Base umpires, whether in the 2-umpire or 3-umpire system, are responsible for almost all calls on the bases. There are times when the plate umpire takes the call at 3b, as will be explained in another article.
In order to cover the bases and get a good angle and distance to the play, base umpires must hustle. The term “hustle” has been used frequently in umpire manuals as a general term for base umpire movement.
The CCA Manual is helpful to us in better defining this general term:
Hustle: An umpire’s movement on the field at all times should be brisk, purposeful, educated and appropriate. Move to your next position by choosing the most efficient path to achieve an optimum position for all possible situations.
All four of the words used above have multiple meanings for different context (e.g. brisk could mean abrupt, curt, cold weather, etc.). So, let’s define these words in the context of an umpire’s movement on the field.
• Brisk – active, fast, and energetic
• Purposeful – determined, resolute, committed
• Educated – knowledgeable, enlightened
• Appropriate – suitable, proper, fitting
Note: the Manual states that the plate umpire, after the conclusion of a play should “…return to the plate quickly. Do not run.” As you can glean from the above bullets, hustle is not running. The point the CCA Manual is making is that it is not necessary to “sprint” to the next starting position after a play. The correct movement is as explained in the bullets.
A college umpire will move around the field with body language that shows them genuinely interested and committed to purpose. There is no walking on the field, unless it is a brisk walk because there is a short distance to cover. An example – the call is made very close to the umpire’s next starting position. After making the call, the umpire can take a few steps in an active and energetic style. This looks so much better than a stroll of a few steps, which show disinterest in what is being done.
There must be a reason for every move an umpire makes on the field. Umpires shows this by their action of being committed to a play, e.g. moving determinedly to a calling position. This purpose must be for a knowledgeable reason – why are umpires moving so intently to where they are going? The commitment and energy used for this purposeful movement must have a specific and calculated objective. This insight usually comes from reading the play and determining where the most likely play will occur.
Good umpires will move in such a way that is appropriate for the situation. It would not be proper for a base umpire, starting in the C position, to race across the field toward first base for the force play on the batter-runner, and run over the shortstop who is trying to make that play. There is no need to over-hustle, which is moving just for the sake of moving. Another situation that can be observed once in a while, in which “hustle” is used improperly – base hit to the outfield and the base umpire is so committed to the possible play at a base, that he/she moves into a throwing lane and gets hit in the head with the throw.
So, do not just “hustle” when moving around the field. Make sure your movement is brisk, purposeful, educated, and appropriate.