Begin The Game On A Highnote
Beginning a game properly starts with the managers/coaches conference.
- This meeting sets the tone for the game and goes a long way to eliminate confusion later in the contest. This meeting should begin no later than ten minutes prior to game time.
- The home plate umpire leads the meeting while the base umpire(s) introduce themselves to each manager and coach.
- Line up cards should be presented to the home plate umpire – first by the home team and then by the visiting team.
- The home plate umpire will inspect the cards for the correct number of players in the batting order, duplicate defensive positions, and ask any questions to assure correctness.
- The home team manager should cover the ground rules. If at a neutral site, the home plate umpire should preside. Be precise, listen carefully, ask questions and make sure all ground rules are understood. Confirm the number of games, innings, special rule interpretations and run rules.
- Ask each manager to confirm that their players are properly equipped. Request the managers/coaches cooperation in keeping the game moving.
- Should there be introductions and/or playing of the National Anthem, umpires are to remain at home plate until all pre-game activities are concluded.
- With only ten or less minutes to cover a lot of information, do it professionally and concisely.
- These few minutes will do much to make your day a great deal easier and more fun for everyone.
Keep The Game Moving
Thanks to Craig Murphy from the Central Massachusetts Babe Ruth League for sharing the following ways to speed up games:
- Do not let pitchers parade on and off the mound. Tell the pitcher if he has no duties after the pitch (i.e. covering home on a wild pitch, fielding a batted ball, backing up a play) to stay on the mound and make the catcher throw the ball to him. This is particularly so with young players who have a tendency to walk toward the catcher after every pitch. Not only will time be saved, but the process strengthens the catcher’s arm.
- Avoid walk fests, especially with inexperienced pitchers who have trouble finding the strike zone. Calling an occasional strike can do wonders for the pitcher’s confidence and let him know that he does not have to be completely precise. This process also makes the young batter swing. All experienced umps want to see batted balls to make the game more interesting and give fielders a chance to hone their skills.
- When umpiring solo, display energy and a loud clear voice on strikes. Pitchers get energized when they hear strike calls bellowed out and the dozing fielder gets a wakeup call. In addition, loudly pronounce the count so there are no inquiries. Regular hand signals are a fine adjunct.
- Display an interest in the game beyond the mechanical level while remaining objective.
- An umpire’s physical energy is transferred to the players. Energized games are generally faster games.
Balks And Pitching Rules
Listed below are answers to the most frequently asked questions on balks and pitching rules:
- The pitcher does not have to step off the rubber to throw to a base. (You don’t want to throw to a base after stepping off. If the throw goes out of play, it is a two base award. If the throw goes out of play when throw is from the rubber, it is a one base award.)
- The pitcher may throw from the rubber to a base from the windup position. (It must be done before any movement that is part of the normal motion that is part of his windup.)
- The pitcher may fake a throw to second or third base from the rubber, but not to first base. This may be done from the windup or the set position. (You do not have to step off the rubber to fake to second or third. Only if you fake to first.)
- A jump turn is legal and considered being in contact with the rubber.
- The pitcher may place his hands in a different set location before each pitch. He must come to a set before pitching to the batter, but not before throwing to a base. He may not set twice before the pitch.
- A stretch move prior to the set is optional.
- He must disengage the rubber with his pivot foot first.
- He must step in the direction of the throw and prior to the release of the throw. Once he is on the rubber, he may do one of three things:
- Throw to a base.
- Deliver a pitch.
- Disengage the rubber (pivot foot first).
In (1) and (2) above, the move must be completed without interruption or alteration, except for a fake to second or third.
- The ball is not immediately dead if a pitch or throw is completed after the umpire yells “That’s a balk.”
It’s A Head Game
It can be said of anyone who is at the top of their craft, whatever it may be, that what sets them apart is their mental approach to what they do. Control and utilization of the mind are the factors that create the success these people consistently demonstrate.
What this means is that the top performers have mastered the mental approach to their work.
This begins with their preparation for the task, carries through the execution phase and continues to their follow up and self-evaluation.
How does this apply to umpiring? Have you ever asked yourself what sets apart the umpire that rises through the ranks to the highest levels from the ones who become proficient, but not excellent? What makes them different?
The root to the answers to these questions would be the mental mastery that people of excellence from all walks of life possess. Included in this list of attributes would be:
- Mental practice and visualization are employed.
- Ability to focus on the task even in the face of trying circumstances.
- Self-talk is employed to control emotional intensity or motivate performance.
- Frank and honest self-evaluation of performance are used without recourse to excuses.
Lack of control of the mind can be the downfall of umpires. To perform with consistency and proficiency, an umpire must get into the proper “head space” and occupy it game in and game out. How many umpires do you know can be sailing through a game totally unnoticed, having a great game, until something happens?
That “something” could come from anywhere, but when it happens, everyone knows, because after that, the rest of the game is one you do not want to be witness to, as far as the quality of officiating goes.
Umpires who can learn to use the mind and occupy the right head space, will be going a long way toward achieving excellence on the field.
A Little Bit Of Humour
It was the new pitcher’s first game on the mound, and he was not having a good day. After walking his third straight player, the manager came out for a talk.
“That’s enough”, the manager said. “It’s time I bring in a relief pitcher”.
“But look who’s up to bat”, the pitcher said. “Last time that guy was up to bat I struck him out”.
“Yeah, I know”, the manager said. ” But it’s still the same inning”!!!