I was coaching my kids' 10-12 game yesterday afternoon and we were short one player, so I had my youngest daughter play (She's 8 and technically has 2 more years in her current league which is all pitching machine). In the 10-12 league, the first 3 innings are kid-pitch (with a paid umpire) and the last 3 innings are the machine. Obviously there is quite a difference in the speed and accuracy of the machine v.s. the pitchers. Not to mention the fact that balls and strikes are called when the pitchers are out there and then with the machine, everything is a strike and they must swing at everything. The kids are doing a great job staying in against the pitchers and learning the difference between a ball and a strike. However, when they switch to the machine in the 4th inning, I have several kids taking pitches (the machine is not always accurate and these pitches were balls). The pitches are called strikes and the kids are confused. Not sure how to answer the kids other than to tell them that those are the rules we're playing by.
In any case, back to the 2nd inning ... In her first at-bat ever against a live pitcher in a game, my younger daughter took one healthy cut at a strike and missed. However, I was very proud of her that she stayed in against the 12 year-old pitcher. Having never played in a game where she had the option to not swing at balls, I wasn't sure if she would take any pitches. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw here leave some pitches that were way up and she drew a walk.
In the second inning the umpire (~50 year old guy) called a few very low ankle high pitches for 3rd strikes and my players just looked down at me with looks of confusion as they walked back to the dugout. I just told them no biggie and sometimes the call doesn't go their way. I do realize that it's just 10-12. The next inning however, 3 more batters go down on called 3rd strikes at the ankles ending with my younger daughter. Now these pitches were not even close. Now, I wasn't concerned with the score at all; I just want my players to know that they're doing the right thing not swinging at these pitches and they should have reached base and not been back in the dugout. Sooo... from the 3rd base coaches box, I mentioned to the umpire, "C'mon blue, they can't swing at those pitches. They're at their ankles." He didn't even look up but just held his hand at the level he thought the pitches were at. As I walked back towards the dugout I said, " No, they're nowhere near there and it's not right to call them out on those pitches when they did the right thing not swinging. That's horrible" (in a normal voice). I thought it was over and I started helping my catcher when he started yelling (yes - YELLING!) that I was being warned for unsportsmanlike conduct and would be ejected if I continued "yelling" (I and everyone else at the park can assure you that I was not yelling at all). I walked over to him and continued talking to him about why I was concerned with his strike zone and how we're trying to teach these kids, but he just continued to yell. At this point I just walked back to my dugout. Now, I can assure you that I am not the type of player or coach to argue with an umpire. I have never been thrown out of a game and can count on one hand the amount of times I've even had a comment for an umpire as a player or a coach. Everyone at the game (on both sides) was surprised and agreed that I had not "yelled" anything. I was talking in a normal voice the whole time.
At the end of the game, I did go up to the umpire and shook his hand and discussed the situation with him. He had cooled down, but still said that I was yelling. I told him that I wasn't but that next time, I will walk over to him instead of discussing the situation from the coaches box. It ended on a cordial note. I was just surprised to see such a short fuse on a 10-12 umpire. I was really just concerned that the kids (at least 5 called 3rd strikes) weren't getting rewarded for not swinging at bad pitches)
Did I deal with this incorrectly? How would you have handled it? Do you have any similar situations that you were involved in as a player/coach/umpire?