Commentary: Strange calls galore in rainy softball victory

BY MITCH SMITH | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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At some point during my sports-oriented childhood, I made a conscious decision that I’ve continued to follow through my adult life.

I will never umpire a single baseball or softball game. Ever.

Despite the opportunity to earn some money, the thought of calling balls and strikes never crossed my mind.

As a baseball player, I regularly disagreed with the calls made by the boys in blue, and I would consider it treason to make the switch over the enemy lines.

Call me a wimp, but I didn’t want the pressure of making the correct call. Very few fans ever tell the umps that they made a good call — unless they know it was a bad call for the other team.

Wednesday’s night strange series of calls during the Iowa softball team’s home contest against Northwestern only reaffirmed my decision to abstain.

The first-base umpire wasn’t making many friends among the Hawkeye fans.

I’m not saying he did a bad job, or that he made the incorrect call (I love umpires, remember?).

Some of the plays were just a bit peculiar.

That’s the interesting part of coming to the ballpark. All the intricacies in the rule book leave each and every game open to a new play never before seen.

Three runners, two from Iowa and one from Northwestern, were called out during stolen base attempts for leaving the bag too early. It’s a judgment call I had rarely seen made thus far this season, and Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said this was probably the most she’d ever seen the call made in a conference game.

The bizarre string of calls didn’t just stop there. It was only the beginning.

Iowa pitcher Chelsea Lyon found herself amid a controversial fifth-inning play after fielding a grounder and tossing it over to first baseman Katie Brown for what appeared to be the final out.

If it were only that simple.

The play resulted in Wildcat freshman runner Kristin Scharkey being called safe.

Then out.

Then safe again, even after the Hawkeyes had returned to the dugout to start the next half inning.

It took around 15 minutes for the coaches and umpires to sort out the situation, all the while confusing every person in the Pearl Field confines.

“I caught the ball, touched the bag, and she was out,” Katie Brown said after the game. “But things happen, and I think we bounced back after that.”

That really proved to be the key to the game Wednesday night. Even odd plays and terrible weather can’t stop Blevins’ squad.

Despite the strange day at the ballpark, the good news is the Hawkeyes didn’t let it affect them.

After all was said and done, I learned two things while watching the rain fall in the warm and cozy press box.

No. 1: I’m still never going to umpire a game.

No. 2: Iowa is looking really, really good. With a Big Ten best 5-0 conference record, it looks as though the Hawkeyes have a good shot to contend for the Big Ten title this season.

No umpires were harmed during the writing of this commentary.

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