Five Minutes With … Brian Runge

Released on MyReferee: February 2012  |   Print  |   Email

Brian Runge

Brian Runge is the first third-generation umpire in major league history. His grandfather, Ed, umpired in the AL from 1954-70. His father, Paul, was an NL ump from 1973-97. Brian, 32, joined the ranks in 1999. He lives in San Diego.

Referee: Runge is a famous name in umpiring. What's it like to follow in your father's and grandfather's footsteps?

Runge: It's great, but there's a lot of pressure, too. I'm dealing with it so far. There's a lot to live up to, but I have no complaints.

Referee: What's it like being a younger umpire on a veteran crew?

Runge: The players test you. You fall into a thing where a young umpire has to prove himself. You have to be a little more aggressive, but you have to be smart about it at the same time. My feeling is, if I show the players respect, they'll respect me. If they see I'm out there working hard, if I'm busting my tail night after night, they'll be a little more forgiving if I kick one. Not a lot and not all of the time, but they'll let it go a little quicker.

Referee: During the season, do you keep in touch with umpires you worked with in the minors or on other crews?

Runge: In the old days, guys would call each other all of the time. Some of us young guys still call each other, picking each other's brains and talking about plays or things that happened on the field.

Referee: We've heard a little about the physical training pointers you're getting from Major League Baseball's fitness guru. How is that going?

Runge: They're trying to put us on a program, which is great for us. People don't know what life on the road is like. Being on the road and trying to eat three meals a day and trying to stay fit isn't easy. Part of the problem is that the food\ in the locker room isn't the best food in the world. It tastes good, but it's not the healthiest stuff in the world. For a night game, you eat lunch, get to the ballpark and work a three-hour game. When you're done, it's 10 o'clock and you're hungry. You have to be careful about what you eat. So they're trying to get the clubbies (umpire's room attendants) to have healthier food in there for us.

Referee: Do umpires work out at the ballparks or in the hotel health rooms?

Runge: We're now having an opportunity to work out on ballpark equipment. It was always there, but it wasn't always available to us before. That's great, because while some hotels have great workout rooms, others don't.

Referee: When you're struggling, particularly behind the plate, what do you do to straighten yourself out and get back on track?

Runge: I think back to the basics, the things I learned at the Wendelstedt school. I'm constantly talking to myself, reminding myself of the basics. If that doesn't work, I'll go to the crew chief if I can. The thing is, the guy who has the best look is the second base umpire, but it doesn't look good to have the second base umpire come running to the plate between innings, so you have to go to the guy at first or third. They can usually help. Some guys will venture out when they're struggling and other guys will internalize it. I like to ask. For instance, last year I was having trouble on plays at first base. I wasn't getting set. It's what we call "walking through the play." Mike Reilly talked to me about it. Again, I went back to what I learned in umpires school and it helped me work it out. That's the good thing about having gone to umpires school only a few years ago; I can still remember everything I learned there.

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