JIM EVANS 7 LAWS OF UMPIRING1.    Anticipate all play possibilities but not their outcome.     Lots of instruction admonishes the umpire to never anticipate.  Proponents of this school of thought argue that anticipation leads to prejudging and quick timing, the umpire’s worst nemesis.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When I hear this advice advocated, I am reminded of the 18th century poet Alexander Pope’s exhortation, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”  Anticipating play possibilities is critical if an umpire is to have any reasonable chance to consistently get into position for the variety of plays that he faces, especially in the 2-umpire system.  In the umpiring parlance, this is simply play recognition and is an absolute necessity.  Proper play recognition is the result of reading and interpreting cues accurately.  Fans, players, managers and coaches routinely anticipate what they think the result of a play is going to be.  If the umpire does the same, he will miss a lot of calls.  An umpire watches the game completely different from a fan, player, manager or coach.  If you come to umpiring from one of these backgrounds, you must re-educate yourself and learn to watch the game from a totally new perspective. 2.    Proper positioning is defined by proper angle and distance.A typical baseball field consists of 2-3 acres of land.  That includes all playing ground in fair and foul territory where plays can occur.  The size of the area in foul territory varies greatly from park to park.  From pitch to pitch, nobody knows where the next possible play will occur.  That presents quite a challenge for two umpires who are responsible for being in position for all plays regardless of where they might occur.  There is a perfect position for every play, and the two criteria that define that perfect position are angle and distance.  Once the ball is put into play, the umpire’s first priority is to identify the ideal position and get there as quickly as possible.  This training manual will explain how to divide the vast number of play possibilities between you and your partner and maximize your coverage in the two-umpire system. 3.    Proper angle is primary to distance.In establishing proper positioning for a play, the umpire must hustle to the proper angle first and then strive to reach the optimal distance.  He should get as close to the perfect distance as the play will allow.  It is paramount that the umpire is set (stopped) when the play occurs.  This means that the umpire may not have time to get to the optimal distance; therefore, it is imperative that he acquire angle first (bust to it).  Due to the different elements involved in force plays and tag plays, the umpire needs to get closer to tag plays.  The ideal distance for force plays is 15-20 feet and 8-10 feet for tag plays.  In some cases when the fielder is running to make a play on a batted ball (e.g. a catch/no-catch situation in the outfield), the umpire will be able to create the perfect angle by standing still or by moving only slightly.  Be aware that when a player is moving, the angle and distance are constantly changing while you are standing still.  On the contrary, when a play is going to occur at a fixed point (e.g. first base, second, third or the plate), it is advisable for the umpire hustle to his angle first and then acquire the proper distance.  It is usually possible for the umpire to improve his distance simultaneously as he acquires the proper angle.  This can be accomplished by using the proper footwork. The most serious positioning mistakes an umpire is to simply hustle toward the play and get as close as he can without regard to angle.  Unfortunately, this happens a lot and the umpire who commits this positioning error is often complimented for his hustle, resulting in reinforcement of a very destructive habit.  Sometimes we get rewarded in baseball for doing the wrong thing and penalized for doing the right thing.  So, work to improve yourself as an umpire based upon the correct reasons and not just to get praise from the teams and players.  Work to improve based upon how a well-trained umpire would praise you for your improvement.  Remember, we are trying to improve for the long haul, not just today.  We need to do the routine plays over and over with many repetitions before the correct technique is second nature.  No skill is achieved because you tried it once and it didn’t work.  Most of our bad habits have taken a long time to develop and therefore, it will also take a long time to remove the bad habits and acquire new and good habits before we can see the improvement.  By the way an old-time player from the Dodgers that was also an umpire in the major leagues once stated to a reporter why he quit umpiring, “All JEERS and no CHEERS!”  Ain’t it the truth.  This former Dodger pitcher was Lon Warneke.  You can look it up. 4.    Proper positioning is a function of time.Common sense dictates that the more time you have the better the probability that you can get into the proper position for a potential play.  Unfortunately, when the ball is put into play, the umpire cannot regulate how fast the play develops.  He increases his chances by getting into the best position possible when he reads all the proper cues and reacts in a timely manner.  For example, when the ball is hit hard, it is going to reach a fielder, fence or foul pole more quickly.  This means that the umpire will not have a lot of time to get into position.  