Baseball Umpiring In High School: How To Communicate With Your Partner!

Gary Darling, Baseball umpire

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For the many who have read my many articles on playing and coaching baseball, hopefully you believe that I have a pretty good understanding of how baseball should and should not be played. At least I hope you feel that way. Now that I have become a certified high school umpire, I have found that I have alot to learn as far as that aspect of baseball is concerned.

First of all, a two umpire system is usually used in high school and not a four umpire system like the professionals use. The communication between you and your partner is critical. You constantly have to give your partner hand signals to make sure you are both on the “same page.”

Number of Outs:

After every out you should point your fingers out to your side signaling the number of outs to your partner. He should then confirm by doing the same.

Infield Fly Situation:

With runners on first and second or the bases loaded and less than two outs, you have to give each other the “heads up” that you are in an infield fly situation. This can help avoid an embarrassing situation for an umpire. There may be runners on second and third but an umpire may be thinking they are on first and second. It will cause embarrassment if an umpire hollers out “infield fly, batter is out” and it was not an infield fly situation. So once again, communication with your partner is critical. In this case, the plate umpire will bring his index finger or his complete hand up to the top of his forehead. Some use a karate chop type of motion to the forehead. The field umpire will do the same to let him know that he received this signal and is in complete agreement about the situation. The reminder can be given by the plate umpire to the field umpire or the field umpire can sometimes give it to the plate umpire.

The Count On The Hitter:

Occasionally, the plate umpire may lose track of the count on the batter. He desperately needs assistance from his partner. Rather than asking him out loud and letting everyone in attendance know he lost the count, he simply rolls his fists in front of his stomach. His partner will use his fingers to tell him the count. The left hand is for balls and the right hand is for strikes. So if the field umpire holds up one finger with his left hand and two fingers with his right hand, he is letting the plate umpire know that the count is one ball and two strikes. The plate umpire can occasionally “lose” the count after a ball is fouled off his mask or on a wild pitch where he is looking at baserunners and forgets to click his indicator which is in his left hand.

We Need To Talk:

Something may have happened during the game and you may need to talk to your partner. It can be dozens of things. Maybe a coach is having a major problem with your partner and you want to give him a “heads up.” Another possibility can be that you and your partner are not “clicking” and communicating properly and this needs to be remedied. Whatever the need to talk may be, the signal is to cross your wrists in front of your chest.

Timing Play At The Plate:

When there is a runner on second base and two outs, you can possibly have a “timing” play at the plate. This simply means that if the runner on second base tries to score on a hit, there is a possibility that the batter who got the hit may try to go to second base on the throw to the plate. The umpires have to pay attention because if the batter is out going to second before the runner on second touches home plate, the run does not count. The above mentioned are some of the forms of communication between umpires that go on many times during the game.

The field umpire has three different positions on the field. They are A, B and C positions.

1) A Position. When there are no runners on base. The umpire stands along the first base line about six or eight feet behind the first baseman in foul territory.

2) B Position. When there is a runner on first base or runners on first and third base. He positions himself between first and second base, standing closer to second base and usually about seven or eight steps from the pitching rubber.

3) C Position. When there is a runner on second, runners on second and third or the bases loaded. He positions himself between second and third base, standing closer to second base and about seven or eight steps from the pitching rubber.

My learning process has been a little rough at times. Fortunately for me, I have several friends who are high school umpires that have done hundreds of high school games and they have been extremely helpful to me.

My special thanks to Dave. After we had a meeting on umpiring techniques for about ninety minutes, he stayed after the meeting and very patiently answered all my questions and concerns for about an additional hour. I’m quite sure that he could have been doing many other things.

Also to my friend Nick, who is always there to answer all my questions and I truly hope his patience with me never wears thin.

Like I said, the learning process has been and still is somewhat tough. But almost all the baseball coaches I have dealt with have been a pleasure to deal with. And as far as the players…99.9% are class acts. And I have emailed some of their athletic directors to let them know just that. Sometimes the youth in this country get a bad rap. But these kids have been totally respectful at all times and I too show them lots of respect. No matter what may happen during the game, we still all have the common denominator of baseball!

I am almost 58 years old and for me to stay directly involved in baseball games in this capacity is very rewarding to me. And it goes much deeper than the financial benefits!

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