Umpiring Thoughts

Umpires Corner

Three innings vs Number of pitches

I’ve called a number of lower division matches since my last report and have heard coaches of teams getting bashed up by a red hot starting pitcher chasing their dispirited players onto the field and urging them to get on with the game. They tell the kids we want to get the starter finished so we can get at the reliever. There is a lot of merit in this – how often have we seen a second and third pitcher that isn’t nearly as capable as the starter. An alternative has been suggested to me many times that we should adopt the LL approach and pitch kids to a number of pitches and not a number of innings. In LL Majors a pitcher can throw 85 and finish the batter. However rep matches go for a number of innings with no time constraints. 85 in a 6 or 7 innings game will invariably see a reliever needed. In a 90 minute game we’re often lucky to complete 4 innings and a good pitcher could do the whole game. A proud JL father told me his son threw 3 digs in round 15 in 33 pitches. I think I prefer our innings limit.

Keeping the game turning over is the aim of all good umpires. Keep the changeovers to the one minute limit, two only conferences with hitters per inning, minimal conferences between catchers and pitchers (you can refuse to allow them if the umpire considers it has become excessive which is a judgement call), warn pitchers for excessive picking off, one visit to the same pitcher by a coach each inning, batters keep a foot in the box between pitches and to take signals (a degree of latitude is allowed if the pitcher has thrown a “knock down pitch” or the hitter has taken a healthy but unsuccessful cut) . Coaches can help too. Have your positional changes ready rather than work them out as the players are taking the field. Be prepared for the plate meeting 5 minutes before the scheduled starting time. If the umpire isn’t there stand at home plate indicating you are ready and embarrass the tardy ump. Get your catcher geared up with 2 out. Hurry your players onto the field at changes. Don’t give a million unnecessary signals between every single pitch. With two out and runners in scoring positions we all know what the hitter is supposed to do.

Infield/Outfield before the game

This is covered in 13.17 and can occur about 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the match. It should not be still going while the plate meeting is being conducted. It is also difficult if one of the two teams is still doing BP on the outfield when the infield/outfield is being attempted. Batting warm ups should be finished 15 minutes before the game commences.

10 minute rule

Umpires and coaches should be familiar with Rule 22 especially parts b, c and d. We had an unpleasant dispute where an umpire allowed the top of an inning to start with apparently 5 minutes to go then stopped the game at time. The visitors in that brief top half had scored 3 runs to hit the front and only had one out when they were told the game was over. Scores reverted and the home team won by two. The visitors were understandably upset but the visiting coach had no watch, nor did the scorer, so there was no knowledge of when the top did begin. Suffice to say scoring 3 runs and losing one out in just 5 minutes is commendable and certainly unusual. Remember though we run on the umpire’s timepiece so no dispute could be legally entertained. However it was poor game management to allow this situation to occur. The top should not have begun.

Peter B