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Couple baseball questions from a softball guy

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These may be stupid questions, but I'm curious:


1) I've seen lots of plate umpires touching catchers on their back when the plate umpire gets set.  Is that just to get a reference on where the catcher is?  What is the purpose?  Don't you as an umpire have to get to about the same spot with your eyes anyways (we're instructed eyes @ top of the strike zone, inside corner of the plate regardless of where the catcher sets up)?  As a SB umpire, we are told to never ever touch the girls. Ever.  I might pat a catcher on the helmet if she makes a great play or does something funny, but many won't even do that.  Just seems like a really weird habit to me.

2) Why don't you wear a shirt over your chest protector when you wear a coat - I think you call them plate coats?  We always wear the pull over jackets so no one sees the CP, at least not very much.  The CP/plate coat combo looks very odd to me, not sure why the exposed CP would be the look that you would want to have.

That's all I have questions for now.  Really love the forum here, picked up some great advise on equipment from Max for CP3 (Schutt HDX) and via searching threads for shin guards (Force 3).

Just one more note, we are adopting more and more mechanics from baseball.  We implemented the "wedge theory" on tag plays, utilizing 3rd baseline extended for plays at the plate and the two out (non-timing play) signal from baseball this past year in college and it's made a big difference in getting in the correct position and getting calls correct.  I have a big appreciation for what you guys do, especially those of you that do it well!


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Thanks for the mention...

1) It’s called a brace hand, and it is used in professional baseball on a per-individual basis. This is to provide tactile feedback between umpire and catcher, especially purposeful with how sudden a professional catcher can rare back or spring up to fire off a throw. The last thing we want, as Plate umpires, to cause is Umpire Interference.

Professional Umpire trainers advise and instruct against it. But, because it’s seen in the pros, other umpires emulate and mimic it. The brace hand, for its purpose, really should not be used in amateur/youth batsports, especially and critically not in softball. Aside from the touch/contact issue, amateur catchers may bail out or move in an unexpected manner, leaving the brace hand exposed to injury. Also, dependence on the brace hand falsely encourages a plate umpire to shift further out, away from the slot, if an amateur catcher does so.

The only good thing that a brace hand does for a developing umpire is to act as a gauge by which to set up at an optimum distance behind the catcher – not too close, not too far. So, I might implement its  use during a training session, but will direct the trainee to drop it or move it prior to the actual pitch.

2) Well, for proper etiquette, we should wear a shirt to cover the CP, but why decrease ventilation even more? Plate coats are typically fairly insulating, and when you consider that most CPs are wearable sofas, are you going to slight us on trying to stay cool? Back in the pre-Wilson days, it was a nifty sight to see +POS and Carlucci CPs under a plate coat!

Gosh I miss the good ol’ days.

Anyway, with the “new” WestVests, Wilson really took the opportunity to advertise their logo on the center chest of the CP. So, it’s basically just vanity.

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Off the top of my head, only Dan Iassogna goes with the shirt-over-cp when he wears his plate coat. And even then, it is a mock turtleneck with the sleeves removed. But it does make for a nice clean look.

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