Mechanics Matter a Great Deal
A fellow umpire asked us earlier this week if we had watched the plate umpire when Jacoby Ellsbury stole home against the Yankees in last weekend’s series. The umpire’s mechanic was spot on; he called the pitch first and then the play at the plate. That is the way it is supposed to be done, and when you do it that way, you’ll avoid the trouble that can ensue if you call the play first.
A good friend of mine was behind the plate with a runner on third and a 3 and 1 count on the batter, a very dangerous hitter. It was a tight ball game and the coach elected to have his runner steal home. The pitch was very close to the strike zone, but the catcher quickly caught in and got the glove down just in time to tag the runner before he crossed the plate. A big cloud of dust arose around the action which served as a backdrop for the celebration then launched by the defense when the plate umpire rang up the disappointed runner for the third out.
The third base coach ambled down towards home plate as the umpire was cleaning the dish and the teams were changing sides. ” Blue, that last pitch was a strike, right? A strike.” My friend did a double take, probably because in the excitement, he hadn’t called the pitch before calling the runner out, and now the moment was a bit fuzzy. The pitch was really close; what was it? But, what difference did it make? The inning was over and the teams were moving on.
Yes, the inning was over and the offense had lost its chance to even the score that inning, but if the last pitch had been ball 4, that would have ended the player’s at-bat and the tag ended the inning. However, if the pitch had been strike 2, the batter would remain a batsman, the inning would have ended on the tag at the plate, but the dangerous hitter would be the leadoff hitter the next inning. That is what the coach wanted to be sure would happen.
“Blue, that last pitch was a strike, right?” Remember the mechanic; call the pitch, then the play, and you won’t have to second guess yourself.