2009 Fall Baseball Letter #6

Good morning,

Information conveyed in a clear and timely fashion empowers a team to perform…at every level. ~Scott Beare


The above passage is somewhat appropriate today because I am hopefully going to deliver a message to you in a timely fashion and that all of you are part of the Northwest Association of Umpires team or hope to become part of the team.

Each fall we umpire and evaluate in the Dick Siebert Fall Baseball Development League.  The University of Minnesota sponsors this league and contracts with us the opportunity to umpire their games for a good fee.  We are therefore responsible to them for giving them quality umpiring and with the advantage that we are also trying to help develop our umpires into a more competent and skillful group.

We do this by having our veteran members evaluated once every three years, our newer members are evaluated each of their first two years and also we can bring in some new members each year for a try-out to see if they are quality umpires and hopefully add them to our staff sometime in the near future.

Therefore, we expect the umpires to behave professionally and work hard to be the best they can be.  To accomplish this we provide an evaluator from our membership to observe and evaluate your performance and report to us what they have seen.  They will also give you some post-game feedback in a verbal form and later, we will forward a written document to you about your performance written by your evaluator that day.

We will give you a copy of that document soon so you know what it looks like. 

Game Fees are broken down as follows: 

Total fee is $70.00.  NW Member Umpire receives $50.00 at the end of the fall season sent to you by the University of Minnesota (we will need your social security number in www.arbitersports.com).    $16.00 will be going to the evaluator for each umpire observed.  $4.00 goes to the assignment secretary.

A non-member this year will not be getting paid for their umpiring but they will be given a 2-game tryout and have the opportunity to be selected to our staff sometime by the Board of Directors in November.  The $50.00 that they would have earned goes to the NWAU, Ltd. clinic and development fund for future clinic expenses.  The evaluator still gets his $16.00 for the evaluation and recommendation for membership and the assigner still gets his $4.00 for the assigning fee.

Orientation meeting: 

There will be an orientation meeting on August 19 at 6pm at the International School of Minnesota for all applying umpires and all 1st and 2nd year umpires of NW Umpires.  At this meeting you should wear activity clothes because we will be in the gym at ISM and doing a few activites to orient all to some expectations on the field.  The address of ISM is 6385 Beach Road, Eden Prairie MN 55344-5234.  You can go to www.mshsl.org to find a map to ISM or you can mapquest it from your own home.  It is just on the south side of County Road 62 heading west after 169.


At this meeting, we will be distributing the Manual for the 2-Umpire System that is produced by Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation.  The cost of the book is $10.00.  If you were to purchase it from almost any outlet you would be paying $14.95 plus shipping.  In our opinion it is the most detailed manual for umpire mechanics at the best price.  You will be expected to learn and use it as part of your on-going education as an umpire with NWAU, Ltd.  There are 11 quizzes based upon this manual at our website of www.nwumpires.com.  All new members are required to purchase a copy of this manual from us.  Those of you that are applying may choose to purchase it or not.  If accepted into membership, you will be expected to purchase it at that time.  I am not mailing any more copies of it because it is too cost prohibitive to do so.

Accepting games and www.arbitersports.com

I have taken a lot of time with all of the applicants getting their availability so I can assign them the date they are most readily available.  So, please accept the games as we have already agreed upon.  Those that are already members were asked for their availability and most of you did a great job getting that availability to me and I believe I have done my best to fulfill your wishes.  A few of you that are members and are due to be evaluated this fall did not send me any availability and I placed you on dates based upon your calendar in www.arbitersports.com.  Later today we will publish the games for you to select for this fall in the league where we evaluate.  Please accept these date(s).  If for some reason you cannot, please e-mail or call me and let me know if there is another date that is better for you and based upon other cancellations, we might be able to accommodate you.  There are no guarantees however.

when you receive your assignments from www.arbitersports.com you will see that there are 3 positions.  One will be listed as the plate and the other 2 positions will be listed as base umpires.  One of those positions is for the evaluator.  Most evaluators know they are not umpiring that game but some may not know it.  If the 3 of you cannot figure out which one is the evaluator, call me and I will be able to tell you.

