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Mechanics: Plate Umpire (specifically: Hands!)

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Guest Ump_A_Trump

I've attended several umpire clinics and I've asked the question, "When you're in the slot, where are you putting your hands?"  Many umpires show me their slot , and almost invariably, the hands are on the knees.  I see MLB umps do this a lot, too. I was taught many years ago to GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF YOUR KNEES as you're asking for trouble.  I now work with my hands behind my thighs during the pitch.  This has prevented any issues with hand injury, something I've seen in other umpires. I've worked games where umps took a shot to the hand/finger, and in one game, the ump had two of his fingers broken.  What puzzles me is that I've been instructed by MLB umpires to never put your hands on the knee/never put your hands anywhere a pitched/battled/foul ball can get to them....yet I see MLB umpires do it.  And I see the same thing done by NCAA/NFHS umpires.  I'm assuming they're mimicking the big league guys.

Some umpires have argued - and I mean turned red in the face argued - that their hand position is completely fine, there's no problem with it, I've never had any issues and I'm not listening to some jerk MLB instructor tell me otherwise....and it goes on.  My response has been, "If you want to work with your hands on your knees, knock yourself out.  The 'comfort' you're getting will be negated when, not if, you take a shot in the hand."  And that usually gets me even more argument.

Therefore, my question is: Where are you putting your hands during the pitch and why?

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I work the Gerry Davis stance, yes, that Gerry Davis. Nobody at any clinic I have been to has tried to talk me out of it. I didn't use this stance when I first started umpiring, using the more traditional 'heel-toe' stance. I have had nothing broken, although I have been hit in the arms and hands (but so have other umpires I know who work other stances). Most of the times I have been hit have been in youth games with lousy catchers. 

So, I put my hands on my knees during the pitch. Why? Doing that provides a very solid lock in mechanism. When you put your hands behind your thighs, how do you lock in? 

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Knees, 20+ years. So, where do you put your elbows? They get hit every once in a while too - but they remain unprotected!

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I switched to GD stance last year as well. Love the view of the plate, love the lock in mechanism of hands on knees. Actually, for at least, "Thumbs" on knees would be more precise. My thumbs pretty much slip  under the top of my shins, and my 4 fingers are more or less behind my knee. Yes, the forearms are vulnerable. So be it. The stance has made such a great difference in my plate calling that it's worth the risk. Any stance we take we run the risk of getting hit. I'll keep mine for now. 

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Foe me it depends on the level of play. I've done 14u select Majors and my hands are fine on my knees. I've also done 14u rec where there is no way in hell my hands are going on my knees, they are behind my knees. 

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I cup my hands behind the back of my thighs.

This not only protects my hands but it also helps to protect most of my lower arm as well!

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I have used the GD stance, with my fingers around the sides of my knees, thumbs somewhat hiding under the shin guards.

But lately I cup my inside hand under my thigh. I can get lower this way and my hands are better protected. I could not put my eyes at the top of the strike zone using GD, and I thought my upper zone was less consistent with GD. Now I find the upper zone much easier to gauge. And, I never worry about my hands being hit.

@blue23ll I used to think locking in was a great feature of GD. But, in practice I am not having any issues with my inside hand behind my thigh. I suppose this is partly because the other hand, behind the catcher, is on my knee (but that arm is bent). I keep pretty still during the pitch in this stance. And, I set up with eyes at the top of the zone for each new batter. So, I have not felt there is a problem not locking my arms on my knees (as I used to do in GD). I guess it is impossible not to be locked in using GD, but it is possible to be locked in otherwise, with a little care using the hand/arm behind the catcher.

Edited by JHSump

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Hands on knees.  Extremely comfortable position for me.

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I wonder how many hands-on-knees umps are really hands-on-thigh umps.  I say this because it really is asking for trouble to place your fingers over the hard, un-giving surface of your shin guards.  I place my hands on my thighs, just above my guards, but with the strap of my hand facing the plate, so my fingers are off to the sides of my thighs.  I've been hit in the hand, and it's no big deal, and nothing's been broken.  I like it because it keeps me locked at a good height, and is comfortable.

Aside from my comment here, I'd never argue for or against any stance or hand placement because the best method is simply what works best for each person.

Edited by ElkOil

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I think the hands on knees thing or GD stance works well. My thumbs are behind shin pads and fingers are on outside of thighs.

I have never seen anyone with their hands (on the knee, or over the shin guard). You can almost describe the hands-on-knees stance as the same stance you would use on the bases. If you stay in the slot, you shouldn't be getting hit as much - I feel that is the best way not to get hit.

