Indicator Management


Knowing the correct count on the batter as a crew

After a steal there was a question among the crew as to what the proper count is. What is the correct procedure?

The plate umpire should get the crew together to ask for assistance to make sure all umpires agree on the count. Umpires must work hard to prevent this from happening. Every umpire, even the umpire who will make the call on the stealing runner and is moving to the calling position for the play, must focus first on the result of the pitch.

All umpires, especially the plate umpire, must change the indicator immediately after the pitch has been called. Do this so you have the correct count on your indicator after the play on the stealing runner concludes.

It is said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Work hard on doing the above mechanic for your next games until it becomes a habit.

Indicator management

There are “option plays” in all codes of softball. This occurs when an infraction results in a delayed-dead ball. The play is allowed to continue and then one of the coaches may be presented with an option of taking the result of the play or the effect for the infraction. Two common examples are illegal pitch and catcher obstruction violations.

And with the introduction of more option plays a few years ago in college, it becomes even more important for umpires to:

  • Stay focused for the entire play
  • Keep umpiring for the entire play
  • Allow time at the end of the play possible option play decisions

One important element of an option play is the count on the batter at the time of the hit. If one of the options is to nullify the play, umpires must make sure they remember what the count was in case this option is chosen. This leads us to what may be a new concept for many umpires – indicator management.

The indicator is a tool we use every game but have we taken it for granted? It can become a valuable tool to help us manage the option play situation, and also to keep us completely focused during the game. Multiple times last season, and at least once in a televised post-season game, all umpires cleared their indicators immediately after the play appeared to be over. But one of the umpires had a violation which required giving options to the coaches. As the umpires discussed the options and realized the coach might take the option which returned the batter to the plate and all play nullified, nobody was sure what the count was before the batted ball.

Here is an example of good indicator management and a mechanic we need to start using: do NOT clear your indicator until you are completely settled into your next starting position and making eye contact with the plate umpire. If this mechanic is used throughout the game, when that option play unfurls itself at the most unlikely moment all umpires should be ready to handle it with confidence.

Another example of the importance of indicator management is when a runner attempts to steal a base, or there is a wild pitch or passed ball. Many base umpires get so involved with their responsibility on the advancing runner that they lose focus on the plate umpire’s ball/strike decision. The base umpire may have also forgotten to advance his/her indicator because he/she is already moving toward the play on the advancing runner.

When the play is over and the base umpire starts toward the next starting position, it becomes an uneasy moment as he/she realizes he is not sure what the last pitch was called. As part of umpire crewness it is a well-established policy for the plate umpire to give the count before the next pitch after this type of play. But when this is not done we may have a problem – one of the umpires on the field does not know the count.

How can we prevent this problem as a base umpire? As you see the runner starting to steal:

  • On your first move toward the play concentrate on the plate area and watch the plate umpire’s call
  • Say to yourself “ball” or “strike”
  • Then advance your indicator as you are moving to the play.

Now when you get to your next starting position, there should be no more uncertainty on the count. And if you get into the habit of saying to yourself after every non-contacted pitch “ball” or “strike” when you see or hear the plate umpire’s call, you will be more focused on every single pitch of the game.

It may be an indicator – if you are not sure of every count on every pitch of the game – that you are not using good indicator management. It may be a good transition now for you to read the article in the Rules Corner/Batting/On the Pitch – Changing the Count.