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Behind the Plate with Umpire Robert "Bob" Bennett: Perspective on Prep & College Softball



Tell us about yourself and umpiring experience.  

I have been umpiring on and off for many years. I got back into it about 2005 when my stepdaughter was playing Little League. I was watching her game and could not believe how the game was called or ran.


It was then I said I can do a lot better and started back doing Little League for District 51 here in California. I went to all the clinics and training I could find. I became a District Certified Umpire in 2012. I set my goal at that time to umpire at the Western Region Championships.


I started doing high school baseball and softball about 2013, and still do high school softball to this day.


In 2019 I was selected to do the Little League Softball Western Region Championship. I spent 10 days at Western Region in San Bernardino, CA. During that time along with 9 other umpires we were evaluated and 4 were chosen to do the final game. I was one of the four and was assigned First Base.


After my regional I got into doing travel baseball and softball because that is a year-round gig and I can work almost every weekend.


Granted the money is good, but umpiring is my hobby and keeps me feeling younger. I was even able to do the underground travel games during the COVID times. Teams were not told the locations of games until day prior to prevent us from being shut down.


I started working some National Softball Association (NSA) tournaments and was put in touch with a couple of guy who assign Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) and Triple Crown Series (TSC) games.


I was approached one weekend while doing a tournament by a guy who said he was a D1 Softball umpire and wanted my contact info to recommend me to do college softball. I was contacted in the Fall of 2022 to come and do some evaluation games and with the start of the 2023 college softball season I got to do 45 college games.


What are the biggest challenges in umpiring today?

The biggest challenges today are our numbers. There are not enough umpires to go around.

During the 2023 high school season there were games that did not happen due to no umpires to cover them. We even had to do Varsity Level games single man which takes away from the accuracy of potential calls on the field.


How do you handle inappropriate conduct and blatant rules violations? 

Just as all my training has taught me. Warn, Restrict, Eject. Sometimes it doesn’t happen in that order, but we will try to keep a coach in the game until he/she decides he/she doesn’t want to be there anymore, so we help him/her along his/her way.


You meet and converse with countless college coaches attending games. You hear a lot of the tea from the coaches. What can players do to help their overall perception as a prospect while on the field?

Be Coachable. Point Blank. A coach doesn’t want a player who can’t be coached to get better. Coaches are watching everything you do from the time you are stepping out of your car, how you treat your parents, the mood on your face, the way you carry your gear, how you meet and greet your coaches and teammates, how you warm-up, your conduct in the dugout, and of course how you perform on the field, both physically and mentally. They see things most people never think about. Recruiting a player is an investment and coaches want to make safe and highly productive investments.



What can parents do to not hurt their child’s recruitment value in front of college coaches watching games?

I know a lot of parents enjoying coaching their kids, but for many there comes a time (16u) when they need to get away from the Daddy or Mommy ball mentality. Most parents can only take their child so far and they need to back off and let someone with more experience and knowledge take over.


You have to ask yourself ... Is this kid attached to only her Dad/Mom coach ... can they be coached by another person that isn't their Dad/Mom ... are they independent and mature enough ...


Whether it’s a high school or travel coach, parents need to know when its time to be a parent again. Be the emotional support your kids need. Stress academic grades and being part of the overall TEAM.


Also, the way parents act/behave in the stands sends a very loud and clear message to the college coaches. Parents get recruited just as hard as the player and no reputable college coach wants to bring a toxic parent into their organization. Many parents show their true colors when showing disrespect to the umpiring crew. It is a bad look and will cause many college coaches concerns.


What are the biggest peeves you experience as an umpire?

Coaches who don’t take the time to learn the rule book. There are some great coaches out there, but there are also some outstanding coaches who take the time to learn and understand the rules.



What teams or overall organizations standout most as being most disciplined, professional, courtesies, etc and why?

OC Batbusters and Corona Angels for travel ball and all of the high school teams in the Antelope Valley.


What coaches have impressed you the most and why?

The college coaches I got to work for this past year have made a lasting impression on me.

They were hard on me during the games and made me think and get my nose back in the

rulebook. And I respect everyone of them. They will also be the first ones to admit they were

wrong or apologize for a comment they made during a game. After my college season I

personally Thanked each of them.


What major tournaments have you done and which one had the best overall atmosphere and vibes?

Got to do a 3 game playoff series for college this year. I have done 2 NSA Western World Series and USA Preps World Series. Just Finished PGF Nationals for 16u and 18u.

I think the PGF Nationals I just finished had the best vibe. Teams, coaches, and parents were

awesome!



NOTE: Umpire Bob Bennett served over 21 years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. Thank you for your service.



 

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Published by Elizabeth Perez, Legacy & Legends Softball, August 2, 2023

www.legacyandlegendssoftball.com

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