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.
From standard starting position
• U1 has center fielder to the right field dead ball line
• U3 has center fielder to the left field dead ball line.
• Plate umpire has no chase responsibilities
From rotated starting position
• U1 has right fielder to the right field dead ball line. U1 has the right of first refusal on balls hit to the right-fielder
• U3 has the “V” from the left-fielder (F7) to right-fielder (F9). U3 has no fair/foul responsibilities.
• Plate umpire has left fielder to the left field dead ball line.
From the counter-rotated starting position
• U1 has the wedge from the center fielder to right fielder. U1 has the right of first refusal on balls hit to the center fielder. U1 has no fair/foul responsibilities. Situational mechanic – on a fly ball near the line U1 should chase on a possible trap near the line and rule on the catch/no catch. The plate umpire has the fair/foul call. .
• U3 has center fielder to the left-field, dead-ball line
• Plate umpire has right fielder to the right field dead ball line.
• The first-base umpire has first right of refusal on covering fly balls.
• Know your coverage areas
• Cover when the ball is
o hard hit in the air (unless no doubt leaving the park)
o near the warning track or side fences
o when two fielders are converging, gapper
o near the lines
o on all bloopers.
• Verbalize “covering”, “going,” ‘gone” or “two man.”
• When the ball is hit in your partner’s area, know if they covered (listen and verbalize).
• Never assume that your partner has covered or not covered
o Quickly look at your partner when the ball leaves the infield
o Look again at your partner as you move into position
o Then look a third time
• When your partner covers, move to your new position.
• When your partner does not cover, move to the normal position.