On high fly balls to the outfield, he will have more time to get distance as he builds his angle.  When a catcher fields a batted ball in the immediate vicinity of home plate, the umpire must read that as a cue and realize that the ensuing play at 1st base is likely to occur quicker than a throw from the shortstop position.  In throws from the outfield, an umpire has more time to read the play and make the proper position adjustments.  In all cases, it is critical that the umpire is set (stopped) when the play actually happens, not necessarily when he renders his signal.  When you read your cues, you need to be anticipating where the next play might be and that comes from constant and intelligent study of past situations and what you have done correctly or incorrectly in those situations.  So, experience with a variety of plays is beneficial to the development of your umpiring skills.  Also, I have noticed many umpires standing still when the ball has been hit instead of pausing, reading and reacting.  Most of us as base umpires need to get ourselves into the working area so we can then move to the next possible play.  Those that just stand still only many times do not get into the best angle or distance for their play. 5.    There are three possible positions for every play.The umpire’s starting position is established at the time of the pitch.  This initial position changes anytime the runner situation changes.  It provides the umpire the best starting point from which to assume his multiple responsibilities.  Once a play is in progress, the umpire reads the situation and moves to his optimal angle and distance, play position, for the impending play.  Sometimes, this position will be the perfect spot enabling the umpire to see all the elements necessary to make a correct ruling.  At other times, this initial position will need to be changed in order to see all the elements.  This new position is the adjusted position.  Umpires who do not read the need for a position change often fail to make the necessary adjustment and fail to see what many others on the field can easily see. Example:  With no runner on base, the base umpire is positioned in foul territory square to the plate 10-12 feet behind the 1st baseman who is playing at normal depth (starting position).  A ground ball is hit directly to the shortstop playing at normal depth halfway between 3rd and 2nd base.  The umpire immediately busts in to his perfect 90o angle, 18 feet from the base (play position).  If the throw is on target, this play position will be perfect for the ensuing play at 1st, the umpire is required to make an adjustment in order to see the new element, a swipe tag.  He must make a quick adjustment to his left to clear the 1st baseman’s body and be able to see the tag attempt (adjusted position).  Not reacting to the poor throw (standing still) or moving in the wrong direction (adjusting to the right instead of the left) would complicate the play and increase the chance for error. Test question from above:  What are the 3 positions that an umpire needs to be able to perform on any one play? Answer:  STARTING POSITION, PLAY POSITION, ADJUSTED POSITION. 6.    The call is a mental process and the signal is physical.Without a doubt, the greatest cause of missed calls is quick timing, making a decision before the play is completely over.  Ask any umpire and he will tell you that he is often the 1st to realize it when he has missed a call.  To develop good timing it is critical you understand that an umpire’s job on each pitch or play is a two-part process, the call and the signal.  The call is the decision-making process.  You observe the play and gather all the information you need to render a correct decision.  Then after all the facts are in and you have interpreted them, you make your decision…ball or strike, safe or out, fair or foul, catch or no-catch.  At this point, no participant on-the-field nor any fan in-the-stands has any idea what your final decision is but the call has already been made.  The verdict is in but it has not been announced to the court.  Once this 1st process has been completed, it is time to inform the world of your decision.  Now, and not a nanosecond sooner, is the time for the signal.  A signal should never be given while the brain is still processing the play.  How do you make sure that you are using this two-part process and not calling plays too quickly?  Answer:  learn to use your eyes properly.  It is less important to have perfect visual vision than it is to know how to use your eyes properly.  Naturally, a minimum standard of visual acuity is required to umpire at the higher levels, but, far more emphasis is erroneously assigned to visual acuity than should be.  By using your eyes properly, you are able to send the information you need to make the proper decision to your brain.  The signal is a physical response to that decision and simply a method for communicating your thoughts to others. Examples of how to use your eyes effectively:  As the plate umpire, you are often responsible for calling hundreds of pitches during the course of a 9-inning game.  To be accurate and consistent (the hallmarks of a good umpire), it is necessary that you track the pitch from the pitcher’s hand all the way to the bat or into the catcher’s mitt.  This means that you follow the pitch with your eyes (no body movement) from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand until it touches the bat or enters the mitt.  