May 23, 2014

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 first e-book to be “How Life Imitates Direct Marketing”…but that’s a topic for a different day.

But today’s post is about baseball…and direct marketing…what else is there?

If you scroll down my site at, you will see a picture of me umpiring a baseball game…and you may have wondered what that is all about…

Umpiring is one of my other passions beyond direct marketing.

A copywriter friend asked me the other day:

“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.

I know my wife likes me more with my mask on…but I guess that’s not a great thing…nor does that answer the questions.

And after I lost 35 pounds last year (and actually looked thin even with my chest protector on), I told people:

“Everyone dislikes the umpire…and everyone REALLY dislikes a fat umpire.” Still doesn’t answer the questions.

The lure of umpiring started when I was around 13 years old when I no longer could 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.

Last year, 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 pitches! 🙂

I also love umpiring for the focus it takes to do it well.

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 hang 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 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’…

I also love creating order from chaos…something that my mentor Marty 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.

And I not only try to create that kind of order on the baseball field…I strive for it at the office and in every aspect of my personal life.

But how does umpiring connect to direct marketing? It actually does in a big way.

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…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.

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.

Based on that, I will simply strive for a “nice game ump” after every game I do…

And I will not expect an assignment to Williamsport before I’m in a wheelchair…but I will never stop working towards it…

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…I will know I am there because I created a ton of “customer satisfaction” consistently and over a long period of time.

Although I hope you will all watch me on T.V. when it happens! 🙂



P.S. So…the “Titans of Direct Response” I’ve mentioned in my other emails is ready to be unveiled…I will be sending you a special e-mail next week telling you all about it…and I will give you an exclusive opportunity to attend. This will be the first thing I am “selling” to you but I think it will be the most important direct response educational event ever…the lineup of speakers is unbelievable…and I really hope to meet many of you there. I am so appreciative of the readers of this weekly post and the feedback you have sent me has been so rewarding. I read everything you send and try to respond when I can. Thank you everyone.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

  1. Hi, Brian, I’ve enjoyed your article, “When Being Invisible Is Golden” very much. I’m not a baseball fan though, being from Nigeria, and not exposed to the game from early age.

    But the comparison of the umpire to the customer service agent or fulfillment manager roles and as direct marketing functions is just so excellent.

    I especially love these statements and have tweeted them to bookmark them:

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

    2. 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.

    I also love the personality–unpretentious, unaffected–in your writing.

    Thanks for this bit of education.

  2. Hi Brian – Love this post. I grew up being a baseball catcher through high school and American Legion ball, and today I am a successful copywriter. I can really relate to this post. Great job. I was the type of catcher who maintained a running dialogue with the ump the entire game. Thought it might get some calls slightly off the edges for my pitcher…and I thought it might help me out when I was at bat. People ask me how I get motivated to write every morning, and I always tell them, “Two cups of coffee and two big wiffs of my old high school catcher’s glove. It still smells like baseball.” Thanks for the post! Casey Demchak

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