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ilyazhito

Why does Umpire School Call Balls and Strikes By Number?

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I umpire both baseball and softball, and one can say that I have an unusual style in baseball: I use the umpire-school heel-toe position to get set to call balls and strikes, I call the pitches by number (I call "Ball One!" "Strike One!", etc.), and I call strikes by pointing. I was initially taught to use the hammer, but I could not assimilate to using it initially, because of the uncaught third strike scenario. I now know the work-around that softball and umpire school uses (call strike 3, signal safe, and say "No catch!"). 

However, I know that most umpires do not call pitches by numbers, except for Ball Four and Strike Three. Some (those who have had exposure to umpire school, probably) do use numbers, but it is not the norm in any level of baseball besides professional umpire school and the short-season minor leagues. Personally, I use the numbers because it helps me to remember the sequence of pitches in longer at-bats, and keeps me on track if I forget to click the dials on my indicator. I also use numbers because it is what will be expected of me if I go to umpire school. 

Why do the umpire schools teach calling balls and strikes by numbers, if it is not common practice in the other levels of baseball? Do they want to produce standard umpires who can easily be evaluated? Do they want the umpires to keep the count in their heads without relying on their indicators? Or is there another reason for this practice?

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49 minutes ago, ilyazhito said:

Why do the umpire schools teach calling balls and strikes by numbers, if it is not common practice in the other levels of baseball? Do they want to produce standard umpires who can easily be evaluated? Do they want the umpires to keep the count in their heads without relying on their indicators? Or is there another reason for this practice?

Umpire school, like any training to join a professional "corps," instills more than knowledge and skills. It instills discipline, focus, and eventually mastery of the craft.

To do that initially, drills have to be identical for all. This emphasis on discipline explains the requirement that new-ish pro umpires strive for uniformity of performance. Ideally, they should all look identical on the field.

Ancient Chinese landscape painters followed a similar protocol: as youths they would join a studio and spend a couple decades copying—literally, brush stroke for brush stroke—the work of the great masters. When they attained expertise in a range of styles, they understood painting well enough to innovate, just a little, and develop their own styles. This history partly explains why it can be difficult to distinguish the work of different painters from the same studio.

We amateur umpires can often distinguish MLB umpires based on their (slightly) differing styles, but many average fans cannot tell who's behind the mask. That says something about our level of expertise, but it also suggests that the umpires are still using substantially the same mechanics: nobody calls a strike with the "you're crazy" finger twirl, for instance.

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20 hours ago, maven said:

Umpire school, like any training to join a professional "corps," instills more than knowledge and skills. It instills discipline, focus, and eventually mastery of the craft.

To do that initially, drills have to be identical for all. This emphasis on discipline explains the requirement that new-ish pro umpires strive for uniformity of performance. Ideally, they should all look identical on the field.

Ancient Chinese landscape painters followed a similar protocol: as youths they would join a studio and spend a couple decades copying—literally, brush stroke for brush stroke—the work of the great masters. When they attained expertise in a range of styles, they understood painting well enough to innovate, just a little, and develop their own styles. This history partly explains why it can be difficult to distinguish the work of different painters from the same studio.

We amateur umpires can often distinguish MLB umpires based on their (slightly) differing styles, but many average fans cannot tell who's behind the mask. That says something about our level of expertise, but it also suggests that the umpires are still using substantially the same mechanics: nobody calls a strike with the "you're crazy" finger twirl, for instance.

giphy.gif

 

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ElkOil, you have the same thints to say as Maven? I agree with Maven's reasoning, and believe that more umpires should use numbers, to ensure that everyone is aware of the count, especially on fields without scoreboards (or where the scoreboards are incorrect). Was using numbers once a common practice that faded away outside Ump School Land and the short-season leagues, or was it something created de novo by the umpire schools?

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1 hour ago, ilyazhito said:

ElkOil, you have the same thints to say as Maven? I agree with Maven's reasoning, and believe that more umpires should use numbers, to ensure that everyone is aware of the count, especially on fields without scoreboards (or where the scoreboards are incorrect). Was using numbers once a common practice that faded away outside Ump School Land and the short-season leagues, or was it something created de novo by the umpire schools?

The reasoning isn't necessarily that we should all use numbers. The reasoning was for umpires who are trained at the high-level schools -- who may aspire to the upper echelons -- the training should instill a uniformity. Umpires will invariably develop their own style, but the point was that the mechanics are fundamentally similar so that anyone can understand when a strike is called, regardless of the stylistic differences between umpires.

Personally, I don't call strikes by number. I'll give the count every now and then during an at-bat. I believe it is incumbent on the players and coaches to know the count, and if they don't, they can ask. I don't care if the fans know the count.

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Part of it also deals with evaluation against a standard. If every umpire is doing his or her own thing, it's tougher to evaluate ability. 

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As someone who just went this year, I can tell you that they definitely want plate umpires using indicators and in pro ball the plate umpire must use an indicator.

 

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As someone who just went this year, I can tell you that they definitely want plate umpires using indicators and in pro ball the plate umpire must use an indicator.
 
Congrats BTW! I talk to a local guy you went with.

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23 hours ago, Tksjewelry said:

Congrats BTW! I talk to a local guy you went with.

Sent from my SM-G920P using Tapatalk
 

Thank you! Hope you are doing well. 

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I was amused after being observed by a former MLB umpire for 2 innings. The first thing he said to me was; "Evans"?

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Ken, how did the MLB umpire know that you went to the Evans academy? Did your use of numbers, or stance tip him off?

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