Major Mechanics Differences for College vs Other codes


Game signals

Fair/foul calls

College umpires do not signal obvious foul balls:
• Ball hit straight back to the backstop.
• Balls hit over the back or sides of the backstop.
• Obvious foul balls down the lines.

College umpires must signal fair or foul when balls are hit close to the lines.
• The status of the ball may be obvious to the calling umpire but not as obvious to partners, runners, or coaches.
• A general rule is to make the fair/foul call if the ball is less than eight feet from the foul line.

Do not give ball status on fair/foul calls; the ball is either caught or it is not caught:
• Fair balls are either caught (out signal), or not caught (point)
• Caught fair balls requiring emphasis – hold the signal a little longer.
• Do not use the Point signal for foul calls, whether caught or not caught.
• Foul balls not caught – use 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.

Infield fly

All umpires have concurrent authority to judge an infield fly and initiate the call; it should be echoed by the other umpires. New guidelines were added in 2021 – ordinary effort is defined – the fielder can nearly settle under ball while facing the infield.

The Infield fly signal:
• Fully extend right arm above the head with a point of the index finger, and then verbalize “infield fly, the batter is out” loud enough for the players in the vicinity can clearly hear the call.
• If the ball is close to the line say, “infield fly, the batter is out if fair.” If the ball is caught repeat loudly BATTER IS OUT.
• If the ball is dropped the umpire may repeat for emphasis a few more times “batter is out.”

Point signal

• Use this signal to indicate or sell and abnormality in a play
• Left or right arm extended straight out toward play or player; index finger extended on hand.

Home run signal

NCAA – extend arm high above head with index finger pointed skyward and make a circling motion with the hand and arm.

Run scores/does not score

College uses these two signals not specifically mentioned in other codes. See the section in the Game Management mechanics section below for the detailed mechanics for when the plate umpire has a play at 3b and there is a timing play.

Spectator interference

Dead-ball signal then with one hand grasp the other wrist with your palms facing forward.
• May be followed by movement toward the location of interference.
• Following the call, turn to the field and indicated the outcome (out, base awards, etc.)
• Consult with crew if necessary.

Umpire-to-Umpire signals

Dropped third strike signals

Plate umpire

The plate umpire should use either the Third Strike is Caught or the Third Strike Is Not Caught, as appropriate.
• If the third strike is caught, the plate umpire shall give the appropriate verbal call and strike signal.
• If it is not obvious that the pitch was caught or there is any confusion among the immediate players, the plate umpire shall verbally declare “the batter is out” while giving the out signal.
• The verbal and signal may have to be repeated if the retired batter continues to run.
• If the third strike is not caught, the plate umpire shall give the verbal call and strike signal. If it is not obvious that the catcher did not catch the pitch or there is confusion, after giving the strike signal the plate umpire shall immediately give the “safe” signal and verbally announce “no catch.”

Base umpires

Base umpires will use both the Third Strike Is Caught and the Third Strike Is Not Caught as appropriate
• If the batter is out by rule on a third strike, do not use these signals.
• If the pitch was obviously caught or dropped, no signal is used unless there is any confusion.

Two out indicator and Timing Signal

There are two signals used by college umpires to communicate a two-out situation.
• The Two Out Indicator is used with no runners on second or first base. The plate umpire holds both arms out at waist level with two fingers. The base umpire(s) acknowledges by returning the signal with one hand.
• The Timing Play Indicator is used whenever there is a runner on first or second base (third base may or may not be occupied). The signal, initiated by the plate umpire and acknowledged by the base umpire(s), is two fingers on the left wrist.

Play mechanics – all umpires

Force play and tag plays

Force – no closer than 18’ from base or plate; work for a 90° angle to the throw.
• When not practical or possible find an appropriate angle not straight-lined with the throw
• Removed the wording “staying within a 30o to 50o angle to first base” in the 2021 Manual

Tag plays – Get into a position to see the path of the runner into the base and the application of the tag. Keep an initial distance of 3 to 10 feet from the play, then adjust, using the wedge, as the play develops.

3b responsibilities with R2R3 or bases loaded, less than 2 outs and U1 covers the fly ball

• Plate umpire if play at 3b on R2 is the initial throw from the outfield.
• Remaining umpire must be ready to take R2 at 3b if plate umpire is making a call on R3 at the plate.

