Imagine a world in which baseball games are umpired by a judge and jury, and umpires are left out of the equation entirely. Drawback: each batter would be accompanied to the plate his attorney. Plus, game highlights by Nancy Grace. But overall I like it. The first step toward this utopia could come on May 11, when the St. Paul Saints play host to the Gary SouthShore Railcats in an American Association (independent) “Umpireless Game”.
You may know the Saints for such promotions as Larry Craig Bobblefoot Night, in which the team gave out toys that depicted a miniature bathroom stall with a bobbling foot visible beneath the door. That was in honor of Sen. Larry Craig, who was caught allegedly soliciting men for sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. That promotion was par for the course for the Saints, where Bill Murray is a co-owner and Mike Veeck, son of legendary MLB owner and innovator Bill Veeck, oversees promotions.
On May 11, the Saints will dispense with umpires and go instead with a judge — complete with robe — behind home plate. Also, a jury of Little Leaguers will vote on safe or out calls.
“Also, it wasn’t put this way in the press release, but I think we are going to make it more interesting and allow each catcher to call their own balls and strikes with the judge being able to overrule them,” Sean Aronson, Saints Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting, told SportsGrid. “I’m not sure any players know about this yet, as camps officially open May 4.”
Aronson seems to think they’ll like the idea.
The Saints actually came up with this concept last year, but have been waiting for the right moment to spring it. Hamline University, one of its longtime sponsors, just found out that its law program jumped up 25 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
“We threw this idea their way and they loved it,” Aronson said. “We figured with no umpires we could highlight the law and courtroom through various means on the field, i.e. the judge and jury, to help make the calls on the field.”
But what about the American Association of Independent Baseball? It’s not affiliated with Minor League baseball, it’s a real thing with a president an a board and all that stuff.
“We contacted the league office and spoke with both managers and they were immediately on board,” Aronson said. “As a matter of fact, the league gave us the idea of putting the judge behind the pitchers mound instead of behind home plate, so they wouldn’t have to wear a mask and chest protector. This way they would look more like a judge.”
Yes, it takes a village.
The best part will be the Little Leaguers, in my opinion.
“We have two unique seating areas called the Killebrew Box Seats which are located on field level next to both the first and third base dugouts,” Aronson said. “We will place two Little League teams of 12 kids in each location. We will probably give them signs that read “safe” and “out” to vote on calls. The judge can overrule them if he sees fit.”
The game should last about 13 hours.