Covering fly balls is an important responsibility for base umpires in both the 2-umpire and 3-umpire systems. It can be a challenging mechanic for all umpires, especially for umpires who have not done it a lot. It takes good pre-pitch preparation and knowing where the outfielders are positioned to make good decisions on covering fly balls.
The plate umpire covers all fly balls when a base umpire does not move toward the outfield area to cover. The bullets below list the basics; the first three apply to both the plate umpire and base umpires. The remaining bullets apply to the base umpires.
Covering mechanics include:
• An umpire’s covering path should be parallel to the flight of the ball.
• If the ball is hit near the line, stay on the line, turn, set, and visualize.
• Stop and set before the catch/ no-catch occurs.
• If a fielder trips, rolls or falls into or over a fence, after appearing to catch the ball, move in quickly to this extended play to determine if the ball was held and is a legal catch..
• Make the signal for catch/no catch facing the play.
• Avoid the fielder’s throwing lane.
• Turn with the throw as it goes to the infield and observe the action.
Coverage Responsibilities from Starting Position A
• The base umpire should cover only on fly balls hit from the center fielder to the right-field dead-ball line.
• Plate umpire has from the center fielder to the left-field dead-ball line.
Coverage Responsibilities from Starting Positions B and C
• Base umpire should cover only on fly balls hit from the right fielder to the left fielder (the “V”).
• Plate umpire has from the right fielder to the right-field dead-ball line, from the left fielder to the left-field dead-ball line, and all fair or foul calls.
Tips for Covering fly balls in a two-umpire system
It is sometimes helpful to base umpires when working the two-umpire system to pretend that they are working the three-umpire system and their partner has always covered. With no runners on (position A) or with a runner on first base only (position B), pretend that the third-base umpire has covered. From position C, pretend that the first-base umpire has covered. When chasing with runners on base, you should return to the infield as outlined below.
• Never return for the initial play (for example, you cover with a runner on first and the right fielder tries to throw out the batter-runner at first)
• Most usually return for a play at second base when the plate umpire has a play at the plate.
• Let the plate umpire know where you are.
• Do not return to home plate.
• You do not have to return to the infield, nor should you always, but you must always be prepared to do so.