Timing Play

When the third out of an inning is on a tag play called at third base by the plate umpire and there is the potential for a timing play at home, the remaining umpire must be alert to the timing play.
• Base umpire should view the timing of the tag at 3b in relation to the lead runner touching the plate.
• Then move confidently towards the plate signaling that the run scores or that the run does not score.
• In a 3-umpire system, the covering umpire should also observe the play and provide assistance if needed.

Calling plays between umpires

The CCA manual has specific mechanics to be used when a call has to be made between two umpires.
• One umpire calls obstruction and another umpire has a play on that runner.
• Interference, obstruction or contact between two umpires.
Read the details presented in the In Game Umpiring/Situations section of the CCA Manual

Plate umpire mechanics

Stances, foul tip, trailing BR

• College plate umpires must use one of these four plate stances – Box, Gerry Davis, Modified Gerry Davis, and Heel-Toe.
• The foul tip signal is optional but use it when the tip is not obvious.
• Trail the batter-runner on batted balls to the infield with no runners on base or a runner on first base only.
o Trail no more than 15’.
o Stop trailing when it becomes evident that there will be no play at first base (infielder bobbles the ball or hit to the outfield) and move to the holding area in front of the pitcher’s circle.
o With a runner on first base, trail no more thana 10’ or until it is obvious that there will be no play at 1b.

Plays at third base or the plate from infield or outfield

When the plate umpire has responsibilities for both third base and the plate, move to the holding area in foul territory between home and third base.
• The holding area should be visualized as very big oval, not a specific spot.
• Choose the area of the oval based on the most apparent initial play – closer to 3b if the play looks like it will go there, otherwise use the area closer to the plate.
• Commit to the play.

As soon as it is recognized that there will be no play at the plate on the lead runner, start moving closer to 3b.
• Watch for obstruction and the lead runner touching the plate.
• Read the next possible play and commit to it.
• If no responsibilities at 3b, move to point-of-plate holding position; quickly adjust as the play dictates using the Wedge mechanic as appropriate.

Base umpire mechanics


College base umpires do not use the inside/outside theory for balls hit to the outfield. Depending on where ball is hit, stay outside the diamond or pivot (we do not use the term “button-hook) inside the diamond, if necessary, to keep all the elements of the play in front of you as the batter-runner rounds first base.

With a runner on first base only and a hit to left or center field, stay outside the diamond or move inside, closer to second base as that is where the ball will most likely be thrown. Take a quick glance toward first base when appropriate to see the action there – runner touching first base and possible obstruction.

Outfield coverage on fly balls

Prioritize outfield coverage responsibilities in every pre-pitch preparation. On any fly ball that will be or could develop into a difficult situation for the plate umpire, think about covering the catch/no catch if there are no runners on, or a lone runner with two out. Do not cover obvious base hits or routine fly balls. The base umpire should yell the plate umpire’s name or “COVERING.” See the separate article – Covering fly balls – in the Mechanics/Base section.

Three-umpire specific mechanics

Starting positions

Being Set on the Line

• Standing upright or set:
o Stay in set or move forward a maximum of 2 steps ending in prepared set or stopped position
o Was start in upright, standing position…move forward a maximum of 2 steps
o U1 and U3 – starting position on line with runner on that base is 6-12 feet

U1 and U3 starting in middle

• U3 Rotated Starting position-10 to 18 feet from 2b between 1b and 3b baseline extended toward CF.
o See diagram on page 13 in the 2021 CCA Manual.
o Gives criteria for choosing a position and details on movement when a play develops.
• U1 Starting Position Counter Rotated – options: set, remain standing, or take a step with the pitch.

Plate umpire movement on hits to outfield

• No need to go to front of circle with R0 or R1; may go directly to 3b with R1 and base hit to outfield
• When going into infield, follow path of the ball
• Movement is now more restricted with R3 and a possible play at the plate

Adjustments to rotations during live ball

• R1 and hit to infield – if high potential for play on BR at 1b, stay with play until U3 can take over.
• R1, PU covers, outfield hit not caught – if U1 unable to rotate home, be prepared to take any calls on BR at 2b and 3b.
• R3, PU covers, outfield hit not caught – U1 be prepared if R3 does not immediately score to take BR to 2b.

