Finding Umpires Who Are Ready To Move Up
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
Last time we looked at umpires who indicate they're not ready yet to move up (see APPEARANCE, TIMING AND FOUL CALLS: INDICATIONS TO LOOK FOR WHEN EVALUATING).
This time we'll look at things an umpire can do to impress an evaluator, or that will tell an evaluator this umpire has the goods and may be ready to move up.
If you're the evaluator, you'll be looking for little things that will tell you whether you're watching a good one or not, as long as the big things - such as positioning, timing and general rules knowledge - all seem to be OK.
Umpiring is basically made up of dozens of little things. A fan watching the game will generally only notice an umpire in a negative way if the umpire messes up one of the aforementioned big things - he's not in the right place, he messes up a call because of poor timing, or he gets a ruling wrong on the field.
But umpires - and especially evaluators - know to watch for the many, many little things.
- As plate umpire, does he go up the first-base line on a ground ball to the infield when required?
- When going up the line, does he stop before the fielder makes a throw?
- Does he get in a better position to watch the runner touch third, or does he make that judgment from home plate?
- On the bases, does he watch the ball and glance at the runners?
- Does he make sure he sees the runners touch the bases?
- When inside the diamond, does he move to get in a better position to make safe/out calls on the bases, or does he just make them from where he started?
- Does he communicate with his partner?
There are many more little things - and some not so little - that we'll go over here.
As an evaluator, it would be a good idea for you to show up not just in time for the first pitch, but when the umpires are expected to arrive. You should know whether the umpires you're evaluating show up in lots of time, or if they get there just before game time.
Showing up early will also tell you whether the umpires have a pre-game discussion.
Now you're ready for the game. And here are some other indications that your umpire knows what he's doing out there and could be ready to move up.
PUTTING THE BALL IN PLAY
With runners on base, every time the ball goes out of play or time is called, the plate umpire needs to make the ball alive again, by pointing to the pitcher (when all is ready) and saying "PLAY!"
Too many umpires don't do this, which leaves the base umpire in an uncomfortable position. Let's say there's a runner on first and there's been a foul ball. The pitcher gets a new ball, toes the rubber and everyone seems to almost be ready. Suddenly, the pitcher tries a pickoff at first base.
What does the base umpire do? Is the ball live? How would he know, if his partner hasn't consistently been pointing and saying "PLAY!" when everyone is ready again?
PACE OF THE GAME
This one is a big one for me, and it probably should be for you, too, especially at the lower levels where the games tend to take longer.
Imagine the umpire you're evaluating does this: The bases are loaded with two out in a tie game in the bottom of the last inning. There's a full count on the batter and the pitcher is ready to pitch. The crowd is going crazy in anticipation.
Suddenly, your umpire yells "TIIIIMME!" and comes out to brush off the plate. Are you kidding me? The pitcher was in a zone, the batter was in a zone, the game had a rhythm, and the umpire, who was not aware of the rhythm, messed it all up and suddenly became the focus of attention.
Brush off the plate at convenient times, such as after a foul ball or after a batter puts the ball in play, but before the next batter comes up. If you ever find yourself in a situation like the one described above, with a full count in a time game, and you notice the plate is dirty, ignore it. Better to have a dusty plate than have the rhythm and intensity ruined.