Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

The Forgotten All Star Team

Many of you are now involved in state championship games at the high school level or in conference championships at the college level. If you are working those games involving the best teams from the area, then you are part of the very special third team out there, the forgotten all star team of umpires. I just want to take a moment to congratulate you and help you realize the significance of your being assigned those playoff games.

Throughout the season you kept your assignments, even though It may have been at some personal cost; you displayed excellent rule knowledge; you executed mechanics almost flawlessly; you communicated effectively and often with your partners; you effectively facilitated the game for players and coaches, and you demonstrated a desire to be the best umpire out there. I know that for a fact, because otherwise your assignor would have replaced you with someone else. Look around you and see which of your peers are missing from the cadre of post-season officials from your umpire association.

You have just a little bit more of that special stuff that separates the exceptional umpires from the great umpires, just as the teams whose games you are officiating have that little extra bit of talent, hustle, and desire that separates them from the other teams in their division. The difference between the two teams whose game you are officiating and  your umpire team is that they have the media and the student body behind them to do their cheerleading. Your team, the forgotten all-star team of top umpires, has only yourselves to applaud your performance over the season, a performance so good that it catapulted you into the playoff arena. Take a minute and pat yourself on the back for a good job well done,

If, this year, you find yourself on the outside looking in on the cadre of umpires from your association who were selected for post-season assignments, and you are feeling a bit miffed about your exclusion from that august body, now is a good time to take stock of things. What are the areas of umpiring in which you could show some improvement next year so that your assignor will put you into the post-season pool? More importantly, what is the game plan you will employ to be sure you make those improvements? What gets measured, gets tended to, and what gets tended to, gets better. Be proactive; take charge of your umpiring behavior, and do what you need to do to show your assignor you deserve to be part of the forgotten all star team.

Finally, to those of you already at the top of your game, to those of you who are representing your association in post-season play, to those of you to whom the game means so much that you make significant sacrifices during the year to get the nod for post-season play I offer my congratulations. By your skill and dedication, you are making it possible for the teams in the championship hunt to have world class officiating calling their games. You are the third team out there, and in reality, it is good that you are forgotten by the players, coaches and fans, because that means you did your job so well they didn’t even know you were out there. Enjoy!

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Association Improvements, Commentary, Knotty Problems, Mechanics, Rules | 3 Comments

Does the run count?

Jack Kroger replied to another section of the blog asking the following situation. I felt that this was one of those situations that might make you think a bit. Here it is:

‘Bases are loaded with one out. A fly ball hit to the outfield is caught legally (two outs). After the ball is put back in play, the defensive team appeals that the runner left second early. The umpire agrees and called the runner going from second to third out on the appeal. Does the run scored by the runner from third count?’

Kimball answer: The run scores. On caught balls, there is no force so all runs count that score before the base (or offending runner) is touched/tagged. This is commonly called a time play even though this is a bit easier than the time play when a runner scores at almost the exact same time as another runner is tagged for the third out. Unless the runner is forced to advance and hasn’t yet touched the base to which he is forced to advance when he or the base is touched, all preceding runs count that are scored before the third out occurs. Remember, your decision must be based on the time of the tag, not when the umpire signals the out. Failure by a runner to touch a base and being called out on appeal can muddy the water a bit. If the player was forced to advance to that base, the third out is a force play (runner must go there due to the batter becoming a runner) and no runs score even if they touched the base way before the player is called out on appeal. One other thing, an apparent fourth or fifth out can occur if a team gets a third out on appeal and wishes to appeal another runner to prevent a run from scoring. Have I confused anyone yet?

Kid Tag Play

The above picture could represent a time play if there are two outs and a runner is about to score. Please comment by clarifying my answer and/or sharing some other interesting appeal plays or ‘run counts’ situations.

April 2, 2008 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules | , , , | 33 Comments

Umpire Interference or Not?

A close friend who used to take care of me during my Triple A series in Toledo saw the following play and emailed me looking for an answer.  It seems like a good one to share with our readers.  Click comment below and share your ruling and reason(s) for coming to that conclusion.  Thanks for being involved.

