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Umpires starting to come back together

©Associated Press
February 24, 2003

Umpires took the first step in reconciling the differences that emerged after a failed mass resignation more than three years ago.

Umpires loyal to the old union and the new one met for the first time last weekend in Clearwater, beginning the process to bring the 25 holdout members into the World Umpires Association.

"It was amazing," John Hirschbeck, the head of the new union, said Sunday. "Nobody knew what to expect. Some emotions were brought out, but not in a negative way. It was a really positive meeting. It was very constructive to have people talking to each other."

The mass resignation in July 1999 was orchestrated by Richie Phillips' Major League Umpires Association as a bargaining tactic, but it collapsed when many American League umpires refused to go along.

Twenty-two umpires lost their jobs when the plan failed. Twelve have been reinstated. Phillps' union was replaced by a new union led by umps who opposed the mass resignations.

"The biggest thing I felt coming out of the meeting was the feeling and need to be together again," Hirschbeck said. "People explained that people were hurt by what happened. In the big picture, people saw the need to put personal feelings behind for the good of the profession and our group of major-league umpires. We need to try to get together and all be on the same page."

The umpires also were given a presentation on a computer system baseball management has proposed to use to evaluate umpires' strike zones.

Umpires objected last year to the use of the Questec system on a trial basis, and owners proposed to the union this month that their ball-and-strike calls be measured against the computer's tracking of calls.

CARDINALS: Outfielder J.D. Drew (knee) and pitchers Jason Isringhausen (shoulder), Chris Carpenter (elbow), Gene Stechschulte (shoulder) and Scotty Layfield (shoulder) will not be ready to play in Thursday's opener against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

DIAMONDBACKS: All-Star infielder Junior Spivey signed a two-year contract. Spivey led the team with a .301 batting average, 103 runs scored, 162 hits and 34 doubles last season.

DODGERS: Chairman Bob Daly is expected to arrive in Vero Beach on Tuesday and plans to meet with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax about his decision to cut ties with the organization.

MARLINS: Infielder Andy Fox, who had a screw removed from his finger Thursday, took batting practice for the first time.

METS: Jose Reyes didn't participate in running or fielding drills but did complete a batting practice session. The 19-year-old shortstop of the future is recovering from a pulled quadriceps, and the Mets limited his work as a precaution.

RANGERS: Closer Ugueth Urbina finally arrived at camp after being delayed by changes in his flight plans from Venezuela. Urbina is fresh off a 40-save season with the Red Sox and his second All-Star appearance.

ROSE WILL ACCEPT: If the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame opens its doors to him, Pete Rose will be more than happy to walk in. Baseball's career hits leader -- who spent part of the 1984 season with Montreal and got his 4,000th career hit with the Expos -- will learn today if he has been admitted to the Canadian shrine in St. Marys, Ontario. "Regarding any sincere recognition of my accomplishments, I'm all for it," Rose said in a statement.

EPHEDRA BAN: The players union will await results of toxicology tests into the death of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler before deciding whether ephedra should be banned. Union head Donald Fehr said taking a stand on whether to ban the supplement would be premature at this time: "You can't, it seems to me, draw any conclusions from this tragic event at the very least until we see what the toxicology reports show. We'll go from there, and if it's appropriate, obviously we'll take another hard look at the overall situation and see where it takes us."

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