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Old Tue Feb 06, 2001, 06:09pm
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I am entering my second year of umpiring high school ball. Because of my inexperience, I am being assigned JV games, a majority of which are one man crews. I am looking for articles, tips and/or techniques that I should incorporate into umpiring games by myself.
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Old Tue Feb 06, 2001, 06:58pm
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What ever you do, get out from behind the plate on all plays. I have a hard time understanding why you are by yourself to begin with. I know it happens sometime when a partner doesn't show. I guess there is a shortage of umps in your town. If I have to call a game alone, I get out from behind the plate and get the best angle on the plays as possible. A lot of the time it's just going out around the pitcher's plate. I don't know of any published articles on 1-man mechanics. I'm sure someone out there has some other ideas though.
Good luck and be safe!!

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Old Tue Feb 06, 2001, 08:14pm
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I have done a ton of one-man, mostly all youth ball, 12u. I have also done some NABL 18o by myself(cheap bastards won't pay for two umps). I also work for an assc. that is forced by both manpower and school money for sports to use 1 man for jv and frosh.
TIP #1 Plate meeting, give the speech "I'll get the best angle on all plays possible, I'll hustle. JV contest, gentlemen, we're still teaching and learning." Hopefully manager is understanding of the draw back of the single man system!
#2 Nobody on, get your butt out from behind the plate, looks great.
#3 With runners on, I do not believe in coming inside the infield. Not right away, at least. "Rim" the plate area. R2 and R3, 1 out. Gapper to right center, you got some wheels out there , so possible catch/no-catch and tagups also. I back up to keep whole play in vision, first off is the ball, then read the play best as possible. A lot of glances to pick up runner(s) helps me look for a good angle on a ball coming in. Let the ball take you into the play, do not over commit.
#4 Have fun
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Old Tue Feb 06, 2001, 08:33pm
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I always shake my head and chuckle when a privleged umpire remarks in disregard for those that must work one-man crews; they might speak of their one-man experiences with disdain and apprehension. "What the hell were you doing in a one-man crew? Was your partner sick?" No, Bubba, it was scheduled that way. "Well, that puts you in an impossible situation. You can't see a thing. Your ejections will go up tenfold." Actually, Smitty, if I hustle I can see the plays pretty good, and I only had one ejection all last year. "You mean you work one-man regularly?!? That's preposterous!" No, actually, it's kinda fun, and it keeps me sharp and on my toes--it definitely doesn't hurt me. By the time I'm your age, Ebenezer, I won't have the energy to do it anymore--but I won't need to, will I?

The fact is, most youth games and some High School games wouldn't get played if we didn't have the one-man crew option. Another fact is that there isn't much in the way of one-man mechanics that have been developed to the degree two- and three-man has.

So, here's what works for me:
1. Keep your eye on the ball. Always. Watching runners touch bases takes a huge drop in priority in one man.

2. On a normal grounder, clear the catcher to the left and immediately move toward a point halfway between first base and the mound. Get as close to that point as you can. In two steps, get to a set position as the throw begins. You should be set and mostly square to first as the play occurs. Read, pause, and react.

3. On a pop foul or pitch behind you, WAIT! Don't move. Wait for the catcher to move first. If he goes left to go around you, slide to the right and find the ball. If he goes right, slide left.

4. On balls to the outfield or second plays in the infield, you have to play a little fantasy baseball and anticipate where the ball is headed, then cheat in that direction. WHAT DID I SAY? That's right. This very tactic that gets you in trouble in two-man becomes necessary in one-man. Above all, don't get in the way of the ball! Secondly, don't get in the way of fielders! Thirdly, find a good position (ANGLE over distance) to make your calls, come set, read, pause, react.

Though you must "cheat" with your legs, do not do so with your head! Keep focused on the ball and continue to see the whole play to the end. This might result in some really minor colissions between you and fielders, but them's the breaks.

5. The worst play for one-man is steals of second. Make the call on your pitch (AFTER the ball hits the mitt) and get out of there quick! Get the best angle you can, come set, read, pause, react. That's a lot to do in three seconds.

