2009 Fall Baseball Letter #18

Hi Fall Baseball Umpires and others,

Below you will find something that is in Larry's Corner at www.nwumpires.com also.  I am taking 10 questions at a time from the Jim Evans Umpiring First Base - Desert Classic that I attended in 2004 in Surprise, Arizona.  This is a 1-week course for umpires to improve.  I also attended his 5-weeek Academy in 2002 in Kissimee, Florida.

I think you will learn a lot from these 10 questions today and the other 40 that will be coming your way in the course of this fall season.



Discussion Questions 

1.   What is the proper starting position for the BU with no one on base?  Position A, HOKS, square to the plate in foul territory.  The right foot is next to and parallel with the foul line but not touching the line.  He is 10-12 feet behind the 1st baseman.  If the first baseman is playing deep, he might only be 6-10 feet behind him. If he is playing near 1st base, the BU should never get closer than 10-15 feet from the base.  

2.      Name 3 times the base umpire can help the plate umpire with decisions involving the batter or batter-runner.  1) Check-swing, 2) A batted ball hitting the batter, 3) Catch/no catch on strike 3.  

3.      Describe the proper mechanics, signals and communication between the PU and the BU when the PU requests help on a half-swing.   After a request by the catcher or manager or on his own, the PU will signal and say, “Ed, did he go?”  The base umpire (Ed in this case) will respond with a signal and voice, “Yes, he went!” or “No, he didn’t go!”  Ed will include a visual mechanic of a strike if he went and a safe mechanic if he didn’t go.  In NCAA any player may request it, not just the catcher.  In Federation, the umpire does not have to honor the request of the catcher or the coach.  However, there is no good reason that you should not honor the request of the coach or catcher.  If you don’t, you are opening up a “can of worms” that you don’t want to eat.  

4.   Explain how the PU and the BU divide responsibilities for making fair/foul decisions when there are no runners on base.       The PU has fair/foul decisions on the 3rd base foul line all the way to the fence and beyond.  The PU has up the 1st base bag on the 1st base foul line and a slow roller that goes over and beyond the base.  The BU has fair/foul decisions from 1st base and beyond except on a slow roller.  Also, if the BU makes a mistake and comes in to pivot on a ball near the 1st base foul line anywhere, the PU now becomes responsible for the fair/foul decision.    

5.      Explain each umpire’s responsibilities when an attempted tag is made on the BR before he reaches 1st base.  PU has the tag play up to the 45’ line unless he is screened.  The BU has the tag attempt beyond the 45’ line unless he is screened.  

6.      What is meant by Pause, Read & React?   PU & BU don’t just start running somewhere when the ball is hit.  Umpiring smart is Pause – Stop and begin to look at cues; Read – decide where to go; React – going where you have decided you need to go, i.e., the BU goes out because it is a trouble ball or comes in and pivots because it is a routine fly ball or an obvious base hit.  PU is reading the ball, fielders and his partner.   This is the area that most of the NW umpires that have never learned to read a trouble ball make the most mistakes.  A lot of our umpires don’t read anything, they just go on every fly ball that is hit to the outfield in their area of responsibility.  They think that it looks good to everyone else if you go.  They think what does it hurt?  It is better to go out than come in and pivot because at least it shows you are hustling.  However, there is umpiring smart and there is umpiring not so smart.  Going out on every fly ball is not umpiring smart.  Learn to Pause, Read and React.  If you do not learn to P-R-R, I am saying you should quit umpiring today.  Let's all start to learn when to go out and when it is good to come in.  In other words, let's improve ourselves every time we go out there and self-analyze our games so we can improve. 

7.      With no one on base, when should the BU go out on batted balls into the outfield?  Give examples.   Trouble balls.  Any fly ball that takes the right fielder toward the foul line; 2 or more converging fielders; Right fielder or Center fielder go back hard on batted balls; Any ball that may or may not be caught near the warning track; Fielder running hard in to catch below the waist; Any home run to the BU area of responsibility.  

8.      If the BU goes out on a trouble ball, when does he return to the infield?   When the fielder releases a throw to the infield. 

     a.       The batter hits a fair line drive down the right field line.  The BU goes out.  The right fielder fields the ball and throws to second but the sliding runner is safe on a close play.  Explain what the BU should do.  Watch the catch/no catch, signal if there is any doubt that it is a catch or not.  When the fielder releases his throw toward the infield, the BU should run in foul territory toward home plate.  Also, the BU should be watching the ball and glancing at the runner as he is running toward the plate. 

     b.      On a trouble ball that hits the bottom of the fence in right center, the BR heads for third base.  Describe the base umpire’s actions and communication.   The base umpire should have gone out on this trouble ball.  When it hits the bottom of the fence, he should signal nothing and wait until the ball is picked up and thrown to the infield.  Once it is thrown to the infield, the base umpire should head back toward the plate by going toward the 1st baseline and returning toward home in foul territory.  If he arrives in time for any play at the plate, he should communicate to his partner, “I’ve got the plate or I’m home!”  At the end of the play, one of the umpires should check the ball for any damage that may have come from the ball hitting the fence.  

9.      On throws to first base from anywhere on the field, who is responsible for overthrows into dead ball territory?  The Plate Umpire.  

10.  Describe the responsibilities of the BU on an obvious base hit into right field when: 

     a.       The BR rounds the base and then draws a throw from the right fielder back into first.   As you pause, read and react, you decide that you need to pivot.  As you enter the diamond, you will check over your right shoulder two or three times, as you are moving toward the cutout.  You are looking to see if the right fielder fields the ball cleanly or not.  If he does not, you can expect the BR might try to go to 2nd base.  If it is fielded cleanly, you might expect that the BR might stop and begin a return to 1st base.  You should enter the diamond about 1 or 2 steps outside the cutout.  As you get on the infield grass, you will begin to make about a 270-degree (pivot) turn that will take you toward 2nd base and parallel with the baseline.  You should watch the batter-runner touch or miss 1st base.  You should now pick up the right fielder and watch his throw.  Since it is back toward 1st base, you will stop and take a drop step toward the 45-line of the 1st baseline and come to a hands-on-knees set for the play back at first base on the batter-runner. 

     b.      The BR runs all the way to second and is safe on a close play.   As you pause, read and react, you decide that you need to pivot.  As you enter the diamond, you will check over your right shoulder for the ball, two or three times, as you are moving toward the cutout.  You should enter the diamond about 1 or 2 steps outside the cutout.  As you get on the infield grass, you will begin to make a 270-degree turn that will take you toward 2nd base and parallel with the baseline.  You will watch the BR touch or miss 1st base and continue to stay ahead of him and come to a standing set near the cutout at 2nd base for the play there.  You are also watching for any obstruction on the BR by the pitcher or 1st baseman.  You need to get to the 2nd base cutout prior to the BR’s slide and be in a hands-on-knees set (HOKS) for the play at 2nd base.   

     c.       The BR slides safely into third.   Same as above but when you read that there will only be a play at 3rd base, you will anticipate this and therefore, you will not continue to 2nd base but will sharpen your turn and stay ahead of the BR as you come to a hands-on-knees set near the 3rd base cutout.  Remember to watch the release of the throw so you do not get in the way of the throw.  This play is more difficult than most because of the angle from where the throw is coming from.  Sometimes it is better to get to the 3rd baseline side of the cutout to get more out of the way of the throw and also to have the best angle possible for the tag-play at 3rd base.

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