For as much glory as there is to be had in Little League — and not just by the 13-year-old with the mustache — there are more disheartening components. Like the umpires. Those guys were the pits.
Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter, with tears streaming from their blotchy red eyes, remembered painful days of their youths yesterday when Yankee Stadium accidentally hired the guys who were supposed to be working the summer league game next door. Problem was, though, that no one informed the players — silly Mr. Steinbrenner — and they naturally assumed they were dealing with professionals.
When Jeter stole third base in the first inning and got in under the tag, he expected to remain there. Because he was safe, you see. But, umpire Marty Foster told Jeter, the ball had beat him to the base, so the tag wasn't necessary. Yer out! Jeter argued. Girardi argued. The skipper was tossed by Foster, even though Jeter had beaten him there.
"Getting the play right is one thing," said umpire crew chief John Hirschbeck. "But how you handle it and what you say is equally important. It used to be if the ball beat you to the bag, you're out. But it's not like that anymore with all the cameras and replays. You have to make a good tag. You can't just lay your glove down in front of the base."
That's not what they told Foster, who continued to umpire the game, collected his $50 and escaped to the car before angry parents could accost him for his egregious error — not the erroneous call, but the rationale. Every umpire makes mistakes. Some are worse than others, but in the first inning of a July game, the sting of the brainfart would have proven fleeting. Foster's folly, rather, was his juvenile excuse.
All he had to do was tell the truth. My bad, Jeet, get you next time, when you swipe that phantom tag in the ninth inning. Make up a dirty lie. I don't care what you felt, he tagged you, so get back to the dugout. Try to distract him. Hey, who's that sitting next to Kate Hudson in the front row?
That, sir, is a Little League softball coach. You'll be seeing more of her type soon.
Umpire told Jeter he didn't need to be tagged out [Star-Ledger]
Jeter's running error leaves him at odds with Girardi [Daily News]