June 19, 2016

As I gear up for another summer of umpiring dozens of meaningful Little League games (well, they are meaningful to the 12 year olds playing in them!), I started thinking about why I umpire as my hobby…and it seemed like an appropriate time to update a blog post from a couple of years ago on that subject.

One of my favorite books is by the great baseball writer Tom Boswell…it’s called How Life Imitates the World Series.

I think I want my next book to be “How Life Imitates Direct Marketing”…but that’s a bigger topic for a different day.
For today we will keep it tighter and just deal with baseball.

(Note: In the next week or two I will send you a link to pre-order my first book, The Advertising Solution).

If you haven’t read the foreword previously, you can read it here.

But today’s post is about baseball…and direct marketing…what else is there?
If you scroll down my site at www.briankurtz.me, you will see a picture of me umpiring a baseball game…and you may have wondered what that is all about…
And here’s a photo just taken last week…at the championship game of my local Little League (and it was a capacity crowd of dozens of fans, none of whom came to see me)!

Umpiring is one of my other passions beyond direct marketing.

The discussion about how those two things could be related in any way began when by buddy and copywriter (and copywriter coach) Kevin Rogers asked me the following question:

“Why would ANYONE want to be an umpire? And how do you see it relating to what you do in other areas in your life?”

Great questions.

My quick answer was that I know my wife likes me more with my mask on…but I guess that’s not a great thing…so I needed to probe further.

And after I lost 35 pounds three years ago (and actually looked thin even with my chest protector on!), I told people:

“Everyone dislikes the umpire…and everyone REALLY dislikes a fat umpire.”

But that still didn’t answer Kevin’s question.

The lure of umpiring started when I was around 13 year old when I was too old to play on the smaller little league field…and the major league size field didn’t seem to lend itself to a fat, slow kid who couldn’t reach second base from home plate with a throw (I was a catcher).

But I love baseball…the logic of the game, the way all of the rules just “make sense”–and the fact that there is no clock.

So I became an umpire at 16 years old and have done it my entire life…and I hope to umpire at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA one day.

In 2013 I umpired home plate in a semi-final game at the Little League Eastern Regional (one step from Williamsport) and it was on ESPN.

Forget 15 minutes of fame…I had two hours on national TV calling balls and strikes!

And hopefully I will get to Williamsport while I am still upright…I am well aware the clock is ticking.

Back to Kevin’s question…and I have a few answers why I love to umpire baseball:

1) I love the focus it takes to do it well…and how it adds to increased focus in other areas of my life

When I’m on the field, calling 100 to 200 balls and strikes for 2 hours, knowing that missing any one of them gets me yelled at, is a challenge I relish.

And when I get home from a game and get back on the computer or start doing some work or I’m hanging out with my family, my focus on THAT is so heightened…and I bet all of you have something in your life that enables you to increase focus (e.g. meditation, yoga, skiing etc.).

If you don’t, I highly recommend it…and if you pick something where you can’t get yelled at, that might be a better choice than what I chose…just sayin’…

2) I also love creating order from chaos

This is something that my mentor Marty Edelston lived by. He even bought art work that expressed that concept on numerous occasions.

I don’t buy art work…but umpiring fills the need for me in this area.

I’m sure most of you strive to create order from chaos in your life…and think about activities that might help you become even better at it across the board.

But how does umpiring connect to direct marketing?

It actually does in a big way.

3) It’s all about customer service and fulfillment

After I umpire a great game, the best case scenario is that I was hardly noticed and someone says “nice game ump” or “good job back there.”

No one came to the game to see me (as I said previously)…and no one cares about me until I blow a call (for the most part).

Maybe if I get hit with a foul ball in a sensitive place there will be some care and concern…but they would just as well get a replacement umpire quickly rather than spend much time figuring out how I can get my wounds addressed…trust me…

I thought about that idea that “no one cares what I do until I screw up” in relation to a critical area of direct marketing which I talk about often…customer service (and fulfillment).

If anyone in marketing today thinks customer service and fulfillment are not “marketing functions,” they are missing the boat.

And making sure those people in your organization are well paid and well taken care of should never be overlooked.

But alas…the fulfillment manager, on his or her best day, gets the equivalent of “nice game ump.”

If there are no problems, those folks are invisible to us…but when they “blow a call,” all hell breaks loose.

I think it takes a certain kind of personality to umpire…or to be a fulfillment manager/customer service representative.

Having pride in giving “exquisite service” and not being noticed when you are doing a perfect job is often the most rewarding thing you can do in life.

You spend more time pursuing excellence than praise…and I believe the praise eventually comes to those who are patient.

I believe that in the long run, excellence is always noticed and rewarded…at least that’s what I’ve observed.

The wonderful telephone operator who solves a customer’s problem behind the scenes and saves an order or avoids a cancellation, probably made the day of someone they will never meet…and the folks who I know who do that job, find so much satisfaction in “saving the day” whether it’s noticed by one or many.

Order out of chaos.

I have another post that will be a good sequel to this one called “The return on returns”…I’ll post that soon.

In your life, it’s OK to simply strive for a “nice game ump.”

And you will get the accolades when you are not expecting them if you live this way.

While I will not expect an assignment to Williamsport before I’m no longer upright, I will also never stop working towards it…just looking for “nice game ump” at the highest level I can possibly achieve at this point.

If I get to Williamsport my reward will have nothing to do with being on T.V. for two weeks straight but it will have everything to do with focus…creating order from chaos…and it will be the ultimate reward for creating  a ton of “customer satisfaction” consistently and over a long period of time.

I encourage you to do the same in all aspects of your life as well…business and personal.





About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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