Bringing fairness and flare to the baseball field, local umpire association Walks & Balks works to create a more stable environment for players and fans alike.
As an organization that focuses on proper training and education for umpires, creator and manager Alex Miley says that the core of his business is harnessed on life lessons and development as individuals both on and off the field. “We don’t say you are part of this workplace. You are a part of this team,” Miley says. “I don’t want to create a huge empire; I want to make it so those who work with Walks & Balks have an opportunity to grow and learn more.”
After working as an umpire during his sophomore year at Duke University, Miley realized how insufficiently things ran. With low umpire retention rates across the nation, he noticed that a lot of it had to do with the inability for umps to feel comfortable and knowledgeable with what they are doing on the field. With a desire to fill this void, Miley wanted to create something that would ensure stability for both the umpires and athletes.
Through online learning, small-group teaching and individual check-ups, new umpires focus on basic field training, rules of the game and an introduction to the sport of baseball to ensure that they feel prepared for whatever is thrown at them—literally and figuratively. “As an ump, you don’t always have to be an enforcer but more of a facilitator,” Miley says. “You’re not the boss of the field. You are an integral part of it. You are important, but you have to understand other perspectives on the field.”
Acting as a source of encouragement for the players and the coaches, Miley says that his staff, ranging in age from 12 to 30, provides a strong degree of understanding as many of them are within a few years of the athletes.
Though only two years in, Walks & Balks has seen great success, and Miley says that, in addition to the growth of the WB Sports Photography, he hopes to expand his business beyond recreational leagues and slide into softball and traveling programs, as well.
WB Sports Photography
In an effort to allow parents to focus on their kids playing games rather than worrying about taking the perfect photo, Miley created WB Sports Photography, which strives to capture the magic of the game for parents and fans. He's also exploring the addition of videography.
Too many times, parents and fans can be found watching the game through a camera lens on the side of the bleachers, through a chain link fence or far out past the outfield. WB Sports Photography uses professionals to snap and edit action shots, which can be sent directly to individuals. Choosing from a range of 10-20 photos, parents and fans can also pick from a variety of shot types (pitching, throwing and running) of their player.