The job of an umpire is a lot more than just cleaning the plate,
waving your arms and talking loud. The umpire takes on a lot of
responsibility when he puts on that mask.
There are two kinds of umpires: chief and field. The chief,
or plate umpire is the big cheese, the guy in charge of calling strike or
ball, foul or fair and so on. The field umpires, which are not necessary
for the game, are conferred with from time to time. Because the plate
umpire is the important guy, his job is described below.
First of all, it is the umpire's job to make sure that the game is played according to the proper rules. This means that umpires have to memorize a huge set of rules and be able to cite the right one when he needs to make a call. The rules aren't just, "was that pitch a strike" or, "what is an out," but include numerous paths of action for what to call in unusual circumstances, such as, "what happens when a pop fly is caught after bouncing off of a wall?"
The umpire is given the burden of being the representative of his league and of all of baseball. This means always being on his best behavior, with risk of dishonoring an entire sport if he messes up!
The umpire also has to make sure discipline is maintained on the field during the game. This means breaking up those massive, bone-breaking rumbles between angry teams. This is not a fun part of the job.
The plate umpire has to confer with his partners at certain times upon request. This includes when a check swing is called a ball. This means that an ump's judgment can be questioned.
The umpire has to go through the whole game. The only way he can leave is because of injury or illness. That's a full nine-inning job with no breaks to drive his kids to school or anything.
The umpires, especially the field umpires, shouldn't carry on casual
conversations with the players.
It is very important for the umpire to be in the correct position
for every play. This is because players are allowed to question if the
umpire was in a good position to see the play as described by the official rules.
Well, there are a lot of rules that need to be followed, and a lot of responsibility put on the umpire, but he is also granted a lot of powers.
An umpire can disqualify any player or coach, for unsportsmanlike conduct
and can eject groundsmen, ushers, news reporters, spectators, anyone.
To translate this: He is the man.
Players and coaches can not argue an umpire's call on balls and strikes,
period. His word there is final, and unless they're in the mood to be
ejected, players have to shut up and take the call.
Unless asked to, another umpire will not criticize or try to change
the plate ump's decision when conferring. This is quite nice as your
buddies won't be stabbing you in the back.
An umpire can rule however he wishes on any point not specifically
covered in the rules. So when things get too strange, you can just make
it up as you go along.
And, as a final note, according to the rules of Major League Baseball, the thing you must always remember as an umpire ...
Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."