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Tip of the Week

Umpire in Chief Mark Jarrett Presents:

The Tip of the Week

Tip #1


THE BASICS

Reminder to umpires:  wear sunscreen and have a water bottle, its warm out and easy to get burned and dehydrated.

Base Umpires:

Follow the runner on a multiple base hit to outfield, cut to the infield side of the base path when doing this....so as to stay out of the way of the batter runner.

When in position 3 and 4, still make the safe/out call at 1 st base. Give the arm signal and say it loud  "safe/out".

Plate Umpires:

On pop up foul balls behind the plate watch the catcher exit first and pivot away from the catcher so as not to interfere with which way the catcher is going.

After the first inning only give pitchers 5 warm ups to start each inning.


Tip #2


COMMUNICATION

Plate umpires say and show the ball/strike count. This count is important to the offence and defence. The batter and coach want to know and the pitcher and fielders benefit from knowing. So when should we say it? Not necessary after every pitch.

Batters may be concentrating on the 3rd base coach for signals, their own mojo, swing technique, what pitch might be coming....you get the point... the batter has lots to think about and may have lost track and it helps them when you remind them they have 2 strikes against!

So guideline, when the batter gets 2 strikes for sure (this keeps the batter certain of the count) and for sure, at full count. We always say balls first and strikes last. You can say only the numbers if you prefer ex. 2 and 2.

For now try to echo those two counts. 

Base umpire communication. Mirror the signal back to the plate ump when the plate ump shows you that 2 are out, or infield fly is in effect. That way you both know that you both know. It becomes more fun knowing you can signal your partner. 


Tip #3

CONSIDER THIS

For Base Umps: 

This week consider the safe/out call for one second before showing your decision.  That way if a ball is dropped or juggled, with the delay you have a moment more to make the call.   Pause, read, react.

Home Plate:  

Remember with a runner(s) on; your base umpire will be in Position 3 or 4, so you are the GO TO GUY for all foul calls down the lines. 

On sharp hit balls near 1st or 3rd   you won't have much time to reposition, keep the head up and on the ball.  Ideally you'll take a step to line yourself up with either the first or third base line   OR   have your head on the best sight line to give you your best position to make the call.


Tip #4


GET IT RIGHT, MAKE IT RIGHT

Message to umpires:   Umpire dignity is important but never as important as being right ( Ref) General Instructions to Umpires, p97 Official baseball Rulebook

We learn from each other and I want to share a story that happened last night at Rotary Park with myself umpiring behind the plate.  You can learn from my mistake and my correction.

Responsibilities of an Umpire - Do you remember in the Level I course talking about:

...  object of umpiring is to get as many calls right

... if you think you may have missed something

...  asking your partner for help

...  Umpires are allowed to change their call

Last night I umpired a PeeWee game solo, so not with a base umpire, and I missed a catch/no-catch call, got it totally wrong. 

The situation was - None out, base runners at 1st and 2 nd.   There was a soft liner hit toward shortstop and the pitcher made an excellent play backwards to dive for the ball.  I hustled up the 3 rd base line, called it a catch.  I was wrong, just didn't know it yet!... 

Well ... the play is live ... the runners were advancing on the hit already at 3 rd and 2nd now.  The defense realizes it's been called a catch, they can get the additional 2 outs with the runners if the runners can't retreat fast enough to tag. That's exactly what they do.  Runners out at 2 nd and 1st as the bases were tagged before the runners got back.  Triple play eh?

Well now, the 3rd base offense coach calls "time"and says "It wasn't a catch". At the same moment the young pitcher very honestly says "I dropped the ball." My video replay didn't show that angle with the ball popping just out of his glove, my view of that was blocked.  But here''s the thing ... I obviously got it wrong.  WHAT CAN BE DONE?

MAKE IT RIGHT!  I called both coaches together ... I started the talking ... "Here's the thing guys, I called it a catch, the pitcher says he dropped it." ... that's when the defensive coach says, "Yeah he dropped it."  So we have agreement, it wasn't a catch.