This same "no-frills bust it" philosophy applies to steals of third and pickoffs. Do your best! Third base steals aren't so bad because you have a good angle.

6. Call time to make the ball go dead and call play to make it live. You'll get in trouble especially in one-man when you assume the ball to be dead but you never called time and someone gets tagged out while you're not paying attention. Keep the ball live (and an eye on the ball) when you retreat back to the plate after a fair hit.

7. Drink water after every half-inning. You deserve it.

8. You need to avoid calling plays at home from fair territory. In other words, the lead runner is your priority. Whenever there is a reasonable chance for a play at home, you need to anticipate and get back. This will undoubtedly result in many plays at second where you must make the call from 130 feet away, but them's the breaks. Once you are sure that the lead runner is going to score, anticipate the play on the next lead runner, When the defense lobs in a futile throw to the plate, cheat towards the next anticipated play, leaving the catcher a good throwing lane.

9. Fly ball catch/no catch is going to be hard when you are 200-300 feet away. You have to read, pause, pause, read the player's reaction, pause, and react! More often then not, you have to let the players make these calls. The exception is when there is a diving or shoestring catch--these you'll have to discern.

10. Fair/foul in the outfield: run straight out on the line. A heavily chalked, accurate outfield line helps, but those three-inch differences become hard from 250 feet. Become a tennis line judge and come set straddling the line. As in tennis, significant doubt = in. When there is no accurate outfield chalk line, the outside edge of the base is your landmark, NOT where the infield chalk line meets the grass.

11. Hustle and have fun out there! After all, it's only JV!

Incidentally, some advocate working the mound in one-man. There are disadvantages to this, and it might rock the boat too much in your league, but at least consider it. Also, the following is someone else's suggestion. I don't follow it, but you might find it helpful.

One Ump Mechanics for Plays in the Infield.

There are inherent problems with working solo that no mechanic can totally solve. However, as limiting as it is, the reality is that some will games require that an umpire work alone. Rather than simply blame the situation for creating problems, we need to continue to perform as well as possible so that we do not adversely affect the outcome of the game.

Most umpires know what to do with no one on base and the BR either singles cleanly or hits to the infield. But most umps do not realize that there are established mechanics for all situations with one-man crews. Obviously they are not complicated, but they are designed to provide the best positioning on plays given the limitations.

No One on Base:

The mechanic is similar to that of a plate umpire in two-man mechanics. On a batted ball to the infield, the umpire will clear the catcher and move with the runner. If the batted ball is to second, short or third, instead of trailing the runnier, the umpire should move in a direction toward a point between first and second. He should not move inwards in the infield past the mount so as to keep from placing himself of a throw. This will allow the umpire a better position should the throw get away from F3 and the runner continue to second. Should the throw get away from F3, the umpire should keep his chest to the ball and back up into the working area behind the mound opening his field of vision and keeping the runner in the corner of his eye.

On a clean hit to the outfield, the umpire will clear the catcher and move towards the mound, keeping the runner to his right at all times. (See reference to the “imaginary line” under “With Runners on Base”.

On a fly ball to the outfield, the umpire will clear the catcher and move towards the “ball-side” of the mound to improve his view. Should the fly ball drop uncaught, assume the mechanic for a clean hit to the outfield.

With Runners on Base:

The umpire should imagine a line drawn through wherever he is positioned that runs parallel to the 3B foul line. This line will move with the umpire and will always remain to the infield side of the 3B foul line. The umpire will move into the field as necessary on calls, but will NEVER* allow a runner to get to the 3B-dugout side of the imaginary line. This prevents the possibility of the umpire being out of position to call a play on the lead runner at any base, and keeps ALL play in front of him.

So with R1, the umpire would move in towards the mound behind BR on a batted ball. (Remember: angle over distance) But if R1 rounds 2B, he must start backing up, all the way back into foul territory if necessary, to keep the runner on the right side of the imaginary line.

With R2 or R1 and R2, the umpire will not move as close to first. He will still move out to obtain the proper angle, but he will work to keep R2 to the right of the imaginary line.

