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Plate mechanics

Err to the strike means that batters will be swinging the bat. Remember, your first duty as plate umpire is to make the call on the pitch. However, situations below are common, especially with youth baseball.
Batter takes a cut--but ball winds up behind you:

  • Ball gets by the catcher (passed ball).
  • Ball thrown over the catcher’s head (wild pitch).
  • Foul ball hit behind you.
fyi  This is when your partner on the bases can yell, "Foul ball out of play."

Plate umpire Aaron clears the catcher, throws the hammer
Plate umpire Aaron clears the catcher; throws the hammer

Mechanics for ground ball and fly ball. Use P2R (discussed later).

  • Follow the ball to the fielder’s glove.
  • Stop. Let the throw take you to the play.
  • Take your time on the call.
  • It's nothing until you call it.

We'll break down likely coverage in descending order:

  • Fair ball.
  • Foul ball.
  • Trouble ball--fair ball.
  • Trouble ball--foul ball.
  • Foul tip.

Trouble balls strike fear into the umpire’s heart:

  • Screamer down the line.
  • Two fielders converging on a ball.
  • Squib hit, slow roller.
  • Bunt down the line—close play at 1B.

    Trouble ball coverage has a simple formula—pause a little longer before you react; take a little more time to make the call.

    Plate umpire James has camera locked in
    Plate umpire James has camera locked in.

    Signals to use, thinking outside the box:

      •  Fair ball signal--point to fair territory. Do not say, "Fair ball."
      •  Foul ball signal--both hands in the air--like a touchdown signal. Say with high volume, "Foul ball."


    Diamond excitement

    With close plays, to help you sell the call, add emphasis on the bang-bang or banger play. Say, "He's there" or "She slid underneath the tag."

    It helped me if I first point at the bag. This gives my mind a chance to agree with my eyes. I then can say,
    "Safe" or "He's out."

    This also keeps you from making the quick call--the 1st baseman may have dropped the ball.

    This mechanic helps “Sell the call.” This also keeps you from missing the call. Although you can't reverse the call you missed, you'll hear it from the stands; you'll hear it from the coaches.

    However, if you missed it, if you
    were in position to make the call, you were doing what the rule book dicates. Specifically, this is what the OBR requires: you were in position to make the call.

    Remember     It’s nothing until you call it.

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