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SeeingEyeDog

Strike Mechanics Revisited

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Greetings Brethren,

So, I'm with a new association this spring. Like many associations around the United States, they have contracts from LL up to D-III. I attended a cage session recently, which I always make a part of my pre-season preparation. There were a number of veteran umpires there working with each umpire who had scheduled time. My strike call is a verbalization followed shortly thereafter by a pistol with my right hand. The only feedback I received following my session was that my strike verbalization and mechanic MUST be synchronized and I MUST use a hammer motion.

I've always tried to be a student of the craft. I am not a professional umpire and I was raised that anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of my abilities and that's been my approach to the craft. We live in an era of nearly limitless umpiring resources at our fingertips and I take advantage of them whenever I can. I maintain an open mind that the craft is always evolving. The way we umpired 5 years ago is not the way we will umpire in 5 more years. That being said, without naming my association, I have the following questions to all of you:

1) I've read a great deal that the pointing/pistol mechanic should only be used with a 4 man crew because you are taking your eyes off your prime responsibility...everything at the plate. Old habits die hard and I will be working this pre-season to utilize a hammer mechanic to maintain my focus. Is this the choice all of you would make?

2) I have never heard that the mechanic and the verbalization MUST be in synch. Again, I am open to working on this because I want to send my new local brothers the message that if they have taken the time to work with me on their own time and expense that I am willing to listen and conform to what the association's understood written and perhaps un-written standards are. Can someone here provide some additional context on the need for these things to be in synch? Is this simply standardizing the call on the whole for the association or is there another practical reason for this?

Thank you and as always, I'll hang up and listen off the air...

~Dawg 

 

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1 minute ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

Greetings Brethren,

So, I'm with a new association this spring. Like many associations around the United States, they have contracts from LL up to D-III. I attended a cage session recently, which I always make a part of my pre-season preparation. There were a number of veteran umpires there working with each umpire who had scheduled time. My strike call is a verbalization followed shortly thereafter by a pistol with my right hand. The only feedback I received following my session was that my strike verbalization and mechanic MUST be synchronized and I MUST use a hammer motion.

I've always tried to be a student of the craft. I am not a professional umpire and I was raised that anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of my abilities and that's been my approach to the craft. We live in an era of nearly limitless umpiring resources at our fingertips and I take advantage of them whenever I can. I maintain an open mind that the craft is always evolving. The way we umpired 5 years ago is not the way we will umpire in 5 more years. That being said, without naming my association, I have the following questions to all of you:

1) I've read a great deal that the pointing/pistol mechanic should only be used with a 4 man crew because you are taking your eyes off your prime responsibility...everything at the plate. Old habits die hard and I will be working this pre-season to utilize a hammer mechanic to maintain my focus. Is this the choice all of you would make?

2) I have never heard that the mechanic and the verbalization MUST be in synch. Again, I am open to working on this because I want to send my new local brothers the message that if they have taken the time to work with me on their own time and expense that I am willing to listen and conform to what the association's understood written and perhaps un-written standards are. Can someone here provide some additional context on the need for these things to be in synch? Is this simply standardizing the call on the whole for the association or is there another practical reason for this?

Thank you and as always, I'll hang up and listen off the air...

~Dawg 

 

I have never broken the habit to call then signal but I train to marry because that's what everyone wants. I am in good company with only one MLB ump that does not marry his signal. Without marrying your timing can be suspect. The MLB ump and I do not have a timing issue but it could appear that way.

The point without looking is widely accepted. Are you calling baseball or softball? I did attend a clinic where I attempted to change and marry. They said keep doing it my old way.

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One of my personal aggravations with umpiring is when things change based on somebody’s personal whim because they now have authority.  But hey, that’s the world we live in.  After years of hammering “don’t hammer, that’s softball” somebody has decided you should hammer because your finger is distracting.

As for the traditional strike mechanic taking your eyes off the action ... only if you let it.  It was taught that way, but I never understood why you would look at your finger anyway.  If you aren’t coordinated enough to point to the side while looking forward, you probably shouldn’t be umpiring.  Somebody’s going to get hurt.

When I started, I had a “married” call and was taught otherwise.  I can’t recall being given a reason to verbal/pause/signal beyond somebody thought it made you appear more deliberate and confident.  I prefer the simultaneous verbal/signal myself and think that it makes you seem more confident in your call.  But whatever.  Maybe some day we should do a scientific study on fans.  :shrug:
 

Edit to add: Just noticed the NFHS rule book shows the hammer - and only the hammer - as the proper strike mechanic there.  Huh.

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Jimurray, I am calling baseball.

Man in Blue, yes...exactly. I had always heard that hammering a strike call was a softball specific mechanic. And thank you VERY much for referencing the NFHS rulebook as I was also not aware of this.

~Dawg

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In our LL and association *baseball* training, the verbal and strike mechanic are done at the same time (after standing up). 

For *softball*, umpires are taught to give the verbal call while still down, and then stand and give the strike mechanic.

Both hammer and point are accepted for baseball here, although LL says use the hammer.

(Seattle area)

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The hammer mechanic is what has been taught at the pro schools for years. The reasoning is that if you standardize the mechanics then it is easier to evaluate everyone. Yes it keeps your eyes forward at all times. I personally hate it. But remember, do whatever the person signing your checks wants you to do.

