, NCAA Baseball Umpire Advisors – for their travels and very impressive work ethic these initial four weeks: 111 different officials evaluated, a staggering 366 Reports submitted — truly, an aggressive hands-on commitment to improve NCAA baseball officiating- a model plan to build on for 2021. Thank you to Randy Bruns, the NCAA Secretary-Rules Editor – for his travels, early-on as well: for taking the time to meet with Head Coaches; for getting feedback on the new rules, as well as taking the time to aid visible clock operators.
Most importantly, NCAA Baseball Umpires: through all the Reports and Observations, I really want to personally thank each of you for all you do, the impact that you have on the game and for how you represent officiating. You got college baseball off to a great start – we will build on this in 2021.
For your Initial planning purposes: via our April 1 NCAA Baseball Officiating Conference Call, there was much sentiment from the Conference Baseball Coordinators and Conference Baseball Administrators that the 2021 NCAA Regional Umpire Clinic, be, once again, online.
Until next time – I’ll leave you with this memory.
George M. Drouches
NCAA National Coordinator of Umpires