Force play and tag plays
Force – no closer than 18’ from base or plate; work for a 90° angle to the throw. For base umpires at first base, stay within a 30° to 50° angle to the base.
Tag plays – Get into a position to see the path of the 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.
When a batted ball is hit near a foul line and requires a fair/foul call, do not give the status of the ball, as is done in some codes. We do not use the Point signal for foul calls. The Point signal is used to indicate or sell an abnormality in a play.
The ball is either caught or it is not. If a fair ball is caught, signal an out; if the situation requires emphasis, the umpire may pump the out signal two or three times. If the foul ball is not caught use the Dead ball signal and a verbal “foul ball.” If emphasis is needed on a foul ball very close to the foul line, the umpire may use a louder voice and call “foul ball” again while using the Dead ball signal twice.
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.
Dropped third strike signals
When the batter has two strikes, all umpire should pre-pitch prepare and determine if the batter is entitled to run. The signals are used at all times when the batter, by rule, is entitled to run.
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 shal 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 no 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.”
Another important factor with a dropped third strike – 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.
The base umpire will use only the Third Strike Is Not Caught signal. The elbow of the right arm is held at the side of the waist with only the forearm extending out and downward from the body at a 45-degree angle. The index is pointing at the ground. This will alert the plate umpire that a third strike was not caught. If the batter is out by rule, whether caught or not, do not use this signal.
The plate umpire is responsible for making this call. If the plate umpire does not make the call and a base umpire, after eye contact communication with the plate umpire, is certain the ball is an infield fly, the base umpire should then make the call.
The Infield fly signal is made by fully extending the 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.”
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)
When base umpire covers the fly ball
• R1 only and U1 covers – plate umpire has R1 (new, was U3 when U1 covers)
• R1 only and U3 covers – U1 has R1
• R3 only – plate umpire has R3 (no change)
• 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
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
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 – if the catcher or defense requests (7.3.3, 11.10.4)
Pickoff play – either coach requests
Two out indicator and Timing Signal
There are two signals used by college umpires to communicate regarding the 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 acknowledges by returning the signal with one hand. The Timing Play Indicator is used with a runner on first or second base (other bases may be occupied). The signal, initiated by the plate umpire and acknowledge by the base umpire, is two fingers on the left wrist.
College plate umpires have the choice 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 ground balls to the infield with no runners on base or a runner on first base only. Trail no more than 15’. 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. With a runner on first base, trail until it is obvious that there will be no play at 1b
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 as you watch for obstruction and the lead runner touching the plate and. Read the next possible play and commit to it. If the plate umpire has no responsibilities at 3b, move to point-of-plate holding position, then quickly adjust to the play dictates, using the Wedge mechanic.
Another unique mechanic for college, but it should also be pre-gamed and used when working games other than college: If the plate umpire has a play at 3b and there is a timing play, the remaining base umpire should provide information on the timing of a player crossing home plate before or after the last out is made at 3B.
There is no inside/outside theory for the base umpire in college. Depending on where ball is hit, stay outside the diamond or pivot 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 – 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 chase obvious base hits or routine fly balls. The base umpire should yell the plate umpire’s name or “COVERING.”