That’s all for today except some items listed below from Jim Evan’s “Maximizing the Two-Umpire System.”


The Out Mechanic

Since a variety of plays can occur at the plate and late adjustments are often necessary, the plate umpire will initiate all out signals from  the standing set.  It is critical that the base umpire sees each play from a stationary position.  It is recommended that the take plays from a hands on knees set position after he has read a true throw.  If the throw is not true, he will stay in a standing set and make appropriate adjustments, if necessary.              

The right arm should form a 90o angle and be positioned about 30o in front of your body.  The hand should be closed forming a fist with   the

thumb resting comfortably atop the fingers.  Under no circumstances should the thumb be sticking out.  Proper terminology is:  “He’s out!”

The Safe Mechanic/No Tag/That’s Nothing

The plate umpire shall take all plays from a standing set while it is recommended that the base umpire take as many plays as practical   from the hands on knees set position.   From the hands on knees set position, stand straight up with the arms outstretched in front of your body.  Position the arms parallel with each other and the hands separated.  The fingers and thumb of each hand should be together.  The arms should be extended parallel to the ground to appoint no farther back than the shoulders.  Proper terminology is “Safe!”  On close plays, a more emphatic signal is appropriate and taking an aggressive step forward with the left foot as you signal may help you sell the call.    

The safe mechanic is also used to indicate “No tag!” when a tag is attempted and missed (e.g. rundown) and “That’s nothing!” when there is no interference or obstruction on a questionable play.


 Either umpire may initiate the call of Time.  Only the plate umpire, however, may put the ball in Play.  It is important that you always know the status of the ball before signaling Time.

Raise both hands slightly above your head with arms bent approximately 100o.  The arms should be about 30o in front of the body. 

The hands should be open (no fists) with the fingers and thumbs closed and touching. It is important that your partner and everyone else on the field knows that you have called Time.  Use a strong, crisp mechanic and loud voice.


When there is any question regarding whether a fly ball has been legally caught or not, a signal is necessary.  A strong mechanic and loud voice should be used to convey your decision.  The more questionable the play, the more emphatic the signal must be.  The signal must   be clear and forceful in order to alert runners and coaches to the status of the ball.                                                                                             

The catch signal is essentially the same mechanic as the out signal but always executed with the closed fist above head height.  It has to be a signal that can be easily seen when the umpire has advanced far into the outfield.  The catch signal is accompanied by “That’s a  catch!” and repeated as necessary to sell the call.                                                                                                                                              

The no-catch signal is the same mechanic as the safe signal and must be clearly visible when the umpire has advanced far into the outfield.  The physical signal is accompanied by “No catch!” and repeated as necessary to sell the call.


With no runner on base, the base umpire will be responsible for many of the fair/foul decisions along the first base and right field foul    lines.  The plate umpire is responsible for fair/foul decisions up to the front of the first base bag.  The base umpire is responsible for all balls that touch the first base bag or proceed past its front edge.  Exception:  In the case of a slow roller, the base umpire will give up the line and move into position for a possible play on the batter-runner while the plate umpire assumes responsibility for the fair/foul.Both umpires shall take all fair/foul responsibility positioned astride the foul line.  If a ground ball touches the base or passes it fair, the base umpire shall signal fair by pointing into fair territory with his right index finger and arm parallel to the ground.  If foul, he shall raise both arms as if he were signaling time and then point into foul territory with the index finger of his left hand with his left arm parallel to the ground.

On fly balls that are beyond the general vicinity of the base umpire and require a fair/foul decision, he shall turn 180o while maintaining postion astride the foul line.