Jim LaBuhn writes: While watching the Tigers a few night ago this play happened and I thought it was a dead ball.  So here it is RULES man………Tigers have men on 1st and second, no outs, Sheffield is at bat.  The umpire working second base was on the infield grass behind pitcher’s mound.  Sheffield hits a screamer that hits the second base umpire in the back of the calf and the ball bounces away.  The fielder still tried to make a play at first but Sheffield was safe. I thought that if the umpire is in front of the fielder(s), the ball is dead and the batter is awarded a single.  If you have your rule book it looks like it is 5.09 section!

I realize that we were not there (and we are not trying to second guess the umpires), but let’s share our thinking.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules | 31 Comments

Situation: Awarding Bases

Game Situation NF Rules:

No runners on base, 2-2 count on the batter, batter swings and misses, the ball glances off the catcher, and the ball rolls out of play.  Where do the umpires place the batter-runner?  Why? If the plate umpire places the batter-runner on the wrong base, what should the base umpire do?  How might it be best to get involved to get the play right?

What rules apply and what generalities can you share to help other umpires better understand how to best award bases and cover baseballs going out of play?

Happy Blogging!

May 31, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules, Sharing Game Situations | 8 Comments

No Call or Interference?

Rob Curtis offered the following situation in a comment in another section of the blog. Thanks for sharing your sitation and your decision. Interference and obstruction and the decision to call one or the other, or neither, must be part of our learning. The discussion and learning shall now begin (and it isn’t about Rob being right or wrong).

Here’s a situation that I had in a game.

Runners on First and Third one out.

Runner from first takes off for second, pitcher steps off the rubber and looks at the runner as he’s running. Pitcher throws the ball to the second basemen who’s about 25 feet from second base. The runner, at the time the second basemen gets the throw, is about a stride away from the second basemen. Runner gets tagged as he runs into the second basemen that he’s attempting to avoid, but there’s nothing hard or anything. The contact causes the throw to the plate to be off target and the run scores.

Defensive coach comes out and wants interference called. I didn’t call interference on the play simply because the runner didn’t have a chance to avoid the second basemen by the time he stopped and the second baseman was in the act of fielding the ball. The runner didn’t change his course to second base. Anyone call anything different?

May 23, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Sharing Game Situations | 21 Comments

Sharing feedback with your peers

It is so easy to catch poor mechanics on your partner’s part, but not at all easy to detect your own deficiencies. Because I want so much for all umpires to give their very best to the game, I always ask my partner for some feedback on areas where I need to work. With luck he’ll give me some good morsels on which to chew. Hopefully, he’ll ask me the same question so that I can share with him what I saw him do and ask him why he did it that way. Maybe he wasn’t aware of what he was doing, or perhaps he has a good reason for doing it that way. If we can get a discussion going, great! We can both learn from that.

But what if he doesn’t open the door to a discussion about his performance that day, either good or bad? What if he tells me he has nothing for me and that he thinks he had a great game? I’ve tried the approach, “Would you like to know what I saw out there today?” and when he responds with, “Not really”, I bemoan the fact that a learning opportunity has just gone out the window.

When you work with an association that has no formal evaluation process where an evaluator sees you once or twice a season and provides you with written feedback at the conclusion of the game, the only way you are going to get feedback is from your partner after the game or perhaps from a peer who happened to take in your game from the stands because he was there to watch a relative or a neighbor’s kid play ball. On those occasions where I have been the peer in the stands, I have had the overwhelming desire to share all my observations, both the strengths and opportunities, with the crew after the game. I think that is my part of my responsibility to make my association as competent as it can be.

Human nature being what it is, though, when I have offered my observations, sometimes the crew isn’t interested. I want to believe that they were rejecting my approach, but not the content. By that I mean, had I approached them differently, they might have wanted to listen to what I had seen from outside the foul lines.

Can any of you give me some help here? Do I just butt out when I see something that needs correcting, or is there a way I can slide the information in without appearing to be the almighty know-it-all? There are just so few opportunities to get constructive feedback that I want to maximize every one of those opportunities. How do you get through to someone who, in essence, is saying “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”?

May 18, 2007 Posted by | Association Improvements, Knotty Problems | 2 Comments

Message Boards at ETeamz.com

For those of you who like to really love to test your rules knowledge and continually be presented with challenging rules situations, you may enjoy visiting eteams.com message boards (http://eteamz.active.com/baseball/boards/). Please do not assume that all the suggested rulings are official rule interpretations, but these discussions can certainly get your mind moving. Overall, message boards/discussion forums may present situations that you may not have seen or heard about previously. For this reason, your perusal of this site should be worthwhile. However, if you get emotionally involved in the discussing topics in a forum online, be aware that you may be attacked if you mistate something or leave something out. Those who write there remind me of those who delay umpire group meetings arguing over situations that will never happen.

