Aussie travels far for Umpire Camp
Official from Down Under learning from the best in the bigs
COMPTON, Calif. -- The participants in Major League Baseball's inaugural Umpire Camp have traveled from many areas of the country and beyond to gain insight from the league's top officials.One camper traveled so far that he seemed to gain time during his journey. Geoff Robertson came all the way from the Gold Coast of Australia to participate in the camp. He lives in a coastal suburb called Surfers Paradise, about an hour south of Brisbane. He left Australia a few days prior to the start of the camp, allowing him to adjust to the time change once he arrived. "I got in at 7 o'clock last Friday morning, which because of the time difference, it was five hours before I left," Robertson said. "I left at midday on Friday, so crossing the International Dateline, I arrived [in Los Angeles] 7 a.m. the same day." The camp lasts until Sunday, and Robertson is planning to stay in California a few more days before he heads home. "I leave on Tuesday, and then when I cross the International Dateline, it becomes Thursday -- so I lose Wednesday," he said. "So I picked up two Fridays, and I'll lose a Wednesday." Robertson, 60, works for the Australian Baseball Federation as the technical officials and competitions manager. He is involved with the federation's umpire-development program and with national baseball competitions as well. He's been involved with the umpiring side of baseball since he was almost 16, when he umpired junior-level games. "I was playing junior baseball, and we had an age-group cutoff of 16 years of age," he said. "Simply because I was born in January, I didn't make the cutoff, so I had to play senior baseball. The rest of my friends were playing junior baseball. I went down to watch a game, and the umpire didn't turn up. I went out and did it, and I kept on [with umpiring]." Robertson wanted to attend the Major League camp because he felt it would be a great opportunity to learn from the big-league umpires. "Linking into the Major League guys is excellent," he said. "The way they work off each other as a team is really good -- when one has something to say, he just comes in and just continues on in the same vein, and the same consistency. "I think the Minor League guys are great for their enthusiasm, and Mark [Letendre, MLB's director of umpire medical services], on the physical health side of things, is great." Robertson said that the camp in California is ideal for people who may only be able to come over for a short period of time but want to learn as much as they can. "We would bring people over from Australia," he said. "At the moment we send guys to the Jim Evans Professional Umpire School [in Florida]. It goes for five weeks. We've got people at home that can't afford that time off work. ... For what we would outlay to bring, say, one person to the pro school for five weeks, we could probably bring three here." He said that he would be happy to have MLB umpires come to Australia as well, and he plans to use what he learns at the camp to benefit umpires in his program when he returns home. "I'm very impressed with this," he said. "It's something that we've got to get into our program, for sure."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.