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Your hands, arms, forearms, elbows, stomach, chest, face, etc. are going to get hit, it's part of the job. 

If you are that uncomfortable with the idea of getting hit, work soccer.

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I let my arms dangle by my side. It takes more thigh strength to hold steady, but I haven't had any problems with this so far. When your arms dangle, any ball that hits your arms will knock your arms backwards, but that movement takes the brunt of the blow. The worst I've ever gotten was a completely missed fastball at 13u that hit directly on the side of my elbow - that left a pretty decent sized knot and some pretty colors for a couple of weeks.

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I was always told NEVER to put my hands behind my back, so I never have. I use the GD stance myself but in Ontario, when we start our training it is suggested we use this type stance, but we are free to do as we will. 

1421

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I put my hands under my thighs - good protection for my hands and keeps me locked in.  It also keeps my elbows out of harm's way because they are facing the backstop.  My forearms and biceps are exposed, and it hurts when getting hit there, but have yet to suffer a true "injury."

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I used to put my hands on my knees till I took a Foul Ball on my left hand and broke one of my fingers. This was about 5 years ago and probably my second year umpiring. I now put my hands under my thighs. 

Edited by HuskerUmp22

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"I have a fat roll and I tuck my hands under that!"

LMAO, That's funny as hell. @BillKen  You don't look fat in that pic.  Must be the black shirt.

 

Tonight before my HS game there was camera guy at the gate as we walked on the field.  It was going to be live streamed by the host school.  I asked the camera guy if my pants made my butt look big.  He was an older kid but still a kid.  He snorted and laughed.

 

As far as hands.  I started out trying to be pure Gerry Davis with hands on knees.  Took a one hopper to the left hand while holding indicator in year two of umpiring. Hurt like hell.  Broke the indicator.  End of that experiment.  Then went to hands kind of locked on side of knees with thumbs under kneecap protection of my DaviShins.  Worked well but now I put hands behind knee/thighs.  Still locked in but I am no longer GD stance.  I am in "SuperSlot" stance as declared by Mr. Ump in another thread.  Works for me.  

Oh! and @umpstu. I introduced myself as "Dick" for real this weekend at a D2 conference weekend series I had here in KC.  Both coaches said "really?"  I laughed and said no, but I get called that a lot after my first call or two in every game so I am thinking of having my name legally changed.   Got some chuckles.  Had a good series and no real problems.  I had to give two explanations of close calls as one team was fighting for conference tournament spot this coming weekend and other team really wanted to go out with a winning series to close their year.  They split the series.  I have no idea if the one fighting for a tournament spot made it or not.  Don't really care either. Is that wrong?

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Don't really care either. Is that wrong?

No, it would be wrong if you DID care. 

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I put my hands behind my thighs. Really, really going to hard to take one in the hand. Or the bony part of the elbow. I've heard of guys having to get their wedding ring cut off because they get hit in the hand and it swells so much. No thanks!

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With a RH batter, my right hand is just behind F2 with my palm facing F1 (kinda like onora but I dont molest my f2s). Left hand behind left leg. LH batter....just the opposite.

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With a RH batter, my right hand is just behind F2 with my palm facing F1 (kinda like onora but I dont molest my f2s). Left hand behind left leg. LH batter....just the opposite.

​I can do this in college, but got hit in a HS game a couple of weeks ago. The HS catchers seem to move around too much and don't block the ball as well.

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With a RH batter, my right hand is just behind F2 with my palm facing F1 (kinda like onora but I dont molest my f2s). Left hand behind left leg. LH batter....just the opposite.

​What do you do when F2 sets up way outside?

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I was always told NEVER to put my hands behind my back, so I never have. I use the GD stance myself but in Ontario, when we start our training it is suggested we use this type stance, but we are free to do as we will. 

1421

​This is the M1A1 umpire stance. I highly recommend it for newer umpires. You are well protected, have a lock in mechanism and cn develop good habits from here. 

That said I am currently more of a hands on upper thighs guy now.

My associations frown upon hands behind the thigh/knees unless absolutely necessary.

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Like grayhawk  and MajorDave, I put my hands behind my knees and find no difficulty locking in. I've been hit in the arms, but in the muscle of the forearm and bicep, no bones are really exposed in this stance, so there's bruises, but no lasting pain/injury. This stance also allows me flexibility when the catcher/batter alignment pinches the slot.

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