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Baseball & Softball (Pioneer and American)

Base Umpires

As a base umpire, you have several responsibilities involving runners and fielders. But your #1 responsibility is calling runners out or safe.
 
If you are a beginning PHBA umpire (0 – 2 years experience) and plan to umpire 8 – 10 year olds, it is recommended that you first gain experience umpiring the bases before progressing to home plate.
 
Most people find home plate to be more challenging given the constant scrutiny of each pitch and the physical demands of crouching behind the catcher to call balls and strikes. Experience at the bases provides a great, initial introduction to umpiring techniques, the rules of baseball and will prepare you to umpire home plate.
The guidance that follows includes how to umpire with others as a team. It is based on an established, simplified approach to base umpiring that is well suited for beginning umpires and consistent with more advanced approaches used by veteran PHBA umpires.

Review the topics on this page and you'll be on your way to umpiring the bases like a pro!

 

Where does the BASE UMPIRE stand at the start of each play?

You will be in one of four positions, depending on how many umpires are working the game and where the runners are.  If you forget where you should stand to start a play, stand in the POSITION that is directly in front of the lead runner. 

 

Diagram 1 – Base Umpire Positioning

As a Base Umpire, there are four potential positions to start each play. 

 

A Position

10 – 12 feet behind 1st base in foul territory, with your right foot just outside the foul line.

B Position

2 – 3 steps behind and 2 – 3 steps to the left of the 2nd baseman (in normal position)

C Position

2 – 3 steps behind and 2 – 3 steps to the left of the shortstop (in normal position)

D Position

10 – 12 feet behind 3rd base in foul territory, with your left foot just outside the foul line.

 

For a two person umpire crew - one Plate Umpire (PU) and one Base Umpire (BU)

No Runners on

BU will start in A Position

If one or more runners on any of the bases

BU will start in the Position just ahead of the lead runner, except when a runner is on 3rd base (3B). In that case, BU will start in C Position.

  • Example: if runner on 2nd base (2B), BU starts in C Position (just ahead of the runner). If a runner on 3B, BU also starts in C Position.
  • In a two-man crew, BU never starts in D Position.

 

Diagram 2 – Two Person Crew - U1 Starting Positions

 

Which bases and runners is the BASE UMPIRE responsible for?

This really depends on the BU1 starting position before each play and the number of base umpires working the game.

 

For a two person umpire crew - one Plate Umpire (PU) and one Base Umpire (BU)

  • BU1 will make calls at all bases except home plate unless you (as BU) and the PU agree to another arrangement.
  • For example, PU may opt to cover plays at 3rd base (3B) under some scenarios and cover come-back plays on runners returning to 1st base (1B) when BU1 is in a Slot position other than A.

 

Getting in the right position to make the call.

Making accurate calls starts with getting to the right place at the right time and where you have a better view of the play than anyone else. There are different techniques you can use to help you get there.

Track the ball and anticipate where the play is going

Once the ball is hit, quickly glance and track where it is going and where the fielder throws it to. You want to quickly decide where the play is going and the throwing lane to make sure you stay out of the way of the ball as you move into position.

 

Diagram 3 – Base Umpire Working Area

 

Move into position using the “inside / outside” technique

  • If the ball is hit and fielded in the outfield, run "inside" the base path (into the Working Area) to make your call.

  • If the ball is hit and fielded in the infield, stay "outside" the base path to make your call.

 

Face "chest-to-ball" and reverse pivot to the play once the ball is thrown

  • For balls hit into the outfield, you have more time to get into position and get set, so the timing of the reverse pivot is not as crucial as it is with balls hitand fielded within the infield.

  • Quickly after a hit, jog to the position where you want to make the call from, with your chest facing to the ball. When the fielder releases the ball, you should then reverse pivot on your foot to observe the play at the base / runner.

 

Regardless of your position to a play, try to be stationary at the time the play happens

  • Try to be about 10 feet or so from a play being made on a runner and at a good view angle (90 degrees is ideal) from the throw to where the play will be made.
  • Sometimes the ideal is not possible so favor angle over distance and be stationary at the time the play happens. You want to be firmly set, not moving, when it’s time to make your call.

 

Examples

Example 1:

  1. Runner on First Base. BASE UMPIRE (BU) starts in A Position.

  2. Ball is hit into the outfield...

  3. BU1 moves from A Position into the Working Area in front of second base to make the call at second base.

  4. Plate umpire moves up the 3rd base line to make a call at 3rd base.

 

Example 2:

  1. No runners on base. BU starts in A Slot

  2. A ball is hit to the outfield. The outfielder throws the ball to 2nd base in an attempt an out on the batter-runner attempting to stretch it to a double.

  3. BU1 moves from Slot A into the Working Area in front of second base to make the call at second base.

 

Making the calls...

The BASE UMPIRE wiill make the call with hand signal and shout "She's Safe" or "He's Out" or some variation of this.

