By Joe Kay
CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) – Those summer scorchers don’t make umpires melt down anymore.
Cooling technology that’s been used by the military for years has started helping umps get through those days when the temperatures flirt with triple-digits and the humidity makes handling home plate duties a sweaty job.
They can wear a vest with cooling packs on the front and back, or slip a pack into a special pocket in their shirt when they’re behind the plate.
They’re a lot cooler these summer days, which is no small thing. Unlike players, who can escape the sun and duck into the air conditioned clubhouse between innings, the men in black don’t get a break.
“It can really be the difference-maker in finishing the game when the conditions are that difficult,” 13-year veteran umpire Bill Welke said.
It’s a vast improvement over the days when umpires got so dehydrated on broiling afternoons that their fingers would wrinkle. All they had back then to fight off the oppressive heat was sips of water between innings, a soaked cabbage leaf under their hat and quick dousing with ammonia water between innings.
It’s especially tough for plate umpires, who have to wear that protective equipment and do more than 300 knee bends per game, making a fraction-of-an-inch decision on each pitch. A clear head is needed. And there’s no time to duck into air conditioning and cool down.1 2 3 next >>