By Jay Miner
Today’s players are quicker, faster, stronger, smarter, more athletic and better coached. Ask yourself: are umpires keeping pace with the rapid development of the game? I think not. Some umpires are still using archaic 1930s mechanics.
By nature people are resistant to change. That includes some umpires. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see the number of umpires who have embraced and adopted my philosophies.
I was among the very first instructors some 25 years ago whom embraced and taught the “Pause-Read-React” mechanic for evaluating and covering plays. Since then, national organizations adopted similar methods such as “Wait-Interpret-Choose,” and “Read-Process-React.” Essentially those techniques scream “Slow Down” to umpires.
A few years ago I added the needed of progression “Stop-Set-Focus-Hold-Call” to complete the entire process. Now umpires have the complete method to eliminating double calls and opposite double calls.
My own crew worked hundreds of games testing and evaluating our entire process. Those live playing action situations resulted in a new and advanced mode of coverage when no runners are on base. My new mechanic gives umpiring crews another option defined as “Respond-Rim-Read-React.”
With no runners on base and B1 hits a fly ball or line drive between the center fielder and the right fielder and umpire U1 from Position “A” behind first base is unsure about “going out,” U1 will “Respond” immediately rather than “Pause.”
After “Responding” the umpire will immediately go into the “Rim” mode by moving toward second base outside the baseline and behind the infielders on the dirt near the outfield grass. The umpire will then “Read” while running toward second. If the umpire reads that the play will be a “trouble ball,” he or she will “Go Out” and announce his or her intentions to the plate umpire. The base umpire under the mantra of “There is a close correlation between closeness to the play and correctness of the call” will strive to get the best possible angle on the play. U1 will still remember that “Angle beats Distance every time.” The “Going Out” option can also be considered as a late going out to adjust to a new read of the play.
Our crew also uses the theory of “Watch the ball-Glance at the runners-See your partner.” In that situation the plate umpire should already be out from behind the plate, inside the diamond between the pitcher’s circle and first base and closely watching his or her partner. The UIC will then pick up B1 (now R1) and prepare to go with R1 as she advances on the bases.
The other option for U1 is to stay with R1 on the bases. U1 must make another read about whether R1 will stop at second or continue to advance. At the first opportunity, usually after R1 passes, U1 must “cut closely” behind the runner and accompany R1 to third base from inside the baselines. The UIC will drift and read toward third and return to the plate when it’s obvious U1 is fully engaged on covering R1.
Jay Miner is a longtime umpire, rules interpreter and former assigner from Albany, N.Y.
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