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Umps share new perspective at Dream Series

'The message is a life lesson,' Danley says of panel to young players
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A young LaTroy Hawkins was upset.

He wasn't getting his pitches called for strikes in his youth league game. He was throwing way too many balls and he eventually directed his frustration at the man behind the plate.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A young LaTroy Hawkins was upset.

He wasn't getting his pitches called for strikes in his youth league game. He was throwing way too many balls and he eventually directed his frustration at the man behind the plate.

Then Hawkins' mother stepped in.

"My mom said, 'The umpires don't have a home team. They are always going to be the villain,'" Hawkins recalled. "She told me the umpire is not out there to make you look bad or good. He's just doing his job."

The relationship between the pitcher, catcher and umpire and questions about the strike zone were among the many topics discussed in a presentation with veteran umpire Kerwin Danley and Cris Jones, an umpire supervisor since 2005, on Sunday afternoon at the Dream Series. The panel was moderated by Hawkins, one of several former Major Leaguers coaching during the event, and ended with a standing ovation.

Manuels impacting Dream Series participants

"We are just here to tell them there are other ways to be involved in the game," said Jones, who has 33 years of experience in the game. "There are a lot of players out here and we know there is going to be a small number that makes it to the Major Leagues. Somebody might tap them on the shoulder and tell them it's over, so it's important they know there are options."

The Dream Series, an initiative of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that features a diverse group of some of the nation's top high school pitching and catching prospects, is connected to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and concludes Monday. The event has included on-hand coaching from former players, presentations on baseball-career opportunities on the professional and collegiate levels, and athletic assessments through the Prospect Development Pipeline Premier Events.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: Veteran umpire Kerwin Danley and Umpire Supervisor Cris Jones discuss the relationship between pitchers, catchers and umpires in front of #DreamSeries participants. Former @MLB Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins is the moderator. pic.twitter.com/qFLfJpcZBq

The Dream Series also featured daily study halls and special presentations like Sunday's visit with the umpires.

"Maybe we can be Plan B if their playing career does not go as planned," Jones said. "Maybe something clicks down the road and they remember this. Maybe they see K.D. working a World Series and think it's something they can do, too."

Youth pitchers, catchers live the 'Dream'

During the presentation, the umpires advised the teenage players to avoid making any hand gestures toward home plate and to watch their body language on the mound. The duo stressed the importance of working with a quick pace along with the benefits and problems that come with framing pitches. They also discussed instant replay's impact on the game.

And no, it's never a good idea to show up an umpire, no matter the circumstances. Go ahead and call the umpire by his name, they said, because umpires don't like being called, "Blue."

"It was really interesting to be able to hear from the perspective of people with so much experience," said Nick Bacura, a catcher from Mira Costa High School in southern California. "The amount of knowledge they have just makes you want to learn more. I really enjoyed it."

The hour-long discussion focused on baseball, but there was a larger theme in play.

"This message is a life lesson," Danley said. "Whether it's in baseball or out of sports, every job has different aspects, not just being the CEO. There are so many things we can do in baseball, just like in corporate America. Never give up and keep moving forward. Get educated. If you can do that, you have a chance."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.