Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

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.

May 2, 2009 - Posted by | Commentary, Mechanics, Sharing Game Situations


  1. New NFHS mechanic:This year is the first year High School umps have been asked to have the plate ump up the first base line with possible second plays in the infield.The base ump is responsible for both plays in the infield as is the case in College mechanics also.Reasoning is:1.PU helping on pulled foot at 1B,inteference at 1B,swipe tags at 1B.The typical play in this is runner on 2B and breaks for third base after throw to first. It is now the BU call at 1B and he bounces toward 3B side and makes the call at third.PU on line looks for possible help situation then moves toward HP in case of overthrows and a play at the plate.

    Comment by dan deshaies | April 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Dan, is there a change in the mechanic this year with R1 at first base and batter lines a single to right? Last year the PU would holler “I got third if he comes” leaving the BU to follow the BR. This year, with the new mechanics, will PU move up the first base line to help on interference at 1B or BR coming back into 1B when the fielder throws back to first behind the runner?

      Comment by Steve Johnson | April 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Steve,PU still takes 1B to 3B on hits to the outfield.
    BU now takes 1B to 3B on infield plays. Dan

    Comment by dan deshaies | April 5, 2010 | Reply

  3. That clarifies it, Dan. Many thanks.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | April 6, 2010 | Reply

  4. Really good stuff. My first time on your site. I am a Jaska/Roder reader and this site is up to their standard. Thank you for excellent insights. I am looking for 3 man info. High school playoffs. We work 3 man during the reg. Season, but I have to teach fly ball coverage at a pregame. Call em like ya see em! Michael Heathman. High school umpire in S Oregon. We have 2-4 inches of snow predicted for game day on May 21. Take care!

    Comment by Michael Heathman | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  5. Michael,

    Thank you for you kind comments on the site. I, too, am a Jaksa/Roder reader, but never thought about this blog approaching their standard.

    I hope the snow did not materialize and that your game did get played today. I’m sorry not to have gotten back to you sooner with a resource for teaching 3 man mechanics in a timely manner. The resource I like the most is the DVD produced by Jim Evans’ group called Virtual Umpire Camp. This outstanding CD give the proper movements for each umpire in every conceivable situation with runners on base. There are placements for 2 man, 3 man, and 4 man umpire crews. Check it out; I’m sure you’ll find it very helpful.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 21, 2010 | Reply

  6. Thanks a lot pertaining to discussing all of us relating to this bring up to date. I do hope you will not likely acquire worn out in generating articles as informative because this.

    Comment by Umpire gear | January 5, 2012 | Reply

  7. Really great post and even better advice. “Remember the mechanic; call the pitch, then the play, and you won’t have to second guess yourself.”


    Comment by Umpire School | October 24, 2012 | Reply

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