Spring training, breezy and noncompetitive, tends to present certain spectacles that would have no business in regular season baseball. Hooters ball girls. Life-sized Al Roker Yankees Weebles. The Royals in first place. But in yesterday's Angels-Brewers game, something happened that we've never ever seen—or at least not since tee ball.
In the top of the first inning, home plate umpire Seth Buckminster caught a deflected pitch in the hand. It was broken; he'd have to leave the game. Anthony Johnson retreated to the umpires' room to change into Buckminster's gear, and that left Jim Joyce and Tim McClelland and the prospect of a lengthy delay, early in a late March exhibition that no one really wanted to be there for.
"Just keep it moving," McClelland said. "We didn't want people to sit. Both managers agreed to it, and I knew it wasn't going to be long. This way we didn't have to sit and could keep the game going."
McClelland lined up a few steps in back of the pitcher (shifting to his left after the shortstop complained about his obstructed view), and proceeded to call the game from there.
For Brewers starter Wily Peralta, it was slightly unnerving.
"I don't remember the last time I was pitching like that — probably Little League when I was, like, 13 years old," said the Dominican-born Peralta. "It just forgot about it and [focused on] the hitters. It felt a little weird when he called, 'Ball!' behind me. It was like, 'Oh, God!'"
McClelland called balls and strikes for three-and-change batters from his unusual vantage point, happily scurrying off when Johnson emerged in the bottom of the inning to take his spot behind the catcher.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke enjoyed the diversion, and declared that the view from behind the pitcher is even better than from behind the plate. For calling high-low, sure, maybe. We think Roenicke just enjoyed McClelland, the most hitter-friendly ump in baseball, squeezing Angels starter Jason Vargas from a different angle. And sure enough, Rickie Weeks went deep in the final at-bat of McClelland's brief experiment.