I’m a member of SABR — the Society for American Baseball Research — which means I subscribe to SABR-L, the organization’s listserv. Much of the info on SABR-L involves statistical number-crunching, historical esoterica, biographical info, and so on. Occasionally, though, uni- and equipment-related queries come up. Such was the case a few weeks ago when a SABR member named Bob Bogart posted the following:
You know those pouches that the home plate umpire wears to hold the new baseballs that have yet to be used?
1. What is the capacity (in baseballs) of those pouches?
2. Is there an ideal capacity that umpires prefer to not exceed rather than the maximum capacity, enabling better maneuverability in the event the home plate umpire needs to hustle to another base to make a call? Or doesn’t it make a difference?
Just wondering. Thanks for your help.
I had never thought about this before. Within a few hours, a gentlemen named Michael Shapiro — apparently a former umpire, although he didn’t specify at what level — responded like so:
Generally, the pouches can easily hold about half a dozen balls each. Any more than that is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is running from one base to another. Of course, it’s a matter of personal preference, since some umpires use one bag and some two.
Personally, I used two bags, but that was in leagues that didn’t have the luxury of tossing balls out of the game after one scuff. I’d put the balls that came back to me in the left-hand bag and toss the new ones in from the right. I never had more than three in the right-hand bag and would rotate them through as the game went on, so that the balls would get pretty even use.
Interesting. But a much more detailed response came the following day from another ump, Barry Deutsch:
These pouches, more properly referred to as ball bags, hold different capacities of baseballs depending on the manufacturer. I prefer the “wide mouth” style, so I don’t have to mess around angling my hand into and back out of the bag. I prefer a square-shaped ball bag; some of them come in a more trapezoidal shape.
I like to have at least four in each bag and I wear two, one on
each hip, although some umpires in amateur ball wear only one. It might be a uniform requirement for umpires in professional leagues to be bilaterally bagged [apparently not — PL]; I think it looks better, more polished, and certainly more balanced, with one bag on each side.
I could fit five balls in each bag if I wanted to, which I might on a day when the grounds are wet and I know I’ll be throwing out a lot of damp, muddy balls and putting a lot of dry ones into play. But most of the time I’m satisfied with four in each bag. Five on each side tends to weigh them down. As Bob Bogart mentioned, there’s also a maneuverability factor that comes into play with a bag or bags crammed full of baseballs: I might
subconsciously slow down and not hustle as hard if I thought baseballs might come spilling out of my ball bag because it was too full.
When I get down to three or two baseballs (total, not on each side), I start signaling for more, as I don’t like waiting until I’m down to one and then the next thing you know there’s a foul ball and suddenly I’m completely out of baseballs and then the game gets held up while I’m waiting for new baseballs, and I hate it when the game gets held up! Most umpires do — we want the pace of every game to flow smoothly and uninterruptedly. The idea is to keep enough baseballs on hand — four to eight — to be able to keep the game moving and put a new ball in play immediately after a previous one goes out of play without feeling pressured to ask for more until the half-inning is over.
Styles of ball bags and the total number of baseballs held in each is generally an individual umpire’s choice; there are no hard and fast rules about how many baseballs to carry or whether to use one bag or two, although some college and professional leagues have specific uniform requirements for their umpires that include using two ball bags as opposed to just one. And not all identically shaped ball bags are the same, as some have separate pockets on the insides for whatever — indicator, lineup cards, writing implements, gum, stopwatch (which we’re now required to have in college ball), and other small accoutrements of the trade.
Faaaaaascinating! I hereby nominate “bilaterally bagged” as the best uni-related term to show up here on the site in many a moon. (If you want to go bilaterally bagged yourself, there are several ball bag options available here.)
Meanwhile, I know several of you out there are umps. Anything to add on this topic?
In case you missed it yesterday, my annual college football season preview is up on ESPN. As is always the case every year, additional tidbits of information started showing up soon after the column was published, so here are some updates on a few FBS teams:
• The two games sponsored by the corporate chicken sandwich douchebags will both be color-vs.-color.
• Arizona State is letting fans vote for which uni combo the team will wear on Sept. 22 against Utah, and students will be able to vote for the uni that’ll be worn on Oct. 27 against UCLA.
• I’m told that Auburn’s NOB lettering will be larger, like it was two years ago.
• Florida’s nose bumpers will now feature the new Gator head logo, and the neck bumper will have the new “Florida” wordmark. Also, the Gators are getting a new field.
• Houston will wear throwbacks on Nov. 10 against Tulsa.
• Nevada has added a center stripe to its helmet.
• I wrote that North Carolina would wear its white helmet at some point but that the exact date had not yet been specified. Turns out it’s slated to be worn on Oct. 6 against Virginia Tech.
• I wrote that Penn State would be wearing a blue ribbon jersey patch. I’m now told that that it will be a helmet decal, not a patch.
• The uni numbers on Texas Tech’s red and black jerseys are now white, which seems like a big plus in terms of visibility.
(My thanks to all who contributed info, including Josh Coney, Pat Davis, Trey Groce, Jeff Hunter, Thomas Lenneberg, Mike Moore, Aaron Newman, and Guy Ryan.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: Attention Ryan Connelly, Doug Keklak, Jason Bernard, Jennifer Sweet, and all the rest of our Pittsburgh readers: One of you needs to buy this sign (and when you do, you can send a thank-you note to Frank Bitzer). … New third kit for Tottenham (from George Chilvers). … James McNamara spotted a home plate ump wearing some sort of arm sleeve the other night. That’s a first, at least for me. … Oh, baby — now that’s a basketball uniform (big thanks to Mike Hersh). … A school district in Utah is looking for logo submissions (from Jon Alviani). … Hmmm, shouldn’t these two folks be sitting the other way around? (From Brady Phelps.) … This is awesome: The restroom signs at Citizens Bank Park show little figures wearing stirrups (from Tim Donovan). … Jeff Ash found some more photos of those padded aprons worn by Packers linemen during practices in 1962, presumably to save wear and tear on the body. More photos can be found scattered throughout this gallery. … Skip down to the fifth graf of this story to learn something interesting about Felix Hernandez’s jersey preferences (from Brian Terreson). … Small note at the very end of this article indicates that the Sabres will have a new third jersey in 2013-14 (from Timothy Tryjankowski). … Cowboys QB Rudy Carpenter almost lost one of his numerals last night (screen shot by Lance Phelps). … Bishop LeBlond High School in Missouri has a rather unusual soccer uniform. The jersey is so bold, it’s easy to overlook the initials on the socks (from Brady Graham). … Several readers noticed that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seemed to have a cover-up patch on his shirt for the recent preseason game against the Broncos. … Matt Thomas was reading this obituary of former NBA/ABA player Art Heyman and noticed the ghosted “4″ under his under number. Must have been a recycled jersey. … Good article on the comeback of the Prince tennis brand (thanks, Brinke). … Rare sight at last night’s game between the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Wilmington Blue Rocks: powder blue vs. powder blue! (Photo by Adam Brodsky.) … Here’s another potential leak of the new Nets uniforms, this time via a McFarlane figure (from Jamal Worobec). … I’ll be off the grid for most of today, starting at 11am, so everyone play nice. See you tomorrow.