Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

“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.

Showing the Count

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.

April 2, 2008 - Posted by | Mechanics, Sharing Game Situations | , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I also give the count after every pitch. I find that it helps me to stay focused as well as keeping the teams informed.

    Comment by Tom | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  2. What I like is when the coach who’s always asking for the count is holding the score book. Or you’re doing a game at Mansfield and the count is in lights three feet high in right field.

    I don’t really give the count every second pitch or every pitch. I give the count often because for the most part I’m keeping the count in my head. I find that it helps to keep me “in the game” and helps with dead ball umpiring.

    Comment by Rob Curtis | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. I admire umpires who keep track of the count in their head sand don’t use an indicator behind the plate at all. As Rob points out, it keeps one “in the game” but it also enables one to fully concentrate on what is happening in front him. You certainly aren’t going to miss any action because your were looking down at the numbers on the indicator. I’m afraid my ADHD would put the game in severe jeopardy, though, were I to leave my indicator in my ball bag. (8-))

    Comment by Steve Johnson | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. When I started calling, I preferred NOT to use a counter just like when I caught. I had to recall all pitches on certain batters to my coach. However, on bang bang plays, and put outs, steals, and such, I got thrown and have used it ever since. I still dont look at it much, but do look at times no one is looking at me. e.g. batter goes to first, I am joggin back with my arms swinging I check to zero. K, I may politely left arm the batter into the box, and sneak a peek. Tiny ways of cheating a glance so I dont look like a kid playing with his IPOD or IPHONE every time. Thanks to Tom, Bill, Fisher, Andrew for all your help this year. You may not comment but I know you read.

    Dan

    Comment by Dannyboy | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  5. I don’t say a count after the first pitch, but after that I do – especially at the JR / SR BB level (Little League). It keeps me focused. Additionally, if another play occurs while the batter is at bat (a runner is stealing and the pitcher throws the ball), I refresh everyone’s mind what the count is before the next pitch.

    Comment by Regina | April 22, 2008 | Reply


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