NOW as the play developed it wasn't likely that the pitcher would ever have gotten the runner out at 1 st... so let's do what seems the most reasonable ... if I hadn't called it a catch, we probably would have had all runners safe at their bases, so bases would have been loaded.  I announced that decision.  Both coaches accepted that, kudos to both coaches and the game then moved forward.

If you think you might have missed something, consult your partner or go with the information that is presented at the time, just try to do your best to get the call right!


Tip #5


TALKING TO COACHES

When coaches come on to the field to talk with you, hopefully it is in a respectful manner and from what I have seen that is usually the case.  If you are not sure what to say or how to reply to a coach's baseball question....you can always start with 

"This is what I saw coach"and describe it.  Eventually you will feel comfortable with saying "what you saw".  But for now that might not be that easy.   "This is what I saw coach" is a place to get started for a short conversation. 

If you feel that conversation should be ending, I learned from one young umpire in your ranks this year when he bravely said, "Ok coach I don't want to talk about it anymore."  And I thought that was a great way to end the conversation. Keep that in mind through the coming month and continue to have fun.


Tip#6

KEEPING THE GAME MOVING

To all our junior umpires, as your comfort level and confidence grow behind the plate and on the bases, we want you to add more skills and knowledge. So this week, between innings,  think about keeping the game moving. How do we do that? How long does it take from the time the last out is made on the field until the first pitch gets thrown in the next half inning? One team leaves the field and another takes the field. Does the umpire have anything to do with how long this takes? Answer - YES! 

The rule book offers some guidance. The new pitcher has one minute to throw warm ups and be comfortable on the mound. A well practiced team will have their pitcher get down to business quickly and many teams will have either the catcher ready to go or a coach with mask out to field the pitches. No more than eight pitches is the guide within this one minute time frame. So that's the guidance.

How do we, as plate umpire, then help this happen and combat delays? 

  •   We can  mention it during the plate meeting. "Can you make sure , coaches, that if the catcher isn't ready, a coach comes out to catch. We are trying to keep the game moving. Thanks."
  • We can  count the practice pitches. Ask the pitcher if he's ready. Tell the catcher how many more pitches he's got before the throw down to second. Show the pitcher the "peace" sign signalling 2 pitches to go.
  • We can  offer the catcher a ball from our ball bag when  the catcher misses a catch during warm up rather than him going off to retrieve the missed pitch. This will speed up the warm up.

In the first and second inning, if you are checking on them - guess what! The catcher and pitcher will know you are checking and will know what is expected of them. Maybe the game before the umpire didn't check or keep track of time! So we want to be fair to the players and  apply the time rule equally to both teams.  That's fair too.

What happens when it's not so smooth ? Let's say the pitcher arrives on the mound; he's pumped and ready to go, but the catcher is not quite ready and no coach pops out to catch for him or her. So lets say 30 seconds of the warm up is already used up by the time the catcher gets out .... or the whole minute is used up and the pitcher had to play catch with the 3 rd baseman. In this case, and if its still early innings, when the catcher comes out and it's their first time being very slow,  communicate with the catcher. Tell them  "you have 6 pitches" or "you have 5 pitches"  . Use your own judgement and mention "can you guys be quicker next inning" , but remember to be nice! That gets the point across better. Your feel for the game and fairness is important.

We don't RULE games but we do provide rulings throughout a game! Even between innings. so that time isn't wasted. So, within your own personality you will find a way to be fair to both teams and keep the game within its time limits. The challenges are with all age groups so this really applies to all umpires. If you find a game maxing out its time limit ... think about it afterward, was it because of what happened between innings? If it took 2 to 4 minutes extra each half inning ... in a 6 inning game that's possibly 11 change overs, that adds up quickly to a game being 20 to 30 (or more) minutes longer when it doesn'?t need to be! With just a few gentle words and cutting down the number of warm up pitches reasonably, you can make a difference .  

By the way, this is not all on you the umpire. Coaches need to comply, and players too. We do the best that we can with some gentle reminders and letting them know how many more warm up pitches they can have.

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