The most common error is for the umpire to stop tracking the pitch once it passes the plate area.  This means that the pitch is no seen the last few feet from the plate to the mitt.  Your brain is not being given all the information it needs to make a credible and consistent decision.  The last time the eyes saw the pitch and relayed its information to the brain the pitch may have looked good but the bottom fell out the last couple of feet and the catcher pulls it out of the dirt as your right arm goes up and you yell “Striiiiikkkkke!”  By consciously tracking the pitch that extra distance and then processing what has happened to it before being secured by the catcher, you have a much better chance of making a credible decision.  Arguments abound concerning whether or not the aftermath of a pitch should be factored into one’s decision of ball or strike.  Without debating the issue, let me assure you that in the higher levels of competition, the way a catcher handles a pitch does affect the credibility of your decision on a borderline pitch. On the bases, it is equally important that you use your eyes properly to insure good timing.  Consider the so-called routine force play at 1st base:  The umpire is in perfect position for the force play at 1st.  He is watching the bag to observe the fielder’s foot, the batter-runner’s foot and listening for the ball to strike the mitt.  A split-second before the batter-runner’s foot comes down on the base, the ball hits the mitt.  Still focused on the bag, the umpire dramatically signals, “He’s out!”  Oops!  Out of the corner of his eye, the umpire sees the ball lying on the ground.  That dramatic out signal is now morphed into a rather timid “Safe, he dropped the ball.”  Sure, the correct call was ultimately made but the umpire’s timing and credibility will be suspect for the rest of the game and, perhaps, for the rest of the season.  What caused the problem?  Poor timing, right?  But what caused the poor timing?  The improper use of his eyes was the culprit.  The umpire was 100% right in determining that the ball beat the runner to the base, however, that is not the only criteria for determining safe or out.  To retire the batter-runner, the fielder must touch the base while securely holding the ball before the batter-runner reaches the base (definition of a tag).  After determining that the ball beat the batter-runner to the base, the umpire must shift his eyes from the base to the mitt to ascertain secure possession.  Once he makes the determination (a mental process), he can then signal safe or out (the physical process).  Understanding and mastering this Sixth Law will make a major difference in your timing and success as an umpire. 7.    No play can be considered routine until it is over.The 7th and final Law brings us full circle.  Number One was “Anticipate all play possibilities but not their outcome.”  This 7th Law interfaces with that principle.  Fans, players, managers and coaches all have a tendency to project what is going to happen as soon as the ball is put into play.  If you think that way as an umpire, you are setting yourself up for disaster.  You must keep an open mind and realize that every play has its own set of unique variables.  Never prejudge the outcome of a play before the final element has been completed.  There will be times when the ball beats a runner by a considerable margin but the 1st baseman pulls his foot off the bag early, or he bobbles the ball, or a collision occurs and he drops the ball.  There are going to be plays at the plate in which the catcher has the ball in plenty of time but misses the tag or tags the elusive runner high.  Do not let your mind prejudice your call.  Nothing is routine while it is happening.  Lots of unexpected things can happen.  That is why coaches encourage players to run out ever ground ball no matter how routine it seems.  Wait until all the elements of the play have been completed and then render one final decision, not the embarrassing 2nd one.  So, using good timing, proper use of eyes, allowing all things to occur that are part of the play before we mentally decide what the outcome is going to be and then render the best judgment of all that information at the correct time by signaling our decision will ultimately get us closer to be the 100% correct on calls that we are all striving to attain.  This brings us back to an old cliché of umpiring, “Never take a play off!” or “Umpire every play as it is your last one!”
MECHANICSThe Two-Umpire System At the Academy, you will be taught the BASIC TWO-UMPIRE SYSTEM.  This is the system used in the lower minor leagues of professions baseball and most amateur leagues throughout the United States.  Near the end of your Academy training, you will be briefly introduced to the three and four-umpire systems.  As you will discover, both of these are based on the two-umpire arrangement; therefore, it is imperative that you understand and master your responsibilities in it. For any umpiring system to work to its maximum efficiency, each umpire must thoroughly understand (1) coverage responsibilities and (2) basic umpiring techniques, which enable one to maximize that coverage.  I provide an outline of the two-umpire system coverage responsibilities on pages M4-M6 of this manual.  Following is a glossary of techniques, which I have discerned to be essential to all systems and, particularly, the two-umpire system in which comprehensive coverage is especially challenging.  I have defined these techniques as Umpiring Axioms.

