Friday, October 26, 2018

Is That an Umpire or a Ninja?

I've watched a lot of baseball in my life, and not once had I ever thought about ninjas.

I was downstairs with the kids, watching the World Series. I've never really been much of a baseball fan, but I do enjoy the unpredictability of sports, so I'll often watch the playoffs or World Series.

My two oldest were watching a little bit with me, asking questions about the game. My son would ask, "Did they hit it?" when he heard the sound of the ball whacking into the catcher's mitt. He thought it sounded like a hit. I was trying to explain to them about three strikes and three outs and why they got more than three strikes if they hit foul balls, and some of the other oddities of baseball.

One of the things they weren't understanding very well was how it could be a strike if the batter didn't swing. To someone who has never watched baseball, the strike zone is kind of a hard thing to explain. (A lot of people who play the game don't understand it very well, either.)

After a while they had pretty much lost interest in the game, and were playing at other things. That's why I was more than a bit surprised when my oldest girl angrily yelled at the screen.

She yelled, in a scolding tone, "Ninja! You're not playing!"

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was saying and who she was saying it to. In the game, the situation was that there were two outs, and there were two strikes on the batter. The pitch went down the middle, but the batter didn't swing. The umpire called the pitch a strike, meaning both the player and his entire team were out for the inning.

When they call a third strike, umpires usually do so with an exaggerated motion, often punching the air with a clenched fist.

This action is what The Girl found so offensive. She saw a "ninja," a man dressed in all black and wearing a mask, inserting himself into the game and throwing punches in the air. "Ninja! You're not playing!" She wanted that ninja to sit down and leave those baseball players alone!

Ninja or Umpire?

Once I figured out what she was saying and why she was saying it, I busted out laughing. I had never before made the connection between baseball umpires and ninjas, but I could see why my daughter would make the mistake. They have a lot of similarities:

Baseball umpires wear all black. Ninjas wear all black. Baseball umpires wear masks. Ninjas often wear masks. Baseball umpires lurk around in the background, usually not wanting to be seen. Ninjas lurk around in the background, not wanting to be seen.

Of course, there are some differences:

Ninjas often carry weapons, like throwing stars or nunchucks. Baseball umpires don't usually wield throwing stars. (At least not that I know of.) Ninjas are usually athletic and quick. Baseball umpires are usually lumbering and often overweight.

Look very closely. Can you spot the ninja?

Still, the similarities are strong enough that I could see why The Girl thought that the umpire was a ninja.

It's probably a sad message on the state of baseball with today's youth that my daughter is much more familiar with ninjas than she is with baseball umpires.

It's also probably not good for ninjas that my daughter knows more about them than she does umpires. One of the trademarks of a ninja is supposed to be their stealth. And yet my daughter knows about as much about ninjas as she does about unicorns. (Ninjas could really use a PR firm that specializes in less publicity.)

So, the next time you see a baseball game, watch out for the ninjas. You never know when they might strike.

Edited from a post originally published on 11/3/2015.


  1. LOL on the ninja Joe. Never thought of it but true indeed.

    1. Thanks! I doubt I would have ever thought of it, either, if my daughter hadn't.