Real Plays, Legitimate Deviations

The CCA manual is a very thorough document, but like any umpire manual, it cannot cover every possible play that might happen on a softball field. Strange plays and unusual situations will occur; the college softball umpire must be a thinking umpire, ready to adjust to anything that might happen on the field. Per page 45 in the 2013 CCA Manual: “Any deviations or adjustments from the standard will only be dictated by the action on the field and must be communicated among the crew at the time.”

3-umpire system, plate umpire cannot rotate to 3b

With R1, a ball is hit such that the PU’s first responsibility is ball status. This could be a bunt rolling down the 1b line, fair/foul down the RF line, ball near the dead-ball area (catch and carry, overthrow rolling close to dead-ball area). Rotated U3 must read this play, see the PU staying with his/her first priority, and be ready to take R1 to 3b. U1 must also be alert to this situation and prepare to take the BR at both 1b and 2b. The key to this play is two-fold:
o Each umpire reads the play and knows his/her new responsibilities
o Communication is vital
Example: If the PU has the time and can do it without confusing fielders and BR, he/she should yell “I’ve got the ball.” U3 should yell “I’ve got 3b.” U1 should yell “I’ve got 1st and 2nd.”

3-umpire, non-enclosed field, ball near dead-ball line (New, Dec 2013)

Here is another example of an unusual play which might require on-the–field, quick-reaction, clear-communication, deviations from standard mechanics. All of these items must happen for the crew to cover the unusual play.
o Recognition by the crew of the situation
o Quick reaction to handle the situation and cover ball and base responsibilities as possible
o Good communication between the crew.
Standard or rotated starting position

(Either no runners on base, or a runner on first-base only.

Two specific plays can happen in these situations which may call for a deviation from standard mechanics.
Play 1: a bunt or a dribbler in front of the plate and the throw goes over the fielder covering first base. The throw continues into the right-field foul area and is getting close to the dead-ball line.
Play 2: a fair ball grounder is hit near the first-base line (no chase) and the ball starts curving toward the dead-ball line.
The crew reacts to the initial hit and starts the standard rotation – plate umpire starts moving toward 3b, U1 starts rotating home, U3 is prepared to take 1b and 2b on all runners.
But who has the dead-ball call as the live ball nears the dead-ball line?
There are two possible deviations for this play which may be necessary in order for the umpires to fulfill their responsibilities of ball status and base coverage.
1. Since most of the time the PU will react immediately and start toward 3b for the advancing R1 or BR, U1 should read this play and start rotating toward the plate while glancing at the live ball. If the ball is getting close to the dead-ball line, start toward the backstop fence to line up the ball and the dead-ball line (or if no line, the fence extended). U1 keeps responsibility for the plate. But since the ball is still in the outfield, U1 can watch the plate area for runner(s) touching the plate and possible obstruction.
Either the ball goes out of play or it does not. If it does, U1 loudly declares dead-ball while moving into the infield area to get attention. Then award the appropriate bases. If the ball stays live, as the throw comes back to the infield area U1 can move quickly to take any plays at the plate.
2. PU recognizes the situation immediately and yells “I’ve got the ball.” This alerts the crew that the PU will stay near the plate area and not rotate to 3b. Now U1 knows not to rotate home and must take the BR at 1b and 2b. U3 must take all runners to 3b. The plate umpire now uses the same mechanic as explained in option 1 above – stay near the fence to determine possible out-of-play; if the ball stays in play then move immediately to the plate and take all calls at the plate.
Once again, never plan to deviate, but have a plan if you must deviate.