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Yes, it is February but this is California after all and on the Central Coast, young men's and women's minds are already turning to baseball and softball.

That means the usual cheering from the bench, and the diamond, will soon be upon us as another season of high school baseball and softball comes around.

Not all the ballpark sounds will be a joy to hear, though. I'm pretty sure I can look forward to hearing a lot of the following comments from the stands once again.

"Hey blue, you're missing a great game!"

Not really. The umps are right there on the diamond, observing along the rest of us. And they are wearing yellow shirts, not blue, so I am not sure why any fan is addressing an umpire as "blue."

"How much they paying you, blue?!"

I am not not sure who "they," refers to, but whoever is paying the umpires has no affiliation with either team. Whoever is paying them, it apparently is not all that much, given this area's recurring problem with a shortage of officials.

"Hey, he can't be missing by much!"

No, the pitcher is not missing by much. But his pitches ARE missing. The bottom line is the same for a pitch whether it misses the strike zone by one inch or eight. It is a ball. Partial credit for a pitch that misses the strike zone by a millimeter does not exist.

"The throw beat her by a mile!"

The throw, to the wrong side of the bag for the shortstop who was covering, did beat the runner by plenty. The tag, which was not applied until the runner's foot met the bag, did not. The runner is safe at second on the steal try.

"Chalk flew all over the place!!"

Chalk did indeed fly up - an instant before the ball, untouched, veered into foul territory just before it got to the bag. Foul ball.

"That's an infield fly! Read the rule book!!"

Um, sir? Perhaps it is YOU who needs to review the rule. The infield fly rule applies when there is a possible force play at third base with less than two outs, i.e., when runners are either on first and second base or the bases are loaded. Since there was only a runner on first, there is no infield fly rule this time.

"Hey, he has to at least TRY to get out of the way!"

If the batter has no chance to get out the way of a pitch, he can't really try to get out of the way.

"How can that be a foul ball??! She was in fair territory when she touched it!!"

The left fielder was indeed in fair territory when she reached for the fly ball and dropped it. The ball, however, was outside the foul line when the fielder touched it. Foul ball.

"Same spot! That was a strike the last time!"

Eh. The pitch WAS in the same general location as the previous one. The EXACT location? These aging eyes can't tell, but I'll go with the judgement of the guy who is right behind the catcher over the judgement of a highly partisan fan who is many feet from the plate, and behind a fence, on this one.

Finally, my favorite: "Hey blue, all we want is consistency!"

Translation: "Hey blue, all we want is for the calls to be consistently in favor of our team!"

Play ball!

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