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Looking for any gems/pearls of wisdom to build a list of tips for new umpires.  Below are the things I find myself reminding our new guys about routinely.  The 10 Commandments of Umpiring by Ford Frick are excellent but those are geared toward umpire demeanor, I want to give them a list of mechanic type things to keep in mind.  These tend to become my pre- or post-game discussion items with rookies.  What are the most important tips you tell your rookies?

 

The lines are in, unlike in other sports

Slow down your call

Never turn your back on a live ball

Watch the pitch all the way to the catcher’s mitt

Always put the ball back in play

Pause after the catch before signaling

Never observe a play on the run, be set instead

Never duck your head when behind the plate

Choose angle over distance

Plate mechanics vigor is consistent, base mechanics vigor increases with closeness of the play

Hustle on every play

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Give the count out load

also put it in play out load.

I hate it when I'm on the bases and I can't hear my partner.

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1 hour ago, JaxRolo said:

I hate it when I'm on the bases and I can't hear my partner.

Pet peeve of mine as well @JaxRolo! The problem is, I'm getting this from college partners who've been around for 30 years and may have 'earned the right' to NOT be heard? Can't stand it, so I've been asking a couple as of late, can you PLEASE speak up! 

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  • Proper slot mechanics - GET IN THE SLOT! Don't hinder the catcher, but get up in there as close as possible without hindering the catcher or getting hit by the batter's follow through.
  • See the ball go into the catcher's glove. 
  • Being locked in and still/set - plate and bases
  • indicator in LEFT hand (yes, it's an issue)
  • Calls with RIGHT hand (yes, it's an issue)
  • DO NOT give verbal on swinging strikes (unless a questionable check swing, i.e... 'yes he did', or 'he went around'.)
  • Work to make sure your verbal strike call is not hindering your authority, confidence, ability. This will take practice and experimentation, but it's necessary. 
  • Make sure your physical mechanics don't pull your eyes away from the field. 

I could write all day on this. That's enough for now. 

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The best pearl of wisdom I can share with new umpires is this: You earn your reputation very quickly with your fellow umpires, assignors, and coaches. You are continuously making impressions as you enter the confines of the field, during play, between innings, and as you leave.

Beyond the great gems written earlier, here are a few other things I've found that can help earn a positive reputation:

  • Keep your availability updated in Arbiter.
  • Contact your partner ~2hrs before first pitch and communicate where you'll meet at the game site, who has plate/base, colors to match etc... Just a short text is all you need.
  • Be proactive in pregame and talk to your partner about rotations, coverage, signals, touches/tags, situations. Don't assume that a more experienced umpire you're working with will bring this up on his own in pregame.
  • Learn the head coaches' names by the time the plate meeting starts and don't call them "coach" during the game.
  • Learn the catchers' names and call them by first name throughout the game.
  • KNOW the proper mechanics and signals that your state or local association has and USE them.

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RELAX.  Remember to use the natural breaks in the action as your "down time," when you can roll your neck, stretch your fingers and back, clench your butt, squeeze your eyes shut, breathe deeply.  You'll focus more clearly, you'll trust yourself more, you'll stay calmer and fresher, and you'll be better able to slow down your calls, all of which will make you a better umpire.

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I'm still fairly new myself, but at the youth level, I'll see the PU set up behind the catcher during warmups. I did that twice and I found that even the most accurate guy during warmups throws differently with a batter in the box. I feel, I'm better off not thinking about it, relaxing and counting pitches. 

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9 hours ago, JaxRolo said:

Give the count out load

also put it in play out load.

I hate it when I'm on the bases and I can't hear my partner.

What?

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On 5/10/2018 at 3:52 PM, Mister B said:

I'm still fairly new myself, but at the youth level, I'll see the PU set up behind the catcher during warmups. I did that twice and I found that even the most accurate guy during warmups throws differently with a batter in the box. I feel, I'm better off not thinking about it, relaxing and counting pitches. 

At the youth level, I don’t really feel the need to see pitches. An 11 year old isn’t a) throwing hard nor b) throwing some wicked curve I need to take a look at. 

Personally, I use the warm up pitches for a few things:

1) it’s my warm up too. Most games I’ve been sitting in an office all day prior to the game, so I like to get my eyes warmed up, track the ball, think about timing, actually call the pitches in my head, etc. 

2) get a look at release point so I’m not surprised on pitch one or taking a full batter to find it. 

3) take a look at any offspeed he may have. I like to see a curve ball in warm ups first so an especially good one doesn’t “buckle me” and have me missing it early. 

4) talk to the catcher. Ask him what pitches he may have or at least something like “anything crazy I need to look for?” Usually they’ll just say “Nah, fast curve change.” Or “he has a pretty good curve he throws a lot.” I also build some rapport there based on how much they want to talk. How their season is going, the weather, whatever. Just something to open a dialogue, hopefully have us “working together” back there from the beginning. 

5) finally, it looks good to everyone else out there. I think it shows coaches and players (even fans) you’re ready to go, you’re taking it seriously, you have experience, etc. sets a tone. Perception is reality. 

Anything 14+ (I mainly do varsity hs), I do this. I also do it with relief pitchers as time allows (especially if we go from a RHP to a LHP), or I see a side armer in there, or s guy is coming in with the game on the line late in the game, etc. I’m trying to give myself the best chance to get pitches correct. Early in my career I didn’t do this (I didn’t know I should do it), and there were times I’d miss a pitch early because I was surprised by something.

Catchers know you are back there and they will block for you. Again, 11 year olds throwing wildly I don’t really need to see. 

