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What Are You Looking At?

To supplement the group's current discussion on vision with plays at 1st base ... Here's a short piece from the "Amature Umpire" website. It is creatively written as if coming from one umpire to all umpires in the audience.

What Are You Looking At?

Taking a routine call at first base ....

Every umpire is taught to attain a 90 degree angle to a play whenever possible. It begins with you first introduction to the art of applying the science of officiating baseball. So, whenever possible, out we trot, attain our perfect 90 and make the call. We all know that is often impossible and umpires spend a lot of time learning and discussing pressure mechanics. Where we stand and how we get there are two important pieces of the puzzle, but once in position what are we really looking at?

Angle first, then distance. Ok, I have the angle ... here comes the runner ... here comes the ball ... a quality throw ... hands-on-knees-set ... look at the feet(????)

The feet? That can't be right. How will I see the ball? That's where distance comes in. After accessing a quality throw, and going hands-on-knees. If my distance is proper I can focus on the base and I will easily see the ball enter the glove. I will hear the ball enter the glove and, since I am focussing on the foot position of the fielder, I will see the timing of the runner's foot, the placement of the first baseman's foot, and the arrival of the ball all in relation to each other.

The only mistake I can make is to be in so close that I cannot gain a proper perspective. My distance to the play is proper when I can focus on the base and without moving my head or eyes, pick up the ball and the glove of the fielder.

What remains?

If I determine that the ball arrived at first base before (or simultaneous with) the runner as an umpire I need only now look at the glove. Does the fielder have firm and secure possession of the ball at this moment? Yes he does! "He's out!" There is no rush in this second step. I am looking for the ball and for possession of it by the fielder. Once I am certain that criteria has been met then I can signal the out, or signal the safe as required.

If I determine that the runner arrived at the base before the ball I immediately signal and say "Safe"

If I determine something has go awry with the play it is easy for me to make the requisite call, along with the proper explanation signal mechanics such as "Safe ... he's off the bag"

This discussion has not dealt with situations where you access a poor throw over to first base, but on on quality throw the process is very simple:

1. Attain an angle whenever possible
2. Avoid getting in too close or you will miss the overall view of the play
3. If the throw is judged to be online and accurate then ...
4. Hands-on-knees set
5. Focus on the feet of the runner and fielder
6. The ball will enter into your peripheral vision and you will see and hear it enter the fielder's glove
7. Before you signal an out always determine that the fielder does indeed have possession of the ball
8. Make the call!

I have always wondered how an umpire has to ask he partner if the first baseman was on the bag at the time of the tag. Never made any sense. If the umpire wasn't watching to see the feet of the runner and the foot of the fielder touching the base, what was he looking at?

call at first

No matter what if there is a possiblity that you dont see the foot its better to be right and ask your partner. only if there is a possiblity!


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