Jim Evans’

UMPIRING AXIOMS1.    COMMUNICATION.  Anytime there is more than one umpire on the field, it is necessary to have some form of universal communication between umpires.  The fewer the umpires, the more critical the need for communication.  Sometime coverage’s overlap and there will be other times when assignments are missed.  In these cases, communication is vital to preventing the dangerous double coverage or no coverage.     Communication is also essential in order to alert your partner(s) to future responsibilities (e.g., infield fly rule, time play, etc.)     The three forms of communication are (1) verbal, (2) physical, and (3) eye contact.Larry Gallagher is inserting some information that he has gleaned over the years on this topic of communication.  1) It must be a mutual thing.  All partners need to respond to the communications that are taking place either by their actions or with a verbal response.  It is not enough to just look like you did not see the signal.  Usually the response should be by repeating the signal that was given to you by the UIC.  2) The UIC is the one that should be initiating the signals prior to a pitch, i.e., the number of outs, infield fly signal, rotations, time play, etc.  3) If for some reason the UIC does not initiate the signals, then the partner(s) may do so.  4)  Sometimes many amateur umpires give too many signals. This is usually because they may never have worked together before and therefore do not feel comfortable without giving a variety of signals.  Most rotations do not have to be given.  The only signals required between batters that professional baseball does are the number of outs, infield fly and time play.  All others are left to knowing your responsibilities.  So, in amateur baseball it might be good to remind each other of the normal rotation that will take place on if anyone might be covering 3rd base or not.  So, an agreed signal in your pre-game meeting on if you are staying home or not and you will be covering 3rd.  A good rule of thumb however is let the base umpire cover all plays in the infield if the ball stays in the infield and the plate umpire takes care of other responsibilities. 2.    HUSTLE.  Your movement on-the-field should convey energy and enthusiasm.  Observers will judge your attitude and commitment by your body language and hustle is the body language of a dedicated umpire.     Hustle means a lot more than just running fast on the field.  It means understanding responsibilities, reading plays, and getting into position in the most expedient manner.  An umpire who does not understand his responsibilities or fails to read play situations properly may over hustle himself out of position rather than into position.  An umpire who does not understand proper footwork or his responsibilities will often take unnecessary steps.  We call this symptom happy feet.  One of the areas we see this is in the plate umpire following the batter-runner up the 1st baseline and not coming to a stop prior to the 45-foot line.  Some umpires just keep running while the play is in progress at 1st base.  This shows false hustle.  By this we mean that the umpire does not know that he should be completely stopped and in a standing set when the play occurs at 1st base.  Why?  To practice proper fundamentals of being set for all plays or calls as an umpire.  We also see this when we see an umpire in the A position going out on a fly ball and not coming to a standing set prior to the ball being touched or caught in the outfield.  These are just 2 areas where an umpire shows that he does not show the correct understanding of knowing his responsibilities.  Another spot is to have the umpire from the A position bust toward the 2nd baseman when the 2nd baseman fields a ground ball.  This umpire only needs to get 1-2 steps into fair territory and try to get the proper distance from the call at 1st base but they are over-hustling to get onto the field and working on getting set for their play at 1st but the end up with a very small angle and then they wonder why the play explodes on them at 1st base.  Their head is moving too abruptly toward the play and it cannot pick up the key elements such as watching the touch of the base and listening for the sound of the ball striking the 1st baseman’s mitt.  Also, now using your eyes properly and finding the ball is firmly and securely held and that he is making a voluntary release of the ball.     Hustle is knowing your responsibilities and responding in a quick, athletic manner.3.     PLAY RECOGNITION.  Recognizing play possibilities and reacting appropriately offers the umpire his best opportunity to position himself properly.  The technique of Pause, Read, and React will enable him to accomplish this more consistently.  What does Pause, Read, and React mean you say?  The Pause, Read and React technique illustrates the step-by-step approach for an ensuing play.  When the ball is initially hit, the umpire should hesitate momentarily to assess the potential situation (Pause).  While paused, he observes the location of the ball and the fielders in order to mentally determine if the ball is in his area of jurisdiction.  He then assesses the most likely play situation that could occur (Read).  Following the read, he establishes his position based on his best judgment of what is most likely to occur.  He decides to either go out or come in (React).            Example:  Fly ball hit to right field with no runner on base.       Base umpire steps forward with his left foot parallel the first base foul line.  While opening to the field of play, he has hesitated rather than reacting spontaneously and mistakenly committing to an action that may prove to be unnecessary.  Square to the foul line and open to the field of play, he then reads the location of the ball and the position of the fielders.  These two criteria will determine his read and provide him the information he needs to determine whether he should (1) advance into the outfield for better positioning for a potential play or (2) advance into the infield and take all play responsibility on the batter-runner.  Criteria explaining when the umpire should go out and when he should come in are discussed under Trouble balls.       As the umpire’s cognitive skills improve, he will better be able to anticipate trouble and pressure situations, which require position adjustments.4.     PLAY POSITIONING.  Theoretically, there is an ideal angle from which to see each play.  