The days of Cubs mental skills coach John Baker holding an armchair cushion between him and the catcher as he calls balls and strikes may be over.
Professional umpires will soon take over the responsibility of calling the Cubs’ intrasquad scrimmages. Crew chief Tony Randazzo and his umpire crew will embed themselves at Cubs Summer Camp, manager David Ross announced Sunday.
“I think it’s going to affect the mental skills department too,” Ross said, laughing. “Yeah, I’m excited about getting real umpires up here. Bake’s been doing a good job for us, but every chance we get an opportunity to turn up the dial and make it as game-like as possible, the better.”
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From his playing days as a catcher, Ross is familiar with Randazzo. Ross said he’s excited about using the umpires as a “sounding board" for questions.
The introduction of MLB umpires, which is expected to be implemented across the league, is also set up to give umpires practice before the regular season.
The Cubs’ earliest scrimmages, as well as Sunday’s intrasquad game, featured catchers calling balls and strikes, which Ross called, “fun and unique.”
“Being in that situation in the past,” the former catcher said, laughing, “you’re not going to make anybody happy when you punch them out.”
In the middle of the week, Baker took over umpiring duties. Baker has Tier 1 clearance – the Cubs deemed his role a priority, especially in the midst of a pandemic – so he has on-field access.
Tonight I became the only man to bat, pitch, catch, and umpire Major League Baseball at Wrigley Field. https://t.co/NZ1CIGhPnq— John Baker (@manbearwolf) July 10, 2020
“Well, after umpiring 5 ½ (innings) tonight,” Baker posted to Twitter on Thursday, “I can say that that job is much harder than it looks on TV. I’m exhausted.”