Keep the Game Moving
Some games seem to just drag on forever! The pitcher can’t throw strikes. The batters are not swinging. The catcher can’t catch a cold! The players are moving on and off the field like turtles, between innings. It’s a very hot day and we are sweltering behind the plate wearing pounds and pounds of equipment.
While losing some pounds on a hot day, sweating, may be good for most of us, we are all better off when the game moves at a nice faster pace, then described above. You may say, “What can I do to make the game go faster? I don’t pitch, catch or hit the ball!” There are a few things we can do to keep the game moving.
Keeping the game moving is somewhat of an art; however, once you get into a routine, and follow some of the following tips, the games that you umpire are almost guaranteed to move at a quicker pace.
Keeping a game moving actually begins before the first pitch is thrown.
- Umpires should strive to arrive at the game, approximately 30 minutes prior to game time.
- Introduce yourself to the Managers and tell them that you will meet them approximately 10 minutes prior to game time, in order to inspect the equipment.
- At five minutes prior to game time, after inspecting the equipment, arrive at home plate to meet the Managers for ground rules.
- The ground rules’ meeting is primarily for discussing any unique rules for that field. (I.e. what happens if a batted balls rolls into a tube that holds the tarp).
- This meeting should be brief. Do not issue a whole bunch of warnings at this meeting about player and coach behavior. It sets a negative confrontational tone that is not necessary or desirable. You should set the tone with an aura of cooperation and mutual respect.
- During this meeting, ask the Manager to have a player who is not actively involved in the game, to come out with a helmet between batters and retrieve the bat.
- Ask the Manager to have the catcher ready to take the field as soon as the last out is made of his offensive half of the inning. If the catcher is the last batter of the inning or on base, have a back-up designated to warm up the pitcher between innings.
During the game,
- Always keep at least 2 balls in your ball bag.
- On foul balls and passed balls (with no runners on base), let the catcher retrieve the ball. Take a ball from your bag and toss it to the pitcher. (Just make sure the pitcher is awake and ready to catch the ball that you toss to him/her... (I’ve hit a few pitchers in my time!)
- Avoid calling time out unnecessarily!
- Many times, infielders will ask for time out as soon as they catch the ball. Avoid calling time out every time the ball is returned to the infield.
- While behind the plate, maintain a well-balanced stance, properly positioned in the “slot” with good head height, and timing. Call those borderline pitches strikes, starting early in the game and maintain consistency throughout the game.
- The plate umpire should take a position about a ¼ of the distance between home plate and on the side where the defensive players are coming out of their dugout.
- Remind the players to hustle on and off the field.
- Limit the pitchers to 8 warm up pitches in the first inning, or a new pitcher, and 4 during the rest of the game. (In softball, you can get away with 5 and 3, respectfully).
- Rule 8.03 tells us that these preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute.
- While we are not going to use a stop watch to enforce this, we do want to ensure that we are not wasting a whole lot of time with warm up pitches.
- If the last half inning was long, or if it is cold, you may want to give the pitcher 5 or 6 warm up pitches. Conversely, if the catcher is not ready and an alternate does not come out immediately, you may want to reduce the number of warm up pitches.
By following the above suggestions, you may be able to reduce your games by as much as twenty minutes! For more information about plate mechanics, please visit Little League’s Umpire Resource Center at: www.littleleagueumpire.org
Written By Jim Smith