It's easy to overlook certain things in baseball. After all, there's so much excitement going on with the 2012 season already, how could the spotlight possibly be big enough to hold everyone that the game has to offer?
Hot starts, slow starts, breakouts, comebacks, a centennial ceremony and even a perfect game have held our attention thus far, as 2012 promises to be a season to remember.
So, can anyone think of a group of individuals who are seemingly always overlooked? How about those umpires? You know, those guys that are responsible for literally every single call, from strikes and balls to plays at the plate. The guys that single-handedly determine the course of every game of every season.
Now, a lot of the time, when we do pay attention to the umpires, it's for negative reasons, like when their strike zones are too tight, or too lenient, or when they blow a huge call that leads to a loss for your favorite team.
However, sometimes watching these umpires do their jobs can be entertaining. Some strike calls are loud and playfully obnoxious, while others tend to get hilariously heated when a manager gets in their face.
So who are the most entertaining umpires in baseball? I've got my top five for all of you, but feel free to give me your own choices in the comment section.
Tom Hallion isn't one of the most well-known umpires in baseball, although he was the home plate umpire for the first game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium. However, even if his name doesn't stand out, his punchout call is impossible to mistake.
When a batter receives strike three, Hallion will respond by spinning around 180 degrees and enthusiastically signalling strike three.
Loud, noticeable and entertaining are understatements when it comes to Hallion.
Dale Scott has quite the decorated umpiring resume, having participated in a variety of important games including Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Games and World Series.
Scott's strikeout call is perhaps the most well-known in the game. When that third strike is delivered, Scott takes a step back, turns to his left and punches his fist into the air, emphatically calling the batter out.
Baseball fans will wait for it when they see he's behind the plate, and I won't deny it, I've mirrored Scott on more than one occasion.
Sadly, most people recognize Jim Joyce's name from his connection to one of baseball's most gut-wrenching stories, Armando Galarraga's "Near-Perfect Game." Joyce infamously called Indians outfielder Jason Donald safe at first when replays clearly show he was out.
Donald represented the 27th out of the ballgame, the one that would have closed the book on Galaragga's perfect game, but instead the call was blown and Galaragga was denied his place in the record books.
However, Joyce has time and time again been rated one of baseball's best umpires, and no one can say that he isn't fun to watch when he's behind home plate. His loud, elongated strike call is well-known and recognized throughout baseball, and while it may annoy some people (probably some catchers), I can never help but crack a smile the first time I hear it in a ballgame.
There's no doubt that Joe West is entertaining; it's just that it usually isn't in the way that pleases too many fans. West has a tendency to get into a lot of arguments with players and coaches alike.
Ejections are far too common in his games, and the worst part is that it is usually West's mistake that leads to tempers flaring.
West is one of the worst umpires in baseball. He messes up calls, has an inconsistent strike zone and quite frankly is a bit of a hot head. Those are all bad qualities to have as a MLB umpire, and you can bet it has led to some unfair outcomes over the years.
Still, if West is going off on the team that is opposing your favorite club, it can be pretty fun to watch.
Anyone recognize this guy? His name is Brian Runge, and in contrast to the rest of these umpires, he is very much in the spotlight right now, as it was his call of Brendan Ryan's check swing that helped complete Philip Humber's perfect game on Saturday, turning a sure walk into a strikeout and a 2-3 putout.
Now I could make the case for Runge being an entertaining ump just for that reason, but in all honesty, his emphatic punchout call is what put him on this list. When a pitcher strikes out a batter with Runge behind the plate, the whole ballpark knows what just happened.
Embarrassing for the hitter, but definitely entertaining for the rest of us.