MLB umpiring

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Fans, players, coaches and officials all keep their eyes on one thing: the game.

But during the Bats' home series against the Charlotte Knights, there was one person who wasn't paying much attention to the game. Instead, his focus was on the umpires.

"We're an in-between between the Commissioner's Office and the Major League umpires," Cris Jones said.

Jones is one of Major League Baseball's five Umpire Supervisors. He travels the country watching games and evaluating officials' performances.

"My particular role has kind of evolved into Triple A coordinator, where I'm coordinating our staff to cover the Triple A umpires so that we can give a decision to the office when it comes time for hire," Jones said.

It also means meeting with the umpires between games and offering critiques.

"The first thing that pops out is field presence," Jones said. "Does he have an authoritative field presence? But, also, approachable. And then it becomes what we would call the 'Bible of Umpiring.' We're looking for instincts, reactions to plays, how they handle situations with on-field personnel. And obviously, the rules and interpretation application on the field."

Starting out as an umpire himself back in 1986, Jones has seen the evolution of umpiring -- for better or worse.

"I don't know if I could do it today," Jones said. "I really don't. I never umpired with replay. I never umpired with a computer strike zone second-guessing my every call. I would hope I'm smart enough to adapt to today's game, but technology has changed completely."

It's not just how the game is called that's changed. It's also the people calling it.

"It's a different umpire we have today than when I was in the game," Jones said. "We're a lot more educated today. The majority of my Triple A umpires that I go down and watch have bachelor's degrees and quite a few have master's degrees."

The education continues for the umpires. Along with evaluations from supervisors like Jones, they can now go back and watch their calls on video, even look at generated scores of their pitch calls. All in an effort to continue improving umpiring.

"You've got to have law enforcement, somebody to enforce the laws and enforce the rules," Jones said. "The integrity is very important."

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