 

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This is just my opinion and thoughts that I am offering.  These are my views and not any documented representation of a specific organization.

 

I've been to many clinics/schools/training sessions over the years.  While I work HS and have done some college level ball, my focus is/has been in volunteering for little league, here is how it was passed along to us.

During training - Do as taught.  i.e. When in Rome.......

During high level tournament we are told - Do what got you there.  You don't need to be focusing on changing your mechanic and proper execution of how you think they want it executed, when the focus should be on the game.

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As someone who has been teaching amateur umpires for 21-years, it seems (based on what you wrote in your OP) that your association needs to find some better things to do.

If a trainer sees that you are taking your eyes away from the field inappropriately while making your signal for strike (such that you may miss a batter's interference on a steal, for example), then it would be appropriate for them to discuss with you correcting that (and one such "correction" would be for you to use the hammer).  Likewise, I have seen one trainer suggest to students/campers who come out of their "crouch" too quickly (and, thus, have poor timing) to use a bifurcated call for strikes (that is, verbalize the strike while still down in the crouch and then come up and signal the strike).  The goal was to get the students to slow down and track the pitch all the way to the catcher's glove.  

But, to just universally say, "all umpires must use the hammer and must marry their call with their signal," is a waste of time.  It is true that at umpire school they do have all students use the hammer strike mechanic.  Then, the first thing Dick "Sarge" Nelson told us at PBUC (MiLBUD) camp (held a week after umpire school ended) was that each umpire now needed to develop their own "style" when making calls as they didn't want "robots".

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Attended Bristol LL training last spring and they told us they are "standardizing" the hammer now in LL and it was "stand, hammer/verbalize."  They told us the year before when I was there that was what they were now teaching and they did not care if you pointed when you went home but come to our tourney and you better hammer.  This year they told us go home do the hammer and teach it to everyone else let them know its what they want done.   no skin of my nose.  Last year was my 1st behind plate so I never learned anything else was happy to keep it the same.  Do feel bad for all the pointers out there who now are told nope do it this way.

My worst habit is pulling my mask off with the right hand instead of the left.

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3 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

My worst habit is pulling my mask off with the right hand instead of the left.

Sounds like you have some catching experience.

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4 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

My worst habit is pulling my mask off with the right hand instead of the left.

You'll break that habit. You just have to consciously think about it for a while, it will become second nature soon.

And all the clinics I've gone to most of the instructors have strongly encouraged voice + mechanic for strike calls.

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4 hours ago, Aging_Arbiter said:

Sounds like you have some catching experience.

Nope 1,6,5,8.7.   Those were the positions I played mostly 5 

but for me its the counter in my hand that makes me reach with my right..just gotta get used to it

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Took me a while to get it too, @ArchAngel72.  (I was a catcher.)

Grasp your counter/clicker/indicator with your ring finger and pinky (against your palm) and use your thumb, index finger, and middle finger to grab the mask.  It takes practice, but once it clicks you will never even think about it again.

Another thing you might examine is your harness.  If it is too tight, it can make removing your mask more difficult.  You do not want it plastered tight against your face ... you want it to move if it gets hit with a ball (taking the energy of the impact with it).

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8 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

Took me a while to get it too, @ArchAngel72.  (I was a catcher.)

Grasp your counter/clicker/indicator with your ring finger and pinky (against your palm) and use your thumb, index finger, and middle finger to grab the mask.  It takes practice, but once it clicks you will never even think about it again.

Another thing you might examine is your harness.  If it is too tight, it can make removing your mask more difficult.  You do not want it plastered tight against your face ... you want it to move if it gets hit with a ball (taking the energy of the impact with it).

Thx for the tips had read about the looseness needed.  My understanding is it should be tight enough to stay there but loose enough if a ball hits the side it can spin. 

I will check myself on how I hold the clicker never put much thought into it really other than making it work and making sure I was on top of it.

 

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How did how you remove your mask get into a post about strike mechanic ?

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8 hours ago, Ump29 said:

How did how you remove your mask get into a post about strike mechanic ?

I worked with one guy before who pulled his mask off at the same time (or instantly after) calling a strike. :shrug:

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It would be towards the tail end of good timing, but there are times where we can point a strike to the side after the ball is back on its way to the pitcher.

And absolutely it's easy to point to the side while keeping your eyes forward.

One counter argument against the hammer call always, is that signaling is meant to show the crowd and everyone else what is happening, and a hammer is harder to see than a point, as far as the crowd behind you.

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What!?  They can clearly see that ball four inches off the plate caught the black and should have been a strike!  

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19 hours ago, alex7 said:

One counter argument against the hammer call always, is that signaling is meant to show the crowd and everyone else what is happening, and a hammer is harder to see than a point, as far as the crowd behind you.

I'll keep this in mind when I begin to worry about what the crowd seated behind me thinks.

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If LL wants umpire uniformity behind the plate, it can employ electronics. Oh, you mean someone has already suggested that?

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20 hours ago, alex7 said:

It would be towards the tail end of good timing, but there are times where we can point a strike to the side after the ball is back on its way to the pitcher.

And absolutely it's easy to point to the side while keeping your eyes forward.

One counter argument against the hammer call always, is that signaling is meant to show the crowd and everyone else what is happening, and a hammer is harder to see than a point, as far as the crowd behind you.

And the point is not visible to those seated to the left of the umpire. etc.

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