Back in what feels like another life, I was what I consider a high-level baseball umpire, working anything from high school to travel to adult baseball games.

One year I worked upward of 140 games. I kept track of it on the rudimentary computer we had at my folks’ house at the time, and my monthly trips to the local bank with large sums of cash proved it. I once set a local record of umpiring seven baseball games in a single day just to tick off the loudmouth who bragged he held the local record.

When I first started in the racket, my dad suggested/encouraged me, at the age of 18, to go to professional umpire school in Florida and try and become a Major League Baseball umpire. At that time, I lacked confidence in myself and had never been away from home for an extended period of time.

The school, run by a longtime MLB umpire, was one of the few places (one of I think two at the time) that offered formal training in this particular craft. As I progressed, formal training, at the time, was few and far between save an annual meeting you had to attend in order to keep state certification.

My training consisted of trail by fire and the hope you knew the rulebook well enough to confidently call sundry ballfield intricacies such as an infield fly, a balk or a defensive obstruction, though watching copious amounts of baseball on TV (Cubs on WGN, Braves on WTBS, and the rare treat of Mets on WOR at grandma’s house, which evidently had the Cadillac of cable providers to be showing those games in Illinois) was a good resource for formulating a distinct strike call, letting most of your chest protector show between your button-down shirt like an arrogant you know what, and putting on a good show when you had to run a coach, player or fan for acting like an embarrassing cretin.

These days, there are all sorts of clinics and classes available for any type of officiating.

Current day, quality training also is in abundance in our industry. As mentioned in my previous writings, I have attended a rash of manufacturer events this year centered on this very subject.

My travels took have taken me to training-focused visits to Bradford White, Viega, A. O. Smith and Watts, not to mention numerous other visits with supply-chain stakeholders where the importance of training was brought up. The companies I mentioned above happen to have state-of-the-art training facilities focused on educating their customer base both in-person and through eLearning avenues.

In fact, if you head over to page 38 of this issue, you will see a profile on one of the industry’s iconic training sites, Xylem Bell & Gossett’s Little Red Schoolhouse, which just celebrated its grand reopening in the northern Chicago suburbs.

With the labor shortage and the replacement of an aging workforce being two topics constantly on the industry front burner, it is important more so now than ever that companies are providing the highest levels of training, not only for industry veterans who need to learn about new products and technologies, but also for new hires who need to be quickly brought up to speed about our industry.

And training isn’t limited to manufacturers.  Other stakeholders throughout the supply chain, such as reps, distributors and engineers, can benefit from these training offerings available throughout the industry.

If your company isn’t already knee-deep in training both internally and externally, what are you waiting for?

The bottom of the ninth is approaching. Do you want to be in the winning or losing dugout?