Do you want to be a 50 percent better umpire in 45 minutes? It’s all right here and my unique techniques are easy to adopt. You will make better calls, have faster games, be better game managers and adopt ways to keep troublesome managers and coaches in check.
I have been an interpreter and instructor for decades and I interact with umpires regularly. I communicate with the best umpires in the world and I also meet new umpires and veterans alike in my equipment and apparel store. Often, I am asked for umpiring advice and, after responding, I frequently hear, “Oh, I’ve never heard that before,” or, “That sounds like the answer to my problem.”
Now it’s all here for you to see:
Overthrow awards can be confusing, daunting, overwhelming, unnerving and intimidating. There are ways to make awards confidently and convince everyone that you are correct.
Simply get and remember the uniform number of the runner on first base even if you know the player’s name. That simple technique will especially show its value when there are multiple runners, like in the following play.
The bases are loaded with two outs when F6 fields a difficult ground ball off the bat of B4. F6’s only sure play is to first base, but the shortstop fires the ball over the fence near the first-base dugout or beyond a chalk line into dead-ball territory.
Do not panic, because you have the number of the player who was on first base. When making overthrow awards, you need not be concerned about placing any runners from second or third. Both of those runners will score anytime a ball is thrown out of play.
Call time and confidently state, “R3 and R2 score and number 14 (R1) from first base is awarded second and third base!” What about batter-runner B4, you ask?” That’s easy, B4 is awarded one base behind R1. Make your awards confidently and with conviction and you will greatly reduce questions from managers and coaches. When you stated, “Number 14 was on first base,” managers and coaches will think, “Hey, that umpire knows his (or her) stuff,” and likely they will sit down in the dugout rather than complain to you.
Some top umpires also know the uniform number of the batter-runner and that sometimes can be helpful. But mostly it is easy to identify the batter-runner and place the batter-runner one base behind R1 from first base.
Easy speed-up methods
Don’t stand near the backstop drinking water or on the baseline talking nonsense with your partner. After making sure you have at least three alternate balls in your ball bag, let the pitcher have no more than three warmup tosses. Then take out your plate brush and walk alongside the catcher.
Invariably, the catcher will ask, “Throw it down?” But despite your strong desire to say, “Yes,” politely answer, “When you are ready.” That way, if the pitcher has a bad inning, the pitcher or catcher can’t complain to the manager or coach that you cut down his or her warmup pitches.
Nevertheless, and amazingly, most catchers will yell, “Coming down,” and will fire the next pitch to second base. Clean, quick and concise and you accomplished your goal without any screaming.
One-step fair and flash technique/snap-thud.
Simply, it is an amazing position from which U1, from position A behind first base, will dramatically improve his or her percentage of correct calls. By moving one step fair from position A, U1 will umpire from a position that offers a great look at the arrival of the ball and the runner arriving at first base. And, that’s what it is all about at first base.
By moving just one step fair from your foul ground starting position, the ball and the runner will eerily go into super-slow motion so you can correctly make fraction-of-an-inch, out or safe judgments. When the ball is about 30 feet from first base, flash your eyes from the ball to the home-plate side of first base while keeping the ball in your peripheral vision.
Use the snap-thud method, in which you listen for the snap of the ball in the fielder’s glove and the thud of the runner’s foot on the base. That way you are combining your senses of vision and hearing. If the snap beats the thud, the runner will be out. Then make your decision, but before announcing and signaling any out call, flash your eyes back to the fielder’s glove to confirm the fielder has full control of the ball.
I contend that the late walleyed (opposite of cross-eyed where the eyes point in opposite directions outward rather than inward) old Western character, Jack Elam (1920-2003), would have been a great umpire at least on calls at first base. Plus, Elam looked mean enough to be an umpire.
Also, the one-step fair position places the base umpire in a great position for judging a possible tag on a runner by the first baseman on the home-plate side of first base without moving. Umpires who go farther into the diamond must rely on help from the plate umpire on swipe tags.
For a possible pulled foot by the fielder toward home plate, take a couple of quick steps toward home for a better view. On a tag play, flash your eyes to the fielder’s glove and let the fielder’s glove take you to a possible tag.
Check with your assigner before using any modified mechanics.
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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.
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