I didn’t grow up playing or watching baseball much–it’s an interest that I’ve developed as I’ve gotten older and come to appreciate the history and the simple, pastoral (as a friend of mine loves to say) pleasure of a day out at the ballpark.
So, I have lots of silly little questions about immaterial parts of the game that don’t make sense to me. One of these would be the devotion of home plate umpires to keeping home plate clean. No home plate ump can refuse the opportunity whip out a whisk broom, turn his back to the field, and sweep all the stray dust off home plate.
So what’s the big deal? I can see needing to keep it from being obscured, since it’s important to things like the strike zone and plays at the plate. But that would only be an issue if it were truly filthy. Google hasn’t helped me here–everyone out there on the interwebs seems to just accept that the plate must be kept clean, but wants to know why the ump always turns his back to the field to clean it. (I’d never even noticed that bit until I googled.)