Probably the best resource at http://eteamz.active.com/baseball/boards/ is the “Rules” section in the left sidebar. In the twenty or so minutes that I looked over a few topics there, I found some good clear, supported rules information. There are three choices under Rules: OBR rules, FED rules, and Basic rules. Make sure you know which section you are reading because rule differences can overwhelm even the best students of the umpire/rules game. Many dedicated umpires who work different leagues and levels annually purchase publications that provide the information necessary to move between high school, college, American Legion, Babe Ruth, and Official Baseball Rules (aka pro rules).

This might also be a good time to share a neat feature of this blog. Hold your cursor over any active (blue underlined link) that will take you to a related internet site. The “Snap” mini window feature should appear showing an image of the site before you click to go there. Try it below on the eTeams message board and rules site. Happy Surfing Fellow Umpires!!

http://eteamz.active.com/baseball/boards/

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules | 3 Comments

Crazy Appeal Situation–Official Baseball Rules

2 outs, Runner 2 on 2nd base; Batter 1 singles. Runner 2 scores on a close plaly at the plate as the Batter-runner takes second on the throw. The defense annouces it will appeal the batter-runner for missing first base. Batter-runner (on second) starts back to first after the pitcher has the ball on the rubber.  The pitcher throws to second.

a)  The first baseman catches the ball before the runner gets back to 1st base.  How do you rule?

b) The batter runner beats the throw back to first base.  How do your rule?

Rule Reference: Official Baseball Rules 7.01

Share your ruling by clicking on “Comments” below.  It is alright to guess or even research the right answer.  Let see if we can get you involved.

May 8, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems | 19 Comments

Resource for Pro Rules Situations

Late last night I stumbled upon another umpire website that might be useful to some of our readers. Unlike this blog, there is a forum for questions/complaints and game situations are discussed relative to professional rules. What I like most about this site is the online professional baseball rulebook. Just click on “Rules” in the left sidebar.

Check out BaseballUmpires.com by clicking here: http://baseballumpires.com/index.cfm

Remember: This site focuses its attention on pro baseball rules and situations for minor and major league baseball. For those of you that work college baseball, this may be helpful as professional rules and NCAA rules are very similar. Also, those of you around the country that work Babe Ruth baseball can benefit also. Babe Ruth uses professional rules with a small collection of its own rule differences.

The “General Questions” area in the “Forum” seems to be active enough to be a benefit for those who really enjoy talking and thinking about rules. Remember–professional rules (MLB) rule this web resource. I have also put the link to BaseballUmpires.com in the Blogroll (list of links) in the right-most sidebar below the “Blog Stats”.

April 28, 2007 Posted by | Baseball Bits, Knotty Problems, Rules | 3 Comments

The Almighty Rule 10-2-3-g

In case any of you need to memorize the rule that allows the umpire-in-chief to make the decision on anything not specifically covered in the rules, the rule is Rule 10: Umpiring, Section 2: Umpire-in-Chief, Article 3g. Now you know it. In the professional rule book, I believe the rule is 9-0-1c.
By the way, in all my 3000+ games, I never used it. I had some crazy plays that no one really knew how we should rule, but we always tried to use existing rules. Here is one for now for you to keep you reading. I believe it apples to high school and pro rules.

Rule 4-1-5 states “The game begins when the umpire calls ‘Play’ after all infielders, pitcher, catcher and batter are in position to start the game.

What would you do if . . . After a foul ball with bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning and the team at bat down 3 runs, you called and signaled play (yes, the signal is in the rulebook as of the 2006 season) while the right fielder is in foul territory to retrieve a ball that bounced onto the field from the bullpen.  While the right fielder is still in foul territory, the pitcher pitches and the batter hits a homerun over the right field fence.  YOU MAKE THE CALL!

By the way, while I was in pro ball, we never got a real answer!  Maybe later I will tell you what I would do, but that doesn’t make it right.

Have fun out there and dress warm!

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules, Sharing Game Situations | 2 Comments