Favor angle over distance when making a call on a runner
- Ideally, try to be about 10 feet from a play being made on a runner and at a 90 degree angle (approximately) between the play on the runner and from where the ball is being thrown.
- The ideal is not always possible, so favor angle over distance. You want to be firmly set, not moving, when it's time to make your call.
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Look for just one outcome when deciding your call
- To simplify your decision process, look for just one outcome when there are two possibilities. Some examples:
- Did you see an out? If not, runner's safe.
- Did you see a strike? If not, must be a ball.
- Did you see a rule violation? If not, "you got nothin'" - and there's no penalty to apply.
- This approach also reduces indecision and second guessing, especially on bang-bang plays and outright misses. And when a coach complains about a blown call, you can fall back on the conversation-ending retort, "I can only call what I see Coach" – (only helpful once per game though).
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Take your time making your call
- Whether a safe or out call, ball or strike, fair or foul, catch or no-catch, calling time ... don't hurry your call.
- Take a few extra seconds to allow for the unexpected like a dropped ball by a fielder making a tag or a ball swerving from fair to foul territory. Wait a moment after the pitch reaches the catcher to process the trajectory of the ball through the batter's strike zone. The extra time will help you from calling what you THINK is about to happen instead of the true outcome.
- Delaying your call also gives others confidence that you're umpiring diligently and thoughtfully, making them less likely to contest your call. It's especially important for dead ball calls like a foul ball, which requires that all play immediately stops. A premature, incorrect foul ball call cannot be undone, and could impact whether runners advance and/or score!
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Make your call with confidence (and demonstratively!)
- You signal most calls with a hand/arm gesture and by shouting it out. It's important to do both, so everyone (players, coaches and fans), both far and near, understand your call and respond accordingly. For example, runners will stop and return to their bases when they hear your foul ball and time out calls. A distant base coach will read from your arm gesture that a third out was called and thus refrain from sending a runner.
- The closer the play - strike or ball, out or safe, fair or foul – the more emphatic you need to be! If you don't know what the right call is – be even more emphatic!! A meek, so-so whimper of a call, will usually invite a dispute by a coach. Veteran umpires call this "selling your call". So be outwardly confident in your calls, especially when you're not actually so confident!
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Go to the Umpire Tips Archives for more advanced umpire techniques and rules