Umpires aren’t robots (yet), and umpires at the Little League World Series are volunteers, so variance in their strike zones is to be expected. Still, as has become an annual pastime, exasperation over home plate inconsistency at the Little League World Series has reached a fever pitch. This year it took five days.
First, let’s take a look at the chronology? The games in Williamsport started Aug. 16. Within a day, there were social media gripes about the strike zone:
Here was the worst of the bunch (not too bad) from Aug.18 (Saturday):
Sunday brought this screen shot anger about a strike against the Post Oak squad from Texas:
Then there was Monday, which saw a pair of (frankly) pretty indefensible strike calls behind the plate, both from the International Bracket game between Panama and Puerto Rico:
At least that home plate ump, Tim Hughes, had a strike zone that was consistent. And very wide.
A few things to consider:
1) Three of the five most glaring complaints (depicted here) involved games on the international side of the bracket. That’s instructive only if it indicates that Little League is pushing less experienced or qualified umpires onto the international games. That seems unlikely, but you never know.
2) Two of the five poorly-called strikes came from the same game. Maybe Hughes was just having a bad day.
Still, these are supposed to be the crème de la crème of non-professional umpires, and they’re working a nationally televised event featuring the best players from regions and, in many cases, multiple countries. If ever there was a situation where athletes deserved consistency in both performance and expectations, this would be it.
Perhaps it’s understandable, then, that social media has been a bit fired up about some of the missed strike calls in recent days. Here’s a brief sample:
Naturally, social media brings out the worst reactions from even the best people. Luckily, there was still some balance and perspective provided by the other side:
The moral of the story? Yes, the home plate umpiring at the Little League World Series — again, performed entirely by volunteers — has been inconsistent, and sometimes outright poor. Still, everyone deserves a break once in awhile, particularly grown men who volunteer and wear heavy equipment in brutal heat and humidity to allow kids to play a game in a setting of their dreams.