Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

Face the Plate in the “B” Position (and more)

Many umpires like to square their hips and shoulders toward first base when there is only a runner on first. Many also make adjustments to the official spot of the “B” position. I think it is important as an umpire to know why you are standing where you choose to and why you are facing the way you are. As we begin a fresh baseball season, this seems like a good time to address this basic positioning.

Base Umpire–Positioning and Facing with a Runner on First Base Only. My concerns are three-fold. First, it is important to fully focus on the pitcher to catch the difficult “balk” call. Second, being square to the plate will help you call the very difficult check swing. Please face home plate so that the pitcher, the batter, and first base are all in your immediate field of vision.

Also, if the base umpire is already facing first base, he/she may not feel the need to move as the pitcher throws to first. Or if they move, they will move in a straight line directly to first. Remember, angle is more important than distance.

To get a better angle for the pickoff at first, you must move towards the midpoint between home plate and first base (where the running lane begins). I suggest that every base umpire take at least 2 steps on a pickoff at first. Move your left foot first followed by the right foot which will swing the hips so that you are facing first base.

If you are quick like a cat and want to show it off, you can take three steps–right, left, right. This gets you the better angle and makes you look good. However if you have difficulty steadying your head, you will not see the play properly as you may be moving or just coming to a stop.

Take a few minutes to step on a diamond and practice this maneuver. Just like players, we must practice our skills enough in order to make them be instinctive. Obviously, there is no extra time to think on a balk, pickoff, or check swing. However, good, slow timing always helps.

Make sure that you and your partner(s) are the best team out there! Keep up the good work and thanks for your dedication to our youth and schools.

April 22, 2007 - Posted by | Mechanics


  1. I’ve found you really have to be quick and have your reflexes razor sharp to get three steps in, turn, and come to a complete stop so that your “camera” does not take a fuzzy photo of the play at first. You are so right about having to practice that maneuver. Don’t be like me, who had read about the three step shuffle to get the best angle, but never bothered to practice doing it before a game. It sounded like a piece of cake. Well, on game day when I was forced to rule on a pickoff attempt at first, I got so excited that I tripped over my feet and fell flat on my stomach! Do you know how hard it is to sell a “safe” call in the prone position! My partner said afterward I looked like a spastic breast stroker out of water.

    Many years later, my partner, who had recently completed Jim Evans’ Umpire Academy, taught me at the game site a great set of steps to use in the B postion on a steal of second which would put me in exactly the proper place to make the safe or out call. I really liked it, but didn’t want a repeat of my performance when taking steps for the attempted pickoff at first. Nor did I want to wait to practice privately on the diamond. So I took a few whacks at it while waiting for the pitcher to complete his 8 warmups at the begining of the game. When the batter came up to the plate, apparently he asked my UIC partner what the devil I was doing out there near second base, stepping, turning slowly while gazing up towards the sky, moving and staying low. My partner, equally amused, apparently told him to watch and see what happened the first time someone tried to steal second that game.

    Bottom line, practice your moves for both the pickoff at first as well as the steal of second, but not in front of the players. But do practice them to make them instinctive because, as Shawn noted, there is not extra time to think on a balk, pickoff, or check swing.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | April 22, 2007 | Reply

    • its best to be sq to the plate the dirt of mound’edge grass between your legs 5 pace back you have all the angles for steal or pick off with one or 2 steps

      Comment by billy dougher umprie32 cbua msbl mabl naba 35 yrs of umprieing | September 18, 2014 | Reply

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