Well-attended BASU AGM looks at how to make umpires better

Mon 20 Feb 2017

More than 20 members of the British Association of Softball Umpires attended the 2017 BASU AGM on Saturday 11 February in Bristol to celebrate the organisation’s 25th anniversary and to make plans for the 2017 season.

Official business included the election of officers for 2017, questions on financial and other reports, and a decision not to raise BASU fees for slowpitch tournaments in 2017, though it’s possible that fees for fastpitch plate and field umpires could be reviewed.

The meeting then discussed a number of other topics, including umpire courses in the UK, ESF fastpitch and slowpitch umpire courses in Europe, improving the accessibility of information in the BASU section on the BSF website, increasing the use of BASU’s Facebook page, a new slowpitch-only Rulebook in preparation by the WBSC and requirements for BASU umpires to work in Europe this coming summer.

The latter part of the meeting was taken up with an excellent discussion on how to improve umpiring standards at all levels through a more rigorous programme of mentoring, assessment, rotation and – eventually – grading.


Reports submitted by BASU Officers were reviewed during the meeting.

Umpire-in-Chief’s Report.  Jes Sandhu’s report as BASU Umpire-in-Chief noted that the organisation provided umpires for 32 UK tournaments in 2016, totalling 51 tournament days, with 16 different Crew Chiefs.  There were few problems, and feedback from organisers was generally positive.  Most games at BSF National Co-ed Championships were covered with two-umpire crews.  BASU also sent a number of umpires to ESF tournaments in Europe, including five to the ESF Slowpitch Super Cup in Austria.

Jana McCaskill and Bridget Cameron represented BASU in ESF fastpitch tournaments in 2016, both achieving high marks, and Chris Moon and Pete Saunders officiated at the WBSC Slowpitch World Cup in Plant City, Florida last November.  This was Chris Moon’s last international tournament, as he had announced his retirement from that side of the sport earlier in the summer.

Regarding BASU’s 25th anniversary, Jes wrote:

“This year we celebrate 25 years of BASU.  Those of us that were there at the start can probably remember the debacle of finding reliable umpires for all tournaments and the days when we were constantly being let down by overseas umpires when we were never sure of them turning up or whether they were even umpires.

“But over the last 25 years we have set up comprehensive training courses for all levels, supplied umpires nationally and internationally and increased our membership to over 60 fully-qualified umpires.  Before BASU the bulk of our umpires were based in the London and the South but we now have significant numbers across the country, with the East Midlands and Manchester Leagues showing the biggest increase in membership in recent years.  Our Committee is also more geographically representative of our sport.

“I very much doubt I will be here for the next 25 years, but I can honestly say that our first 25 years have been a very enjoyable journey and the envy of other umpiring organisations.”

Training Officer’s Report.  Chris Moon reported that nine two-day BASU Qualification Courses (with 72 trainees) and three one-day courses were held in 2016, along with an informal fastpitch course run by Bridget Cameron and Jana McCaskill. 

No Advanced Courses were held in 2016, but two such courses – one in the North and one in the South – are planned for 2017, and a practical component may be added along with classroom sessions.  Advanced courses will be offered to League Umpire-in-Chiefs, umpires who call more than 40 tournament games in a season, umpires who have already done the course and want to repeat it, umpires who have done three or more two-day Qualification Courses and new umpires that could benefit from it, as recommended by League U-i-Cs.  For more information on Advanced Courses, contact Chris Moon.  [chrisjmoon@hotmail.co.uk]

Thirty-nine umpire assessments were carried out in 2016 compared to 15 the year before.

Treasurer’s Report.  BASU Treasurer Steve Getraer reported on the financial status of the Association and told the meeting that there were no unusual items or financial issues. 

He then stressed that the 2017 version of the Crew Chief Report Form needs to be used when submitting requests for payment, otherwise the form will be returned and payments will be delayed.  The correct Report Forms can be obtained from BASU Secretary Pete Saunders and will be available on the BASU Facebook page.

Fastpitch Officer’s Report.  BASU Fastpitch Officer Bridget Cameron reported on an “amazing 2016” for fastpitch umpiring, in which the Great Britain Fastpitch League (GBFL) had more teams and more games, 10 participants attended a fastpitch umpiring course, and the number of umpires working in the GBFL increased.