In addition, there is an ideal distance to improve your perspective and to make your call more credible.  Acquiring the proper angle and distance is the result of reading each play properly.  Failure to read the play properly will cause the umpire to compromise optimal positioning.  There is a perfect umpire position for each play that occurs on the playing field.  That position is defined as the location on the field which enable you to clearly see all the essential elements necessary to make an accurate ruling.  Proper positioning consists of the proper angle to the play and the proper distance from the play.  As a rule, you should establish the proper angle to the play first then acquire the appropriate  distance.  In other words, angle before distance.      The proper angle for all force plays is 90-degrees unless the umpire is working first base with no runner on and the throw is originating from the right side.  Proper distance for force plays is 15-20 feet.      For tag plays, the umpire must secure a position a lot closer because a tag is applied to a very specific part of the runner’s body.  The umpire must be able to see the exact point on the body where the tag was applied.  The recommended distance for tag plays is 8-10 feet.     Once the umpire reads the play properly, he will employ a variety of techniques to get into position (proper angle/distance) for his call (e.g., pivoting, watching the ball and glancing at the runners, keeping the chest to the ball, splitting the difference, and squaring to the play, drop step and/or opening the gate [steals and double play footwork]).      5.     BODY POSITIONING.  Square to the play and a static body position are necessary criteria for determining precisely what occurs on a play.  The two acceptable set positions are:  (1) the hands on knees set (HOKS) and (2) the standing set.  Many umpires that end up using some other form of position usually are not set when the play occurs and that is why the umpire schools do not teach anything other than these 2 positions.  The scissors set position is another set position but usually like in the scissors plate stance most umpires that have become umpires are not athletic enough to use this position efficiently.  In fact, most umpires that use anything other than the HOKS and the Standing Set position end up not square to their play and they are still moving some part of their body when the play occurs. So, let’s understand thoroughly that we all should use a HOKS or a standing set.  As a base umpire we use the HOKS when we are in the B and C position and it is even recommended in the A position.  However, the A position may also be the Standing Set position.  On tag plays and force plays in all but one setting for a base umpire we should be using the HOKS.  The only time we can’t use the HOKS is the front end of a double play.  All other plays for the base umpire should be a HOKS.  The base umpire and the plate umpire may use a standing set position on fair and foul balls, on a catch or no-catch in the outfield.  The only time the plate umpire might use the HOKS is if he has a tag play at 3rd base and he is there in time for the play.  Most of the time the plate umpire would use only the Standing Set for plays at the plate.         6.  PROPER USE OF EYES.  The proper use of the eyes will enable the umpire to “see” the complete play before making a call.  Good timing is the result of proper use of the eyes.  In calling pitches, tracking the ball the entire distance from the pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s mitt will insure that you prevent tunnel vision and mentally register the pitch too soon.  If you observe the pitch only as far as the plate area, you will be deprived of some very valuable information about the ball’s flight that can help determine your call.                  In calling force plays, taking your eyes from the base to the glove or mitt at the appropriate time to verify firm and secure possession will provide the added information needed to make the proper call.  If you leave the shifting of the eyes to the glove or mitt when making your calls, poor timing will be the result and will often end up in missed calls or calls that will have to be changed because the fielder drops or juggles the ball.                  In calling tag plays, watching the glove at the point of the tag attempt and then visually staying with it as the fielder removes the glove from the runner or base will provide the additional information needed to consistently make the right call.  One of the things that umpires do too often is they watch the ball too long into the glove or watch the fielder’s slide instead of watching the glove making the tag.  The slowest thing of the ball, runner and glove is the glove.  Therefore it makes sense to watch the fielder’s glove making the tag since it is slower than the runner’s slide or the speed and flight of the ball.                  In calling catches or no catches, the same philosophy should be used on determining the catch.  If you watch the flight of the ball to the glove, you end up not observing the catch as well as watching the glove field the ball.  The ball sometimes and most often times is moving at a faster rate of speed than your eyes can determine.  Therefore, watch the glove as it is contacting the ball and you will get more calls correct.  Also, wait until the entire play has concluded and you see firm and secure possession of the ball and a voluntary release of the ball by the fielder.                    All of the above will lead to good timing when done correctly.        7.  SIGNALING. Once the umpire has made a call (a mental process) he must now convey his decision to the participants and fans (a physical process).  His signals must be clear, concise, and convincing.  The physical act of signaling should not take him out of position for subsequent plays.  Signals are conveyed by both physical and verbal means.  The umpire should strive to keep his eyes focused on the pitch or play as he renders his signal.  If you watch some umpires, you will see them turn away from the pitch or play.  This usually doesn’t get them into trouble but on a rare occasion, the ball is dropped or some other action takes place when they turn away from the pitch or play such as batter interference on a pitch and a dropped ball on a play.  So, if you can, try to make sure whatever style of call you want to use that it is sound mechanically too.

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