Softball umpires make many judgment calls during a game. Some may determine the outcome of the game – a close play at the plate for the winning run. Others may be easy – batter-runner out at first base by 10 steps. And then there are the calls which seem to automatically result in a “discussion” between the calling umpire and the coach of the team who violated the rule. It is extremely important that you are 100% sure of these calls, or at the very least, you did due diligence in deciphering every element and aspect of the play.
We can put these calls into two categories – 1) the Big Ones (100% sure) involving judgment calls during playing action, and 2) infractions involving non-playing action (due diligence.
The Big Ones – be 100% sure
Studies have shown that these plays often result in a difference of opinion by the offending head coach. Make sure you saw all the elements and aspects of these plays and are 100% of your call. Always give the benefit of the doubt to the student-athlete on these calls
• Obstruction or no obstruction
• Illegal pitch, including the pitcher’s lane violation
• Substance on ball
• Batter interference
• Batter intentionally gets hit by pitch
• Batter-runner stepping back to avoid or delay a tag by a fielder
• Illegally batted ball
• Runner’s lane violation by batter-runner
• Preceding runner physical passes another runner
• Physical assistance by a coach or runner
• Missing a base or leaving early on a touched fly ball, especially if you have two base runners to watch
• Abandoning a base
• Leaving early on the pitch
• Look-back rule
• Base runner interference
• Physical contact with opponent or umpire
• Leaving team area
Other infractions which require due diligence
These are the play which may or may not result in an argument but will probably create an opportunity for the head coach to question the call. They may require either an immediate ejection, or a warning which leads to an ejection for the next violation – and it may be the head coach who is administratively ejected by rule.
Subsequent violations by the offending team shall result in an ejection. Intent is not necessary, but use preventive umpiring. If the player covered a part of the line while moving dirt, it might have been accidental – perhaps a verbal “be careful, leave the lines intact.” If it is the first batter of the game and the player seemed intent on covering a large part of the line, call it and apply the appropriate Effect.
Some equipment violations can lead to an ejection – inappropriate bat or number of bats in the on-deck circle, inappropriate bat in the batter’s box, illegal gloves, not using protective equipment, wearing prohibited devices. This is also true for some uniform violations.
Artificial noise makers
We no longer must wait for the opposing coach to bring it to our attention. You are the game manager – does the first violation require a quiet comment to the coach (players were stomping their cleats on the cement floor of the dugout) or does a team warning need to be issued. Remember, a warning for the first violation, ejection for any subsequent violations
Positions for team personnel
• Offensive personnel being out of the dugout during a live ball – eject head coach for next violation
• Defensive personnel being out of the dugout during a live ball – eject violator if not immediate compliance
• Interference by offensive team personnel with runner during dead ball award (this includes the home-run celebration rule)
Keeping close track of conferences by both the offense and defense is important for the plate umpire, as somebody will be ejected if a team takes more than the allowable number of conferences per inning, or for the game if using media format. There is sufficient time for the plate umpire to write down the conferences on the lineup cards. Some umpires have created a separate form for this but be aware – the rule specifically requires that the plate umpire record the inning on the team’s lineup card.“ It is important that the lineup card be used for this, as the game could end up as a halted or otherwise suspended game that might be continued later with a different plate umpire.
The plate umpire must be diligent with recording substitutions to prevent an illegal player, which results in an ejection; this includes wrong movements involving the DP/Flex and illegal reentries.
There they are! Whether you are the plate umpire or a base umpire, you are one of the managers of the game. Review these plays during your crew pregame and be ready for them when they happen.