2009 Fall Baseball Letter #11

NW Umpires,

Some of you have seen this before.  So, if you have and understand it well, you can delete it.  Those that have never seen it I suggest you thoroughly read it and try to understand it.  Those that have seen it but are still looking for a better way to umpire balls and strikes, I suggest you reread it and try to incorporate most of what is here.  This is what is taught at Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring and probably what is taught in PBUC too.

I have made some comments in red about what took place in a previous clinic and I sent it to some of those umpires after the clinic.  I left it in this document to make you alert to what we saw that day so maybe, just maybe, we can help at least one of you from making the same mistake when you umpire in fall baseball.

We will discuss plate stances at the August 19th meeting at the International School of Minnesota too for those of you that are able to attend this orientation meeting along with a number of other topics.

Tomorrow I will be sending you my definitions of the 13 plate Criteria that are listed at the end of this document.

There are still about 15 umpires that have not yet accepted their fall baseball games and I will have to soon redistribute them if you choose not to accept them very, very soon.  I leave for AZ on Saturday and would like to know that the entire schedule is completely assigned by then.

Have a great day,

Larry Gallagher



Basic Slot Stance / Techniques / Mechanics

Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring © 2003

The following is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from Jim Evans. 



The SLOT:  The area between the catcher’s head and the batter’s body when the batter is in his natural

stance and the catcher is in his normal crouched position.  We were actually taught a little different at the Academy.  The instructors stated it was between the catcher’s slot shoulder and the batter’s body.Again, here is one of the faults of most umpires that we saw today.  You do not understand this definition.  Most of you were too much behind the catcher and not in the slot.  You should almost feel naked when in the slot.  Only about 1/3 of you will be protected by the catcher when you are in the slot correctly.  No, you do not want your eyes on the inside corner of the plate.  YOU WANT YOUR EYES AND HEAD in the middle of the slot.   

TRACKING:  Observing the entire flight of the pitch with independent eye movement while keeping the head and body still.  Most of the umpires I observed at today’s clinic had this problem.  It is one of the most common mistakes umpires make.  Even the big leaguers forget to do this on occasion. 

TIMING:  The result of using your eyes properly while tracking the ball from the pitcher’s release to the bat or the catcher’s mitt.  The proper use of the eyes suppresses the natural tendency to react immediately and call the pitch prematurely.  Timing is and was the largest mistake umpires made in the cages today at our clinic.  Proper timing is not something you gain by thinking of waiting longer to announce your decision but one of the proper use of your eyes.  Watching the ball from the time of release until you see the ball hit the catcher’s mitt before you make up your mind is of the utmost importance.  Later, you will read about PROPER USE OF EYES in the 13 Plate Criteria.  I showed a few of you a practice technique to use your finger and track it only with your eyes and no head movement at all.  This is a must if you hope to learn to have good timing. 



The PU shall assume a position partially behind the catcher in which he is able to see the entire strike zone.  He shall position his head in some portion of the SLOT at all times and ensure that his head height stays above the top of the catcher’s head.  Ideally, the plate umpire’s chin should be even with the top of the catcher’s head or slightly higher.

In order to get his head into the proper position, the PU must position his feet properly.  He should establish a solid foundation by spreading his legs slightly wider than shoulder width.  When assuming his set position, he shall establish the location of his slot foot first and then position his free foot behind the catcher.  Positioning the slot foot first will enable you to see the outside corner.  Neither the slot foot nor the free foot is actually positioned in the slot.  They are set on both sides of it.

The PU’s slot foot will be in line with or slightly in front of an imaginary line extended from the catcher’s heels.  The toe of the umpire’s free foot should be aligned with the heel of his slot foot… referred to as Heel - Toe / Heel - Toe.  The slot foot will point directly straight ahead and the free foot will be flared to a maximum of 45-degrees.  Using the heel-to / heel-toe alignment and flaring the free foot will enable the PU to position his head forward in the slot without kneeing the catcher in the back.


Feet position determines the lateral axis of the head position.  The vertical axis is determined by (1) the width the feet are spread apart; (2) the amount of squat the umpire introduces into his stance; and (3) the amount of torso lean.  As the umpire goes down into his set position, he must make a minor torso adjustment to square his head and shoulders to the plate.  Going from the upright position to the set position should be a decisive one-piece move with no drifting back and forth or up and down.  (A to B)


As the catcher adjusts to different hitters, the PU must adjust to different catcher positions.  If the catcher virtually eliminates the slot by working so far inside, the first adjustment should be to move back and up to regain perspective of the strike zone.  It may be necessary to work directly over the catcher’s head in some cases.  This means you adjust up too.  If the catcher is working outside, the PU should shift with him but never beyond the center of the plate.




The PU should establish a rhythm with the pitcher and catcher.  He shall not assume the set position behind the catcher until the catcher has set for the final time.  Catchers generally set twice – once to give a signal and then again to set the target.


When the pitcher is off the rubber, the PU shall assume a relaxed position while keeping his eye on the pitcher.  After the pitcher steps onto the rubber, gets his sign, and the catcher makes his final adjustments, the PU moves his feet into the exact location for his set position.  As the pitcher initiates delivery to the batter, the PU squats into his set position.  If the pitcher is working from the set, the PU should not go into his set position until the pitcher is committed to pitch.


The PU shall remain perfectly still as he tracks the flight of the pitch with independent eye movement.  Tracking the pitch from the pitcher’s release to the bat or the catcher’s mitt will provide proper timing and increase the umpire’s accuracy and consistency.




After tracking the pitch into the mitt with his eyes, it is time to make a decision.  The PU must call either ball or strike.  The actual call is a mental process.  The proper use of eyes enables the umpire to collect all the relevant data before making his decision.  Once his mental decision has been made, he must signal that decision informing others.

Balls are signaled verbally while remaining down in the set position.  No physical or visual signal is given.  A strong voice that can be heard in the dugouts should be used.  While training, it is recommended that the PU verbally signal balls by the number, e.g., “Ball 1, Ball 2, Ball 3, Ball 4.”

Strikes are to be signaled verbally and physically while coming up from the set position.  The right arm is used to visually signal strike.  A strong voice that can be heard in the nearby stands should be used.  Strikes should also be signaled by the numbers, e.g., “Strike 1, Strike 2, Strike 3!”


As you develop a more aggressive Strike 3 mechanic, it is important that you keep your eyes focused on the ball and are aware of its status at all times.











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