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Getting The play Right at First Base. Vision

As officials we study our mechanics (or should be) ,work on developing proper play positions in order to be ready for each call. The most common play is the infield hit ball completed by a play at first base. Fielder throws the ball to the First baseman's outstretched glove. Runner approaches and the umpire has to determine which arrived first. (no ties in baseball) The simple calls are those where the player is out or safe by multiple steps. The plays we are really preparing for are the close ones.

The most common mistake umpires make on these plays is improper use of the eyes. Its easy to get in the habit of just watching the throw from the fielder all the way to the glove. As a spectator this works just fine, its extreme danger for the umpire.

The umpire must train his eye and mind to look at the game differently than players or spectators. His task (this assuming he has developed the proper play positioning) is to observe the fielder throw the ball. Then when he determines the throw is a quality throw move his eyes ahead of the throw and set them on the base. At the base he should watch for the first baseman's foot on the bag and watch for the runners foot to arrive while listening for the pop of the ball in the glove. This will give him the best chance to fully evaluate the play. When done properly you will be able to see the runners foot barley on or barely off the bag when you hear the pop of the glove. You will be able to make your calls with great confidence at first if you master this skill.

Most officials I see working have not this as of yet. They are still using what I call a default call when the play is close. I was taught this when I first started “if in doubt call them out”. This is ok to use if you messed up and did not work properly to see the play. Ideally you must see and hear the play in the proper manner.

To get good at this requires discipline. Every play no matter how easy the play. Read the Throw. On a good throw get your eyes ahead of the ball to the base and read the bag. Listen for the arrival of the ball. You will see the ball arrive in many cases in your peripheral vision. But you must use your listening skills to determine when. When you hear the sound your internal camera should click a picture of the base including the first baseman's foot touching (or not) the bag and the runners foot either on the bag or still arriving.

Train for this every time you look at a throw to first base. I work my eyes during warm ups. This is a great chance to develop good habits in watching plays. 8 plus throws every ½ inning will prepare you for the 1 or 2 close plays at first you will have in your game.

Remember if ball arrives first you do not have an out until you see that the first baseman has secure possession of the ball. Take your time making the call. No hurry let the information and picture of the play sink in. Make sure all possibility's have finished then make the call.

Well thats my rant for the month See you at the field.

Dan Blower


First Base

The information given here is sound, for me base timing is a constant concern of my mechanics. My practice is to read the fielder making a play on the ball,then his release of the throw,following the ball approximately half way to the bag he is making a play on. One important part that is to be considered is the umpire's safe or out mechanic , a game in which I was working the plate had a very close play from a runner from third on a suicide squeeze bunt attempt. The collision that occurred at the plate forced the ball out of the catcher's mitt , as I raised my right hand to point at the baseball on the ground the third base coach was running down the line screaming that the runner could not be out as the ball was on the ground. Another game sometime later a coach complained to my partner that I was making the call before the runner had reached the bag. As it was the movement of my hands was in preparation to my set position before making the call. The point or points I am making here are that when you are out on the field, one , timing is almost as important as the position on the play you are able to get, two , always work as if someone is watching your every move and call you make. A third point is that no matter how well my game went I am always looking for improvement. When we stop trying to improve may be the time we stop working this great game, just a thought.

Thanks for your continued support and willingness to make others better.

Larry Loeffler

MikeMcKone's picture

If that's a rant, I'd like

If that's a rant, I'd like to read them once a week instead of monthly. Thanks for the advice

Getting The play Right at First Base. Vision


This theory is good!! thanks


yankeepj's picture

Rant? Sounds like sound advice to me.

I have been really working on my base mechanics this summer. I have recieved great feedback from my partners that I have worked with and seeing a "rant" like this more often would be outstanding.

As I recall a few years ago

As I recall a few years ago (when I was getting into the umpire world), this was one of the first things Dan taught me. As he mentioned in his "rant", it was one of the first things taught to him.

Very nice Dan! Keep it rolling and those you teach will teach others!

Jeff Clark


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