YMMV

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On 5/10/2018 at 2:37 PM, CJK said:

RELAX.  Remember to use the natural breaks in the action as your "down time," when you can roll your neck, stretch your fingers and back, clench your butt, squeeze your eyes shut, breathe deeply.  You'll focus more clearly, you'll trust yourself more, you'll stay calmer and fresher, and you'll be better able to slow down your calls, all of which will make you a better umpire.

This is really good advice. I’ve made an effort to relax myself, talk to myself in big spots, step back and take a breath, etc. 

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On 5/10/2018 at 3:37 PM, CJK said:

RELAX.  Remember to use the natural breaks in the action as your "down time," when you can roll your neck, stretch your fingers and back, clench your butt, squeeze your eyes shut, breathe deeply.  You'll focus more clearly, you'll trust yourself more, you'll stay calmer and fresher, and you'll be better able to slow down your calls, all of which will make you a better umpire.

On a similar note. Proper breathing is important. Inhale as the pitcher sets. Exhale as the pitcher delivers, and you begin tracking the ball. 

It relaxes the body and eyes. It makes tracking easier. An added benefit...it helps timing. Continue your exhale as you track to the catcher's mitt. Replay the pitch and make your decision as you finish your exhale. Then call the pitch. 

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On 5/10/2018 at 8:55 AM, NavyBlue said:

Looking for any gems/pearls of wisdom to build a list of tips for new umpires. 

A. Understand your context. Some new umpires get overwhelmed by the context (the game is too big for them), while some ... older umpires overwhelm the context (they’re too big for the game).

B. Despite what stratification certain codes may imply or create, you are an umpire team. Respect each others’ roles and responsibilities during a play, but you also have a responsibility to the Rules, and should spare no effort in enforcing them correctly (in other words, get the call – in regards to the Rules – right).

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1 hour ago, MadMax said:

A. Understand your context. Some new umpires get overwhelmed by the context (the game is too big for them), while some ... older umpires overwhelm the context (they’re too big for the game).

As someone that tries to mentor younger/newwe umpires, I find this part to be the hardest on me. Trying to minimize the info I am telling them so that their head doesn't explode. But still trying to get the info they need to become better across to them.

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Ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when you are just starting. It also makes the veterans think more about their mechanics and judgement. It can be the difference between putting your foot in your mouth and nailing a close call ;).

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Say only what you have to. Give an explanation in simple terms, either explaining what you saw or what rule you are applying. What you say can and will be used against you

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After the conversation in ask the umpire... I would suggest understand the BOO rules, who is out, who is not, who is next in the order.

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If you are the plate umpire, and you are working a game where you are responsible for lineup cards (e.g. a scholastic game), remember who gave you which lineup (I mark each of mine with a team's first letter (e.g. "P" for Potomac and "O" for Oxon Hill), or identifying letters (e.g. "Po" for Potomac and "Pa" for Parkdale), if teams share the first initial), to avoid confusion, make recording substitutions quicker, and know if you may be dealing with a BOO situation vs just an unreported substitute. 

Another tip as HP would be to watch at least a few pitches of a new pitcher's warmup from both sides. If you see his delivery, release point, and types of pitches that he throws beforehand, you will not be surprised if he throws a curveball that looks like it will hit you, and then swerves across the strike zone. You will also find out how good your catcher is, and if the pitcher has any quirks that you need to monitor later (strange position, not coming set, etc.). 

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4 hours ago, ilyazhito said:

If you are the plate umpire, and you are working a game where you are responsible for lineup cards (e.g. a scholastic game), remember who gave you which lineup (I mark each of mine with a team's first letter (e.g. "P" for Potomac and "O" for Oxon Hill), or identifying letters (e.g. "Po" for Potomac and "Pa" for Parkdale), if teams share the first initial), to avoid confusion, make recording substitutions quicker, and know if you may be dealing with a BOO situation vs just an unreported substitute. 

Another tip as HP would be to watch at least a few pitches of a new pitcher's warmup from both sides. If you see his delivery, release point, and types of pitches that he throws beforehand, you will not be surprised if he throws a curveball that looks like it will hit you, and then swerves across the strike zone. You will also find out how good your catcher is, and if the pitcher has any quirks that you need to monitor later (strange position, not coming set, etc.). 

If you have @Razzer lineup holder, just put the lineup cards in the holder on the side of each team's dugout.

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19 hours ago, th3 said:

Say only what you have to. Give an explanation in simple terms, either explaining what you saw or what rule you are applying. What you say can and will be used against you

Along these lines, when giving a rule based explanation, try to use the language/terminology used in the rule to the greatest extent possible.

"As per rule, your firstbaseman did not have firm and secure possession when the runner touched the bag..."

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Never duck your head when behind the plate

I am having a lot of trouble with this lately. That stinkin" up and in pitch! Any tips to help not to follow my instinct to bail when it's coming at my head? 

This is a 9-12 year old league. Some catchers are really good, some, well... you know.

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1 hour ago, Mussgrass said:

Any tips to help not to follow my instinct to bail when it's coming at my head?

Getting bonked on the top of your head one time is a pretty good deterrent.

Remember that almost all of your protection is on the front of your body parts.  Whenever you set up or adjust, do it in a way that only shows the front of your body parts to the ball.

Also, wearing a pair of glasses or sunglasses with help a ton.  It will protect your eyes from the dust or sand or infield product or drying agent that comes through your mask when the ball is caught in front of your face.

Equip yourself well and trust your equipment.  That will give you the confidence to focus and relax so you'll feel comfortable staying still.

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