For this year, Bridget has offered to run a special rules clinic during GBFL play on topics such as obstruction, interference, the use of the flex rule, the proper way to make substitutions and what coaches can and can’t question, with the aim of increasing rule knowledge on the part of players, coaches and parents.

Such a course might also be offered at the 2018 Coach Summit.

Kit Officer’s Report.  BASU Kit Officer Andy Chase reported that although 2016 started with a good overall quantity of uniform stock, demand soon outstripped supply in the more popular sizes.  In addition, the manufacturers have ceased production of BASU’s existing polo shirt design, so a new supplier and a new design will need to be found.

BASU’s 25th anniversary patches will be worn on shirtsleeves by all BASU umpires this season.

BASU Officers

The Officers that will make up the BASU Committee in 2017 will be exactly the same as in 2016, except that Kate Moon has stepped down as Membership Officer and will not be replaced, as the role is largely covered by BASU’s Secretary and Training Officer, and the Committee decided that there was no longer a need for a Website Liaison position.

BASU Officers for 2017 will be:

Executive Officers
Umpire in Chief:  Jes Sandhu
Assistant Umpire in Chief:  Lesley Morisetti
Secretary:  Pete Saunders
Treasurer:  Steve Getraer
Training Officer:  Chris Moon
Secretary:  Pete Saunders
Treasurer:  Steve Getraer

General Officers
Social Media Officer:  Jana McCaskill
Fastpitch Officer:  Bridget Cameron
Kit Officer:  Andy Chase
BASU Rep on the BSF Executive:  Chris Moon

Following the confirmation of Officers for 2017, the meeting then discussed a number of other topics.

ESF courses

The ESF is running a Fastpitch Umpire Course in Prague from 24-29 May and a Slowpitch Umpire Course at the Windmill Classic Tournament from 28 June-2 July in Almere, Netherlands. 

Umpires to attend these courses will need to be nominated shortly, and BASU will pay half the costs of attendance.

BASU section on BSF website

Some people have struggled to access material in the BASU section on the BSF website because the site has not been adapted to tablets and other handheld devices.

The answer may be to move the information to the BASU Facebook page with a link from the BSF website.

BASU Facebook page

BASU Social Media Officer Jana McCaskill will look to enhance the use of BASU’s Facebook page, with more posts from BASU members, and a section on game scenarios posted once a month.

However, there will no longer be a regular BASU Newsletter, as Kate Moon, who produced the Newsletter, has stepped back from the Committee.

New Rulebook

New Rulebooks for softball are being developed, and will be considered and approved at the WBSC Congress in October 2017 and then adopted for the 2018 season. 

For the first time, there will be a separate Rulebook for slowpitch softball, and Britain’s Mike Jennings is heavily involved in its preparation.

Umpire requirements in Europe

Jes Sandhu told the meeting that six GB teams may be in European competitions this year, requiring BASU to fill at least that many umpire slots at various tournaments.  In addition, because Ireland no longer has any ESF-qualified umpires, they have asked if British umpires can cover their slots (Ireland is sending two teams to European competitions), with Ireland covering the cost.

The question will be whether BASU can find enough umpires to cover our requirements and Ireland’s.

Umpire improvement

The last part of the meeting was taken up with a constructive discussion on how to improve the quality of umpiring across the UK.

There was general agreement that more continuous assessment across tournaments is needed to really understand umpires’ strengths and weaknesses, and that more information on this from League U-i-Cs would be useful.  The problem is to find more senior umpires who can assess rather than call games, but BASU is willing to pay the costs involved to achieve this at a few key tournaments over the coming season.

More de-briefs with umpires after games or tournaments would also be useful, but there are practical limitations on the ability to do this.

What should be possible, however, is more rotation of umpires around different grades of play so that new umpires are not always stuck with C-grade play.

The key to umpire improvement, then, is more mentoring and assessment, rotation of umpires so they experience different grades of play – and ultimately, grading of umpires, which BASU may try to bring in for the 2018 season. 

Meanwhile, a unit on assessment can be built into the Advanced Umpire Course so that more umpires are capable of doing assessments.

BASU may also institute a system of awards to umpires for particularly outstanding performance.

And on this theme, Jes Sandhu told the meeting that Bridget Cameron had received the BSUK Umpire of the Year Award at the organisation’s recent Coach Summit in Birmingham, beating out veteran baseball umpire Darrin Muller.

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