Umpires who have a good sense of timing use sight and sound when making their calls. Here’s a look at the basic skills necessary to develop effective timing that include the proper use of the eyes and ears from the base umpire positions in a two-umpire system.
At all three positions, it is important to remember: patience, reading, and reacting.
PATIENCE: Focus on where the ball is hit, and where you have to move to in order to create the best angle to see the completion of the play.
READ: Identify where the throw is coming from and how well the ball is thrown.
REACT: Decide if the fielder’s throw beat the runner, then determine if the fielder had secure possession of the ball in the hand or glove.
MAKE YOUR CALL: Ask yourself “Is the batter-runner out?”
Base Umpire Timing by Position
THE “A” POSITION
No runners on base. When the ball is hit within the infield, the base umpire will move to a position to create a 90-degree angle from the throw to:
- See the fielder’s foot on the base
- See the runner reach the base
- Listen for the ball to hit the fielder’s glove
- See secure possession of the ball in the fielder’s hand or glove
- Make the “safe” or “out” call
If the sound of the ball hitting the glove occurs after the runner has reached first base the runner should be called “safe.” If the sound of the ball hitting the glove happens before the runner reaches first base, then the base umpire must look to see if the fielder has secure possession of the ball in the hand or glove. If yes, call the runner “out.”
THE “B” POSITION
Used when there is a runner on first base only. In the ‘B’ position, the umpire has the advantage of having increased vision of the entire play at first base, thereby is able to see more of the play. The requirements for good timing remain the same as ‘A’ position.
- Establish a 90-degree angle from the point of the throw
- Look at the base
- Listen for the ball hitting the glove
- Determine which took place first, the ball in glove of the fielder, or the runner reaching first base
- Look up to find secure possession of the ball by the fielder in the hand or glove
- Make the call
THE “C” POSITION
Used when there are runners on second base, and at least one other base. The base umpire is challenged by the distance to clearly see the play at first base. The base umpire will benefit from an initial movement toward the third base foul line to create the best 90-degree angle possible to see the throw to first base. Once the angle is established, the umpire should employ all of the same sensory applications to see the touch of the base by the fielder, the sound of the ball hitting the glove, the runner reaching first base, and then secure possession by the fielder in the hand or glove.
Remembering to pause, read, and react will help you make confident calls at first base. An umpire’s worst enemy is surprise, so use all of your senses and hustle to avoid uncertainty impacting your call.