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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — John Behrend doesn’t just love baseball — he speaks the language.

Behrend, 59, has umpired amateur ballgames in the Daegu region for years, finding time after his day job as a civilian Army employee. But he often wished he could get formal umpire training.

“Maybe there was something I could learn that I was doing wrong and I could do better,” said Behrend, a supply officer with Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Camp Henry.

Then, not long ago, a South Korean acquaintance told him about the KBO Umpire School, operated by the Daegu Umpire’s Association. He began Jan. 6 and graduated Jan. 28.

Behrend speaks “very little” Korean, but even though the training was entirely in that language, he was able to keep up.

“I have that secret weapon,” he joked. “I understand the baseball language.”

The students met Saturdays from 3 to 8 p.m. mostly for indoor classroom work. On Sundays they did the hands-on field work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The training covered the philosophy of the game, went over the rule book “extensively” and taught the mechanics of correct physical positioning needed to umpire home plate or a given base. They learned the various calls — ball, strike, safe, out and many others.

For proper stance, the school taught “the Gerry Davis position,” named for the longtime Major League Baseball umpire, Behrend said.

“Gerry Davis position is where you are square behind the catcher,” he said. “If you had a left-handed batter, your left foot would be pretty well even with the catcher. And your right foot would be back. … Since I’m right-handed, my left hand would be tucked into my stomach with a fist. And my hand that I’d call the strike with would be tucked behind my right thigh.

“Your body has to be squared,” Behrend said. “If it’s turned any way, then you’re not going to get a correct view of the pitch. And if you are canted and not square you will not pick up that low pitch on the corner of the plate. The bottom of your mask should be level with the catcher’s helmet, so you’re not hidden behind the catcher.”

For his final test he was assigned the role of “plate umpire,” calling balls and strikes at home plate for a full inning in a game between two Daegu-area amateur teams, the Blue Birds and the Onions.

“Everybody got a chance at it,” Behrend said. “That was part of your grade, to see if you really learned the proper mechanics.

“I did very well,” he said. “In all my marks, I had all fives except one. … Five was max.”

For the past seven years, he’s umpired for the Army’s Youth Services team at Camp Walker and for various South Korean amateur teams. He’s looking forward to doing that again this season.

“I’m very proud of what I did there and I think as an umpire this year, when I put on the uniform … I think you’ll see a difference in the calls and how I position myself,” he said.

“It’ll benefit me in the long run, and it’ll benefit the game,” Beh- rend said.


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