Rehearse Fundamental Mechanics

Excerpts from July 25, 2018
Umpires can develop healthy habits that have nothing to do with streamlining their diet or counting calories. Many sports have repeated practices or habits that you can rehearse in preparation for games. Here are some tips to help you learn good habits and ways to practice the practices — if not to make them perfect, at least to polish their luster.
Plate umpire practice
Let’s begin with the difficult practice of calling balls and strikes. All we need is a pitcher and a catcher, and they don’t have to be regular players, either. Anyone who can toss an object will do. Put something on the floor of your living room or out in the driveway to simulate home plate and go to work. It’ll help to have a pretend batter too, one who’ll never swing at a pitch.
Crouch down behind the catcher and have the pitcher throw a wad of paper, a wiffle-ball, anything that flies reasonably straight. Then make your calls, over and over. Have someone critique your stance, your reactions and your judgment.
Of course, it’ll help if real players pour in real pitches. If that is hard to accomplish, ask some fellow umpires to join the fun – take turns being the players and other umpires can umpire. Chances are, such practice will lead to steady improvement.
Base umpire practice
One of the hardest plays to cover in softball is a sharp hit to the outfield with runners on base. The difficult part is the spread of the field and the shortage of umpires. That is, a ball may be hit so hard that one umpire must dash to the outfield to see whether a ball is caught on the fly. The home plate umpire can help but must know how to help — when to move out from behind the plate, what base to cover and where to go for a subsequent play. All those moves can be practiced: Put runners on bases and fungo the ball out there, then rehearse the necessary adjustments.
Umpires can also work on calls at first base. Have someone hit infield grounders, let runners run and have umpires make the call at first base over and over. Hit shots down the foul line and have umpires make the fair or foul call. All elementary phases of softball can be simulated on a field — makeshift or real — so that umpires can practice and refine positioning and judgment.
These are good ideas as the season approaches – put on your calendar to work on these starting in November.