Holding area/holding zone (includes Point of Plate

The correct term for college is holding area, not holding zone.  However, the word “zone” is still used a few times in the CCA Manual; this is an oversight.  A holding area is most often used by the plate umpire only; with the only exception – in a 3-umpire system and U1 rotates to the plate.  Here are the holding areas for college softball mechanics.

Front of circle

In general, the plate umpire should use this holding area for all situations for which PU has no responsibilities at first base or third base. A good example of why this is a good holding area…No runners on base and a possible extra base hit to the outfield for which U3 chases.  U1 has the batter-runner who may attempt to advance to 2b on the hit.  By the PU being at the front of the circle, if the BR gets into a rundown between 1b and 2b, the PU is closer to this and can move in to help as appropriate.  If the PU stayed near the plate area or went to the holding area between 3b and the plate, the PU would be out of position to assist U1 on this rundown.

Between third base and home plate

In general, the plate umpire should use this holding are at all times when the PU has responsibilities for runners at 3b and the plate.  Visualize this holding area as a large oval that can extend from about 20 feet from the plate to 20 feet from 3b.  Where, in this large oval, should the PU be?  It depends completely on how the PU reads the play.
  1. R2 only, U1 chases. If the hit is a sharp one to left field and the PU reads the most probable play will be to third base, move quickly to about 20 feet from 3b, read the play, and commit to 3b if the throw goes there. The wording from the Manual is: “…read the throw from the outfield and adjust positioning closer to third base.
  1. R1 only, steal or pickoff. PU should move to the holding area immediately in case U3 cannot get to 3b if the throw goes into the outfield.
  1. Multiple runners and a base umpire chases. This is the most common situation for the PU to use this holding area.
The key to success for using this holding area is to read the play and continue to read the play as it changes.  The PU’s movement from the holding area could be:
  • Commit to 3b
  • Commit to the plate
  • Commit to 3b and then hustle to the plate as appropriate
  • Hustle to either the holding area or directly to 3b as soon as any plays at the plate are no longer possible and a leading runner is advancing to 3b.

 Point of the plate

The point-of-the-play mechanic is mostly a 3-umpire mechanic but the training staff hears it used too often when mechanics for the 2-umpire system are being discussed.  Remember: “Although the point of the plate is the best starting position, the umpire might not be able to use it if they have responsibilities elsewhere on the field.” (page 43 of the 2020 CCA Manual).
So, it is very rare that this holding position is used in a 2-umpire system.  As a matter of fact, the term “point of the plate” is used 47 times for the 3-umpire system and only 6 times for the 2-umpire system.
Please review the pages in the CCA Manual to guide you when to properly use the point-of-the-plate.  Use the search function of the electronic version of the CCA Manual for find these pages.  Use all of these search criteria to find them all:  point of plate, point-of-the-plate, holding position.
Here are the six situations in a two-umpire system when he point of the plate may possibly be used with the right set of circumstances:
  • No runners on base and extra base hit
  • Runner on second base only, single to the outfield and no possible play at 3b.
  • Runner on second base only, extra base hit and no possible play at 3b.
  • Runner on third base only and extra base hit
  • Runners of first and second bases, single to outfield and no possible play at 3b.
  • Runners on first and second bases; extra base hit and no possible play at 3b.