Tag up responsibilities and base coverage

For R2, plate umpire covers the fly ball

The responsibility for watching R2 tag up is shared between U1 and U3:
• U1 has it on all fly balls between center fielder and left field dead ball line
• U3 has it on all fly balls between the center fielder and the right field dead ball line; recommended that U3 stay in foul territory.
• U3 has the appeal play and U1 takes all other type of plays at 2b (split coverage so needs clear communication)

Tag ups when base umpire covers the fly ball

• R1 only and U1 covers – plate umpire has R1.
• R1 only and U3 covers – U1 has R1.
• R3 only – plate umpire has R3.
• R1R2 and either base umpire covers – remaining umpire has both R1 and R2.
• R2R3 and either base umpire covers – remaining base umpire ready to take R2 to third base.

Outfield ball coverage by base umpires

College umpires do not automatically cover all fly balls to the outfield. Take a quick look at the fielders’ movements and process whether or not it warrants coverage. It is not acceptable for a base umpire, on the crack of the bat, to hold up a hand indicating that they will return after covering the fly ball.

When you cover:
• Decide if it should be covered by going into the outfield, or with a turn and set.
• If outfielder breaking in or moving laterally in your direction – turn and set to watch the play.
• If the defender is running way from you, move into the outfield parallel to the flight of the ball.
• On balls close to the foul lines, turn and set on the line; do not overrun it.

Return to the infield during the play only in rare circumstances; do not pre-communicate, pre-pitch, or announce it ahead of time. Return only:
• There is a breakdown in crew coverage.
• A timely return greatly enhances the crew’s coverage of developing plays on the infield.

Alternate Home Run Mechanics

R0 or R3 only – if the batted ball is a clear and obvious out-of-the-park HR and the PU covers
• No rotation
• U1 has 1b and 2b
• U3 stays at 3b: PU stays near home.

Two-umpire system

Starting positions

• BU when on the line start in upright standing position and walking with the pitch; or can start set. Should be no closer than 18 feet (2021 manual not updated; still states 18-20 feet but use the same mechanic as 3-umpire.
• BU when off the line – options: set, remain standing, or take a step with the pitch.

Plate umpire movement on hits to outfield

Same as 3-umpire.

Covering fly balls then returning to infield

You do not have to return to the infield nor should you always, but you should be prepared to do so.
• Never return for the initial play on any base or attempt to cover a play at the plate.
• Most usually return for a play at second base when PU has a play at 3b or plate; communicate!!
• Return if you can during a rundown when the play is moving away from you!!

Runner on First, Steal

If R1 continues to 3b (e.g. overthrow into outfield, ball ricochets off covering fielder)
• PU has call at 3b on R1
• We assume there is a typo on page 315, fifth bullet in Plate section – BR should be R1.
• Also, the second bullet in the Base section has been changed from “Take any subsequent play at 2b and 3b” to “Take any subsequent play at second base.”

Game Management mechanics

Correcting the Count

• Making sure the count is correct is the responsibility of every umpire on the field. If the plate umpire has an incorrect count, they have until the at-bat is completed to correct it.
• If the teams disagree with the count and request the plate umpire check with their partners, the PU should check if there is any doubt.
o “I have [insert count]. What do you have?”
o In more complex situations, the crew should come together and talk the pitch sequence.
o As a last resort, check with the official scorer.
• If there is a checked swing of full swing that is not ruled a strike, we have until the next pitch to appeal; it cannot be changed after the next pitch is thrown.

Getting the call right/Going for help

If you are missing a piece of information necessary to making a call, go to your partner, unsolicited, prior to rendering any decision. Ask you partner what you need to know then follow with the final call and signal for the play. There are two situations for which the rule book states that an umpire must go for help – check swing and pickoff play.

The CCA Manual has a list of plays for which an umpire who is 100% certain that he/she has additional information unknown to the umpire making the call, should approach unsolicited and alert the calling umpire to such information. Note an important statement in the manual: the ultimate decision to change a call rests with the calling umpire.

Conference management

• Be consistent yet appropriate with the time allowed for a conference.
• Defensive conferences are usually longer than offensive conferences.
• Game situations can also determine the amount of time allowed.
• If an injury occurs and the coach wants to check on the player, go with the coach or designate a base umpire to monitor the meeting
o If the talk turns to strategy, ask the coach if they want a conference.
o If they do not, instruct them to play ball
• If a player requests time to fix or replace equipment, go to the dugout with her and monitor the situation.
• Do not charge either team a conference if performing your umpire duties causes the initial delay of the game.

Checking the pitcher’s resin bag

When a pitcher comes to the circle with a resin bag, one of the base umpires should check it. I does not have to be checked more than once per game unless you detect something has changed.