With bases loaded, the umpire will stay in foul territory on the 3B side, moving up and down the line as require to try for any improvement in angle on plays at first and second. HE WILL NOT COME INTO THE DIAMOND! As soon as he enters the diamond, sure as shootin' there will be a play at home plate and he will be in the path of the throw, or at the very least, grossly out of position to make a call.

*There are two exceptions to this rule:

1) If a close play is anticipated at 3B, the umpire can move into the 3B cutout even though that puts the runner on the wrong side of his line after his slide. If the play breaks down (ball gets away), he will stay inside the diamond and back up to the front of the mound and then closer to the plate. Since the ball will be in foul territory and the play will be on this lead runner (either at HP or diving back into 3B), this creates a workable angle and keeps the umpire out of the path of any throw.

2) On an anticipated sweep tag at HP, the umpire should try to get over onto 3B extended even though this means the runner trying to score will be on the wrong side of his line, as will any trail runner on a following play at 3B. It's more important to have the better angle on the close scoring play.

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Old Wed Feb 07, 2001, 08:01am
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Location: Newburgh NY
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Mike before I comment sounds like your association is in need of umpires. Referee magazine (February's Issue) addressed this problem. There is a lack of officals around the country and also a lack of new recruits . Believe it or not at least in the Freshman (Modified) / JV arenas it is becoming the norm to work the game alone as there is just not enough officials.

Varsity is already going to 3 man crews (at least for playoffs) and there is talk about having 3 man crews all the time which means: Less umpires available for Freshman / modified and JV.

Last year I did roughly 1/3 of my HS games alone and indications are this year will not be any different.

Finally I will address your question:

1. Position yourself wherever your association wants you to.
My association wants you behind Home Plate when working alone. Others might prefer behind the mound - that's up to your association so abide by their wishes.

2. When doing the game alone, IMO we must have what I call GIVENS so we are consistent. When we are behind Home Plate the call at second and even third are tough ones. Therefore, if ball beats runner / tag where it is supposed to be (ie; down low not up high) we have an OUT!
Do not even look for the actual tag.

3. I might be in the minority on this one but when doing the game alone my strike zone is bigger. Why! We have a lot to think about especially with men on base - Is F1 Balking? I got to get out from behind home plate and get a good angle
on a possible DP ball, etc. In other words, when doing the game alone we can't strictly concentrate on Home Plate and F1, therefore, to be as consistent I have a bigger zone.
Also, let's face it especially in the heat we do not want a marathon.

4. Patrick gave some real good tips so I will only add this.

HUSTLE! HUSTLE! HUSTLE! It's been my experience that even if you miss some calls (which is a given working alone), if the coaches see you hustle , they appreciate this
and won't give you any flak. However, if you remain stationary, they have a problem with this.

If things remain the same, umpiring alone will become more of the norm rather than the exception.

Pete Booth
Peter M. Booth
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Old Wed Feb 07, 2001, 03:06pm
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I had the same question last year, and someone on the board attached a copy of instructions on one-man mechanics. Hopefully for you, they will see your post and do it again. If not, i still have it at home and will scan it and e-mail it to you if you have an address.

Biggest thing, is see if the league minds if you have a volunteer from the crowd stand in. If they don't, then try to get one to do the bases for you. Anything helps if both coaches agree on the volunteer.

Another thing, show that you hustle and that you are giving it your darndest!

Always keep the base runners to your right side. Never let them get behind you.


Bases empty, go out towards pitchers mound

R1, go on third base side of pitchers mound

R1 and R2, go up third base line

R1, R2, and R3 go back to inside the lines towards pitchers mound, but don't venture to far away from plate.
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Old Wed Feb 07, 2001, 03:27pm
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"Biggest thing, is see if the league minds if you have a volunteer from the crowd stand in".

Whowefoolin No can do if this is a HS Game. In HS if there is another certified official in the stands he/ she may help you but you just can't "grab" anyone.

Same is true in most leagues that pay for their umps. The main reason - Insurance.

The only league that I know of that will allow you to get a volunteer from the stands is LL and that is primarily due to the fact that LL is Volunteer.

Pete Booth

Peter M. Booth
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