The following article focuses on the two man umpiring crew, however pregame talks should take place before every game.
One of the most important things to know as an umpire is where your partner will be on any given play. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having two umpires at the same base making two different calls. Or even worse, no umpire at a bang-bang tag play. To prevent this, umpires should be using hand signals between each at-bat to let each other know what responsibilities they’ll be handling if the ball is put in play. Most signals are universal, but it’s always good to go over them before taking the field. Situations such as first-to-third, fly balls, and trouble balls should be discussed in your pregame.
The home plate umpire should always take the call at third when a runner from first tries to make it there on a batted ball with no other runners on base. However, once other runners are present, the third base coverage will vary for each situation. The rotation mechanic should be used before each batter when runners are present to ensure third base will be covered correctly.
Anything hit into the air should be the responsibility of the home plate umpire. This will allow the base umpire to focus on the runners without hesitation. You may choose for deep fly balls, or shallow fly balls that require extraordinary effort to be the responsibility of the base umpire. These are referred to as trouble balls. Make sure the plate umpire knows where he is required to go to cover the bases when the base umpire takes the responsibility of the fly ball. Also, make sure you have a verbal signal, so you know when the base umpire will be heading to the outfield to make a call.
Trouble balls are typically deep fly balls, shallow fly balls, or balls hit down the line. When these situations occur, the base umpire should give a verbal signal letting his partner know that he’ll be taking the call. If the base umpire is positioned down the first base line and takes a call down the line, the plate umpire will become the base umpire while the base umpire will rotate to home plate after making his call on the trouble ball. These type of rotations are one of the main things that should be discussed to ensure all bases will be covered correctly.
Most trained umpires will have the same signals and knowledge of rotations. However, it’s best practice to go over each situation to ensure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to every possible situation you may face while officiating a game.
Did I miss something? Leave a comment, and let me know what could or should be added to this article.