College Signals Summary

If you have read the article on this Locker Room, titled Major Mechanics Differences for College vs Other codes, you know that even our signals are slightly different and more detailed than other codes. This is true for both the standard signals and the umpire-to-umpire signals. Here is a quick summary of the college softball signals. Following this summary are two additional signal situations which differ between college and other codes.

Quick summary

  • Non-swinging strike calls – be expedient in signaling the strike; very short delay between the verbal and the signal (9/9/18)
  • Called third strike – tone it down; use one or two parts (9/9/18)
  • Dead ball call off the batter on a swing – no “delay” by the base umpire(s) (9/19/18)
  • Fair/foul hit near a foul line and requires a fair/foul call
  • o No ball status is given; the ball is either caught or it is not.
  • o Do not use the Point signal for foul calls
  • o If a caught fair ball requires emphasis, pump the out signal two or three times.
  • o If the foul ball is not caught use the Dead ball signal and a verbal “foul ball.” If emphasis is needed use a louder voice and call “foul ball” again while using the Dead ball signal twice.
  • On all catches – use the hammer signal for catches and the safe signal for non-catches. Also, a verbal call of “out or safe” may accompany the signal as appropriate. If the non-catch is apparent, the safe signal is not necessary; you may emphasize a non-obvious catch with multiple pumps of the hammer signal (9/19/18)

Signals unique to college

Dropped third strike signals
• Plate umpire – use either the Third Strike is Caught or the Third Strike Is Not Caught, as appropriate
• Base umpire – use only the Third Strike Is Not Caught signal.
• All umpires should be aware of the possibility of a check swing request; the plate umpire must immediately ask for help from the appropriate umpire.

Two out indicator and Timing Signal
• Two Out Indicator is used with no runners on second or first base.
• Timing Play Indicator is used with a runner on first or second base (other bases may be occupied). T
• These signals are initiated by the plate umpire and acknowledged by the base umpire.

Unnecessary Signals

Our umpire signals are our communication tools for players, coaches, fans and in many cases, broadcasters and television audience fans. It is important that we are communicating the calls of the game in a clear manner. However, college umpires should not signal when the play is obvious:

• A batted ball clearly goes over the fielder’s head or bounces in front of her
• A foul ball hit directly back to or over the backstop
• A ball that is overthrown or completely missed
• On a play where the runner clearly obtains any base or home plate before the ball arrives. Be careful of this one, however. We sometimes play with big crowds and/or in big stadiums. What is obvious to the calling umpire, standing near the play, may not be obvious to the players or spectators. A signal is still needed if an accurate throw arrives just after the runner attains the base/plate.
• When the batter is getting set, the pitcher is showing no indication of quick pitching.

One additional note on foul balls, college umpires do not call obvious foul balls; for example, the ball is hit straight back to the backstop, over the back or sides of the backstop, or obviously foul down the line. The calling umpire must be aware that although he/she can clearly see it foul, it might not be too obvious to your partner positioned on the other side of the field. Any many times the runners are not sure until they see the umpire’s signal and/or call. A general rule is to make the foul call if the ball is less than eight feet from the foul line.

Timing of plate umpire initiating the umpire-to-umpire signals

Observers and partners have continued to provide input to the training staff that too many umpires are not using the correct timing to give their partners the umpire-to-umpire signals. This is clearly stated in the CCA Manual:

• Always initiated by the plate umpire and must be given before every new batter
• Do it just after putting your mask on and BEFORE moving behind the batter or catcher

This timing is important as it allows the base umpire(s) to acknowledge quickly and have more time to pre-pitch.

Read the Signals section of the CCA Manual for all the details.