Some material from the NASO Pick a Pregame booklet was used for this article.
The crew pre-game meeting is an important discussion for all officiating crews working a collegiate contest. The Crew chief/plate umpire sets the tone for the single game or weekend series. Veteran crew chiefs should include the entire crew in their discussions and ask for honest feedback during these meetings. If you are unsure what topics and questions to discuss use the comprehensive list located in the CCA Softball Umpires Manual in Section 3 and is included as the last section in this article. It is a long and comprehensive list, but not applicable for all situations.
The experience level of the individual umpires in the crew, the subject matter of the pre-game, and other factors lead to the necessity of having different pre-games for different games.
Pre-game with less experienced partner
• Establish an air of confidence; reassure your partner that the crew is going to have fun, work hard and put yourselves in the best position to succeed.
• Do not overwhelm him/her; empower him/her to make all the necessary calls and rulings that are his/her responsibility.
• Tell him/her you are willing and able to answer any questions or assist in any tricky situations.
• Review the major differences in rules and mechanics for college versus high school and travel ball.
• Discuss the areas of responsibilities and basic mechanics – foul/fair, base coverage, runner coverage, tag-ups, outfield coverage. Emphasize working “by the book.”
• Establish the umpire-to-umpire signals procedures and review the standard signals for college.
• Review the bat check procedures.
• Quick discussion of complex rulings – illegal pitch, interference, obstruction, appeal plays, look-back rule.
• Emphasize communications, verbal and non-verbal; meet between innings as appropriate.
• Game management high points
• Ask – what two things are you going to work hard on today (positioning, timing, etc.).
Pre-game with experienced partners
- Review the new rules and interpretations.
- Review new mechanics and points of emphasis.
- Emphasize crew communications and outfield coverage; ump-to-ump signals.
- Complex rules – pitching rules, interference (runner’s lane!), obstruction, collision, illegal pitch, look-back rule, hit-by-pitch, option plays, HR celebration.
- Mechanics – rotations, situation when cannot rotate properly, base coverage (all-in and base ump covers outfield), foul ball off batter.
- Unusual situations – appeals, timing play, concussion, weather, halted game.
- Going for help – quick vs complex situation; correct crew huddle protocols
- Coach and team tendencies.
- Game management – conferences, warnings, confrontations, ejections, correct counts.
Always give yourselves plenty of time to meet with the crew; have a thorough discussion; review the two opponents and any past game notes that you or one of your crew member(s) would like to address.
The Quickie Pre-game
Circumstances might arise which leave little time for a good pre-game. Perhaps a traffic jam kept your partner(s) from getting to the site in sufficient time. Or you are working a tournament and your second game is with an umpire with whom you have not worked, so you are meeting him/her as you change between games. A prepared umpire has already created the “quickie” pre-game for such occasions, which could include, as an example, the two to four most common “tough” mechanics in both 2-umpire and 3-umpire systems.
Whatever the reason here are some suggestions when time does not allow for a full pre-game discussion.
• Discuss any specific situations that could cause problems in that day’s game – unusual ground rules, team tendencies, weather/darkness, coach just finished the previous game with a controversial call and the team is playing back-to-back games, history with specific players or coaches.
• Quickly review any major rule or mechanics changes; and umpire-to-umpire signals.
• Discuss how the crew might get together at the end of the first inning to share any other pertinent information.
• Recognize that if there is a break-down in mechanics or rules, the plate umpire will initiate a meeting between half-innings to discuss the proper mechanics or clear up the rule.
• Review how the crew will handle the arguing coach or other problems with game management.
• Have a good post-game to have an honest discussion about the things that went right and the things that did not go so well during the game.
Always give yourselves plenty of time to meet with the crew; have a thorough discussion; review the two opponents and any past game notes that you or one of your crew member(s) would like to address. Remember that a thorough pre-game will set the tone for the entire crew with the upcoming game and or series at hand. Be sharp and be ready!
Remember that a thorough pre-game will set the tone for the entire crew with the upcoming game and or series at hand. Be sharp and be ready!
CCA Manual list of Pre-Game Topics with Partners
• New rules and rule interpretations
• New mechanics and points of emphasis
• Unusual situations and mechanics
• Run rule
• Halted game
• Drop-dead time
• Weather conditions
• Fly ball coverage
• Fair/foul coverage
• Leadoff responsibilities
• Tag up responsibilities
• Check swings
• Between play coverage
• Between inning mechanics
• Fairly common situations (obstruction, etc.) and mechanics
• illegal pitches, hit by pitch, hit by batted ball
• Warnings – required: record
• Going for help – how, when, when required
• Umpire huddles – when, how to conduct
• Umpire verbal and non-verbal communication
• Confrontations and role of non-involved umpires
• Exiting the field