Umpiring gives baseball player a new perspective

February 1, 2020 — by Anjali Nuggehalli

Sophomore Derek Hsu perches behind home plate as the batter stares back at the pitcher. As a n umpire, Hsu has to have quick reflexes and a strong attention span as he calls balls and strikes and makes other vital determinations. 

 For the past four years, Hsu has been a baseball umpire for the Triple A Saratoga Little League, which holds its games at Congress Springs Park. , Hsu, a member of the JV baseball team, wanted to be an umpire for years. 

“When I was in Little League, I’d always look up to the older kids that were our umpires,” Hsu said. “It’s really great to be able to serve the community while pursuing my passion.”

Hsu alternates between being a base umpire, who determines whether players are safe or out, and a plate umpire, who calls strikes and balls. Despite the young age level he umps, 10- and 11-year-olds, Hsu still feels pressure from the players’ parents to make the correct call.

“Parents try to pressure me into making the call that benefits their kid’s team,” Hsu said. “I’ve learned to be confident in my decisions and stick with my initial gut feeling.”  

Hsu recalls learning this lesson from a memorable game two years ago, when he was umping a playoff game with the chief umpire. The commissioner of the league also happened to be the coach of one of the teams in the game. 

After Hsu made an obstruction call, or player interference, the coach came up to him and insisted that he had made the wrong decision.

“I was new to being an umpire, so I listened to him and changed the call,” Hsu said. “It was obviously the wrong decision, but because he pressured me to make the change, I felt obligated to listen. Looking back, I realize that I should have trusted myself initially because he was just trying to take advantage of me for his own team’s success.” 

Hsu also feels that his experience as an umpire has led to him having a better understanding of the game, as he can see the game from more than just one team’s point of view. 

Because Hsu plays baseball at a high level, he’s used to seeing players around him disagree with the umpire's calls and only favor umpire decisions that benefit their own team. 

“Umpiring has allowed me to see the game from a broader perspective,” Hsu said. “I’ve learned that the umpire is just doing the best they can to make the fairest calls. In the moment, it may not be the best call, but it’s ultimately their decision and out of the players’ hands”