One of the primary rules of umpiring - Take your time making a call...

  • You should use both an arm gesture and shout your call out loudly to ensure all players, coaches and spectators know your call.
  • There's no need to rush your call and you have a lot more time than you think. Watch the play ... process what you saw ... then make your call.

 

Tip: Practice your calls...at home...in front of your kids...

 

Other Items to Keep in Mind

There are several, all having to do with rules pertaining to runners and fielders. When you have multiple runners to track, prioritize your attention on the lead runner.

 

The Plate Umpire (PU) will act as Umpire in Chief (UIC).

  • The PU will have responsbility for all Level 1 Umpires.

  • The Plate Umpire will call fair/foul balls and catch / no-catch for both the infield and the outfield.

    • This allows the Level 1 umpires to focus on the base runner actions and calls. 

  • The UIC will also take all coach challenges. When a coach would like to ask for help on a play, the coach will approach the PU and ask for help once play has stalled and timeout has been granted by the PU. The PU will conference with the BU to explain the challenge and either provide help, or ask for help, as appropriate. Once confirmed, the umpire who made the original call will either confirm or reverse the call with an arm motion and a loud call.

 

Watch for these rule violations by runners and fielders at the bases and in the base paths.

  • Spotting and enforcing rule violations by runners and fielders is an acquired skill that you'll develop as you become more comfortable with field positioning and making out / safe calls. Don't get too distracted about these as you begin to learn umpiring. Experienced umpires working with you will typically keep an eye out for rule violations across the full diamond to help back you up.

 

Watch For Potential Rule Violation Now What...?
Runners leaving early Did any runners leave their base early (prior to the ball leaving the pitcher's hand)?

Baseball: If so, "Time" to halt play and call the runner out.

Softball: If so, "Time" to halt play and call the runner out.

Runner base touches Did the runner(s) touch the base(s)? If not, don't say anything and let play proceed. Untouched bases are rule violations the defense must appeal.
Tag-ups Did the runner(s) tag-up on a fly ball catch? If not, don't say anything and let play proceed. This is also a violation the defense must appeal.
Fielders standing in the base paths Did a fielder (without the ball) obstruct a runner's advance to a base?

If so, you might have an obstruction violation. These are tricky rules to learn so just be concerned at first with the most blatant examples.

A fielder without the ball standing in the way of a runner's attempt to touch a base is obstruction on the fielder.

After play stops, if you think one of these rules violations has occured, call "Time" and talk with your umpire crew to decide on the ruling.

Runner interfering with fielder in the base paths Did a runner interfere with a fielder's ability to field a batted ball?

If so, you might have an interference violation. These are tricky rules to learn so just be concerned at first with the most blatant examples.

A runner that runs into a fielder attempting to field a ground ball is interference on the runner.

After play stops, if you think one of these rules violations has occured, call "Time" and talk with your umpire crew to decide on the ruling.

 

TIP: When you have multiple runners to track, you'll be doing a lot of back and forth head turning and body swiveling to keep track of all these runner activities. You might not be able to see everything, so prioritize your attention on the lead runner.

 

Differences between Baseball and Softball.

First Base

Image 1 – The Double First Base

Double First Base Image

The Double First Base is used in an effort to keep the players safe and to avoid collisions at first base. On most plays, the infielder should use the white base and the batter runner should use the orange base.

There are times where this is not the case and the batter-runner is required to use the white base while the field is using the orange base. It is important to pay attention to the entire play.

Keep in mind, most player contact at first base is incidental and no action other than a Out or Safe call will be required.

 

Topic Baseball Softball
How are runners affected by the pitcher's circle? There is no such circle or rule. A runner must immediately advance or retreat to a base when the pitcher has the ball within the circle. Failure to do so is an out on that runner (Lookback Rule) unless a play is attempted on the runner.
Dropped third strike There is no dropped third strike rule for PHBA Baseball for Pioneer or American. The batter is "Out" on a called or swinging third strike.

There is no dropped third strike rule for PHBA Softball for Pioneer. The batter is "Out" on a called or swinging third strike.

The American division in softball observes the dropped thrid strike rule. If the ball touches the ground for any reason on a called or swinging third strike, it is considered to be a live ball and the batter-runner may attempt to achieve first base.

Overthrow

In the Pioneer division, there is an overthrow rule that limits the runners to advancing one base on an overthrow. This is generally enforced when an infielder makes an attempt to make an out by throwing to a base. When the ball is missed and heads out of play or into the outfield at pace, the umpire shall call "Dead Ball" and advance the runner(s) to the next base.

The American division does not have this rule.

There is no such rule.

 

This is all there is for Level 1. This will be one of the most rewarding volunteer options for any parent, especially those who want to experience the game with the players.

For more information on Plate Mechanics and Advanced Base Mechanics, look for our Level 2 and Level 3 Training pages.