Let’s assume you are a good umpire, even an exceptional umpire. You do well on association exams and know your mechanics. Nevertheless, do you think you are doing all you can to be a truly great umpire? Find out what it takes.
Is your head always one full head above the catcher’s head? Your feet should be wider than shoulder-width apart with your knees flared out rather than placing your feet egregiously wider than your ankles.
Do you have a personal “locking mechanism” to assure that your stance isn’t dropping as the game progresses? Is your butt above your knees and forming an upside down “V” in your crotch area? Are you positioned in the “slot” between the batter and the catcher?
Do you have good pelvic positioning with your navel facing the outside front corner of the plate? Make sure your “slot foot” is pointed directly at the pitcher. Be sure your back foot is angled about 45 degrees away from the catcher to ensure good clearance for the catcher. Keep your arms and elbows close to your body.
Your eyes should be level with your head and shoulders square to the pitcher with up to 80 percent of your weight forward. Your inside ear should be approximately on the black at the inside corner of the plate with your head outside the periphery of the strike zone as you look down and through the strike zone. Avoid “tunnel vision” with your eyes fixated ahead as the ball passes through the tunnel, but do track the ball to the glove with your eyes.
Your stance must be comfortable and balanced and you must see the outside corner “money pitch” with both eyes seeing the pitch as our self-help test ensures.
Self-help vision test
Take a copy of Referee and place it on the ground just off the outside corner of the plate. It is preferable to perform this test the first time at a vacant field or in a private area. Drop to your exact set position as you would for calling pitches and close your inside eye.
Up to 50 percent of umpires will find that Referee disappears. That means you are seeing the outside corner money pitch at the batter’s knees only with your inside eye. In some cases your nose will be blocking your view.
Keeping your inside eye closed, turn your head slowly toward the outside corner until your copy of Referee miraculously appears. After opening your inside eye you are guaranteed to be seeing that troublesome outside corner pitch with both eyes.
Familiarize yourself with the self-help test and do periodic tests during the game to be sure you are seeing the outside corner pitch with both eyes.
Six steps to calling a pitch
There are six critical steps to calling a pitch, which include: On the rubber (be alert for the pitch); get set (drop into your set position); track (pick up the ball at the release point and track the pitch); read (make a preliminary judgment on the status of the pitch); hold (allow the ball to strike the catcher’s glove before making your final judgment on the pitch); and call it (announce your final decision on the pitch and signal strikes with a professional signal).
Eliminate game interrupters
Strive to eliminate game interrupters from your umpiring. Start by securing enough balls to keep the game moving. If the plate umpire runs out of balls and holds his or her palms toward the sky with a quizzical look, that foolish looking umpire is at fault for not securing enough game balls to assure continuous play.
The plate umpire must start the game with at least three alternate balls in his or her possession. Increasingly, umpires are wearing two ball bags to carry alternate balls. Alternate balls do not have to be new balls but must be game-ready balls in good condition.
Do not interrupt the flow of the game by calling time to brush a few particles of dirt off the plate. Wait for an opportune time such as after a foul ball or between batters to brush the plate.
However, do brush the plate even if it is clean when the catcher has been struck by a hard foul ball to allow her time to recover. Bases other than home plate should rarely be brushed unless the base is not visible or your UIC has a different opinion.
Do not make a production of walking to a bench to announce substitute players from the opposing team or stand there as the scorekeeper writes in the changes. After conferring with the coach, from the plate area loudly call, “Number 36 S. Jones is batting for number 44 B. Brown in the number six batting position.”
Using only numbers when announcing substitutions is asking for trouble. Remember, other than NCAA, there is no penalty for incorrect numbers, but there may be penalties for incorrect players. Ask the person making any change to confirm the change with the opposing scorekeeper.
In a facility with a press box, use hand signals for changes and provide numbers and batting positions to the official scorer.
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