On-Base Perception

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On the field with 'The Third Team'

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 25: (L-R) Manager

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 25: (L-R) Manager Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers argues with home plate umpire Dan Iassogna after Prince Fielder #28 of the Tigers was called out at home plate in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game Two of the Major League Baseball World Series at AT&T Park on October 25, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Credit: Getty Images)

When Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs during Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, joining an exclusive club of sluggers, the baseball audience at home looked at their TVs in awe. The crowd at AT&T Park roared. And yet one of the guys with the best vantage point in the house appeared unmoved.

But appearances can be deceiving.

“Even as an umpire who's kind of lost that fan look at the game and [is] just looking at it professionally, every now and then you see something [and] you just go, 'Man, that is unbelievable,'” said Fieldin Culbreth, one of the six-man umpire crew that worked the Series. “'There's not many people that can do what just took place right there.'”

And just as Sandoval distinguished himself in the 2012 World Series, so too did Culbreth and his brethren, a clean and masterful umpiring performance that's highlighted in MLB Network's special “The Third Team.” The behind-the-scenes look at the much-maligned, little-highlighted craft of umpiring airs Thursday at 9 p.m.

Culbreth, Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, Dan Iassogna, Brian O'Nora and Joe West wore microphones during the games and were followed by cameras before and after, allowing fans a glimpse into the conversations we see but rarely hear.

For instance: Iassogna, working home plate in Game 2, calls Prince Fielder out on a close play at the plate. Fielder initially argues before Detroit manager Jim Leyland runs out from the dugout to continue the debate. Iassogna is respectful but firm in telling Leyland, or “Jimmy,” that his call is correct, and replays show Fielder is indeed out. During a conference at the mound later in the game, Leyland tells Iassogna that he looked at the play again, and the call was indeed a good one. After the game Iassogna, who was working his first World Series, received hearty congratulations from the rest of the crew and members of the MLB brass for how he called the game.

“I can assure you that players don't talk any more about hitting and fielding than we do about balls [and] strikes, safes and outs,” Culbreth said. “We love our craft. We work hard at it.”

Thursday at 9 p.m. you can see just how hard they work.

Tags: San Francisco Giants , umpires , Detroit Tigers

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