One of the age-old nuances unique to baseball and softball is the pregame gathering between opposing team managers and umpires at home plate. This conference is designed to be brief, pointed, and guided by the umpire crew chief, typically represented by the home plate umpire.
Conducting a productive and effective plate conference begins with knowing what should be covered in this meeting.
Introductions and Procedures
- To be completed before the plate conference, the pregame inspection of playing equipment (bats, batter’s helmets, catcher’s gear and helmet) is to be done to assure the safety of the players, and that the equipment to be used in the game is in accordance with Little League rules and regulations.
- Umpire crew introduction to each manager/coach. Learn the first name of the manager for each team to establish a personable rapport. When shaking hands to end the meeting, use their first name to wish each “good luck” in the game.
- Collect, review, and confirm lineups. Ask if any players are ineligible to pitch based on the pitch count regulation.
- Playing field ground rules. Be sure to point out areas in foul territory that are designated “out of play,” or have the potential cause a stoppage of play.
Reminder for Managers and Coaches
- Follow all of Little League’s rules, regulations, and principles for safety and sportsmanship.
- To avoid setting a negative tone, umpires are encouraged to keep the following points in mind, but advised NOT to verbalize them during the plate conference. While conducting equipment inspection prior to the game, informally and politely remind each team’s manager of the following:
- No throwing helmets or bats (automatic game ejection).
- Helmets must be worn at all times for all offensive players on the field (even in foul territory).
- A helmet is to be worn by an offensive player not in the lineup who is designated to retrieve the bat after each at-bat.
- No jewelry of any kind is to be worn (except for Medical Alert bracelets or necklaces).
- Hustle on and off the field as means to keep the game moving at a consistent pace.
- For safety reasons, all players are to remain inside the dugout when on offense, with the exception of the current batter.
Manager/Coach Ground Rules
- Ask if all male players are properly equipped with athletic supporters that protect the groin area (require a verbal response).
- Explain that time will not be granted for managers to discuss “judgment calls” made by umpires (safes, outs, balls, strikes, etc.)
- Do not leave the dugout until a proper time-out is called or granted by an umpire.
Knowing what is to be discussed during the plate conference comes from practice and repetition. This is your first, best opportunity to set the mood for the game, and establish a positive, working dialogue with each team’s coaching staff. Be polite and respectful of their positions, and by all means necessary, avoid using a dictatorial tone or arrogant attitude. Lastly, avoid the phrase, “Are there any questions?” The plate conference is not the time or place for a clinic on the playing rules and regulations.
By following these guidelines, you have subtly placed yourself, and your partners, into a respectful position that may help your position if a tense situation arises during the game.