From a standing set, he shall initially signal fair/foul and then catch/no-catch, if necessary.  In the two-umpire system, the base umpire has no responsibility in this case for plays on the batter-runner unless he is able to help on a potential  play at the plate.  The plate umpire should come out into the infield and take full responsibility for all plays on the batter-runner unless the base umpire is able to get position for a possible play at the plate.

Ground Rule Double

When a fair ball leaves the park after touching the ground, the umpire shall signal time and then hold up two fingers indicating a ground    rule double.  The index and middle fingers of the right hand shall be held high into the air.  Either umpire may initiate the call depending on which one is responsible for the ground rule.  Make a clear, decisive signal.  Participants and spectators are not going to hear the umpire, but they will be watching closely for the signal.


Infield Fly

Either umpire may initiate the infield fly signal.  The signal shall not be given until the ball has reached its highest point, the apex, and started down.  Once either umpire has signaled it, the other umpire shall duplicate (echo) his partner’s signal.  The umpire’s job is to alert the runner’s to the situation and let them know that, regardless whether the fly ball is caught or not, the batter has been declared out     and the force has been removed.The proper terminology for declaring an infield fly is “Infield fly!  Batter’s out!”  This is accompanied by pointing skyward with the index finger of the right hand.  If the ball is near a foul line, the plate umpire shall initiate the signal and declare, “Infield fly, if fair!”  The base umpire would then echo the plate umpire’s signal, “Infield fly, if fair!”  It is not necessary to ad “…the batter’s out!”  Too many words, too much communication, could be confusing for the runners.

When the infield fly rule is in effect, umpires should be especially alert to the positioning of the infielders.  Their positioning rather than the location of the pop-up will be the deciding factor defining ordinary effort.

Home Run

The umpire shall come to a complete stop before the ball leaves the park, hits the fence or nears the foul pole.Once he determines that it is a home run, he shall point high into the air and make a counterclockwise, circular motion with his right arm  and index finger.

Make a clear, decisive signal.  Participants and spectators are not going to hear the umpire, but they will be watching closely for the signal.

Spectator Interference - this is not going to be an issue at either Siebert or Alimagnet as the spectators are seldom near the fields.

When a spectator interferes with a ball in play or a fielder in the act of fielding a live ball, the umpire shall signal spectator interference by grasping one of his wrists with the opposite hand in front of his body above his head, signaling time and then repeating the spectator interference signal.  By signaling the spectator interference first before signaling time, the umpire responsible for placing the runner(s) has a better idea of their exact location at the moment of the interference.  The ball is always dead when spectator interference occurs. If the base umpire makes the interference call, the plate umpire is responsible for placing the runner(s).  If the plate umpire makes the    interference call with his back to the infield, the base umpire will place the runner(s). 


When an umpire ejects a participant from the game, he should do so in a firm an authoritative way.  He should be neither nonchalant nor overly-dramatic.  He should maintain his composure and professionalism at all times.  Some of the most vicious and damning arguments occur after an ejection.  It’s important that the person ejected does not feel that you are “showing him up.”  Keep your language simple.  “You’re done!” or You’re gone!” are appropriate expressions.  Avoid sarcastic or cute phrases like “Hit the road!…To the showers!...See ya’ later!”

If you are facing the person you are going to eject, turn 90o and execute your mechanic away from him.  Point skyward with the index finger of the right hand. 

The mechanic should behigh enough in the air that others know that you have ejected someone.  It is important that your mechanic does not come near him or appear to be an attempt to strike him.

In regards to the fall league we are doing, this is a fairly laid back format and there probably won’t be many situations that would really require any ejections.  The most important thing for us as umpires in this league is to allow the coaches to coach and give them that opportunity even if it would take more time on a trip to the mound.  Usually no pitcher pitches more than 3 or 4 innings in a game any day anyway.  I will be sending out the rules to all of us later.  You will have an e-mail copy of them before we play the first game.

Have a great fall,

Larry Gallagher

News Flash

*NW General Membership Meeting - TBD 2020

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