GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Baseball umpires from all across the Midwest made the trek to Grand Rapids on Saturday to learn from some of the best instructors in the area.
"I'm here to get better and to be honest, it's a great camp for any level of baseball," said Grand Rapids native, Blake Bizon.
The annual Bruce Doane umpire clinic on Saturday at Sullivan Field featured instructors with decades of experience, including Dave Buck and Mike Duffy, who have 70 years combined.
"I've worked everything from high school at the beginning, professionally through Triple A from 1984 to 1994 in the minor leagues," Buck said, "I have been working college baseball since then."
Bruce Doane Sr. started the training camp for amateur umpires in 1991 but passed away at the age of 72. His vision is now being carried on by these camps that he started.
The camp is for umpires like Blake Bizon, who has been umpiring low-level college baseball and high school baseball for the past five years says it's one-of-a-kind.
"The instructors are second to none," he added, "they come from all over the area, Midwest, all over, they do a great job bringing the guys together and teaching them."
The clinic brought in aspiring college baseball umpire, Jeff Clifford all the way from Akron, Ohio. A five hour drive simply to get better and learn from Buck and Duffy.
"A lot of the higher level assigners suggest to find an entry level clinic for collegiate umpires which the Doane camp has a great reputation, it's worth the drive," Clifford said, "it's great people with great instruction."
With actual travel baseball games going on, the umpires were being watched by the instructors who would keep notes and even voice recordings for them to learn from.
"People that don't umpire baseball don't know the complexities of working with one less umpire than bases you have on the field," Buck added, "so you're constantly moving to positions depending on how many runners are on base, where the ball is hit, are the folks headed to the right spots to give themselves the best angles at plays, we're also looking at instincts, too."
It's a chance for these umpires, who all have dreams of making it to Major League Baseball one day, to learn and continue working on their craft.
"Everybody wants to get to the next level and get to the bigger stage," Bizon added, "for me, it's just keep building and get better every year little by little."
Clifford says being an umpire is all about giving back to the sport that gave him so much.
"You get to a certain age in life and you just want to give back to the sport and stay involved and try to get better and give back to the game."
You can become an umpire or official by clicking here for more information.