“What’s the count, Blue?”
It has often been observed that one of the signs of a successful umpire is that at the end of the game, you don’t remember he/she was even there. Usually it is acts of commission (antagonistic attitude toward managers and players, short fuse during a discussion of a play, etc) that keep umpires in the negative limelight, but there are also acts of omission (lack of hustle, lack of focus, etc) that can also undermine our performance. During my spring training week in Florida last week, a veteran umpire pointed out to me that both coaches and players seemed to repeatedly ask me the question, “What’s the count, Blue?” My lack of information-sharing was interfering with the smooth conduct of the game, and I wasn’t even aware of it.
My evaluator shared with me his routine for giving the count on the batter and suggested I try it for a game or two and see if there was any reduction in the requests for the count. He gives the count after every two pitches (2-0, 1-1, 0-2, etc.) He also gives it after every foul ball just before he puts the ball back in play. which he says is a great reminder to make the ball live after each foul ball. He also gives the count whenever there is a full count.I took his advice was pleasantly surprised to see a dramatic drop in the number of cries, ”What’s the count, Blue?” To be sure, sometimes the catcher, pitcher, and coaches are deep in thought and will request the count just after I have announced it. That’s the nature of the game. But at least I was operating from a set routine.
The proof of the efficacy of this routine was driven home to me after my final spring training game before heading north. One of the coaches, whose team I had had for five games, told me he had seen a marked improvement in my game management after I had consciously adopted a routine for giving the count. He said it made his decision-making much easier when he didn’t have to guess what the count was.
I’d be interested in what other umpires do about giving the count.