Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
Spring has finally arrived for most of the country and just in time! Postseason is only five weeks away!
Congratulations to everyone who has received a letter of recommendation from your coordinator for a possible postseason assignment! Everyone should continue to work hard and stay focused for the remainder of the season. I have received many positive evaluations from observers and coaches. Keep up the good work!
Postseason selection process has begun. During the next few weeks the SUP staff will review umpire evaluations, availabilities and provide the NCAA softball committees a list of qualified postseason umpires. Once the list of qualified umpires is approved, letters will be sent to those umpires who have been approved for postseason. Selections and assignments will not occur until all sites for all divisions have been decided. Umpires will then be notified via arbitersports.com of their selection and assignment if selected to work postseason.
The manual is one of the tools for your success; the other is your ability to read the play as it develops. Both need to be used at the same time, not independent of one another. The manual guides you to the best possible position to make a call if there are no other factors involved. Your ability to read the play allows you to use this basic knowledge and adjust to the play to make an accurate call. When a player adjusts their position or path, you too may have to adjust to get a better view of the play. Constantly work for the 90. There is an “old” saying that holds true; find the ball (read), watch the runner (process), adjust to the play (react), honor your base, make the call and then move to secondary position. Once you make the call continue working, you may have to readjust your 90 on developing plays. Once the ball is back in the pitcher’s circle and the pitcher has the ball make eye contact with your partners then move to your next starting position.
We have made progress this season on chase decisions, especially to the outfield fences. Continue to read the ball off the bat, process the movement of the outfielders and react. If you see movement to the ball you need to chase, if you do not see movement then do not chase. If you do not chase then react by committing to your runner(s) responsibilities.
As you move deeper into conference play, be prepared for all of the challenges that lie ahead. A successful crew works together, has a thorough pre-game, reviews current rules interpretations and communicates with each other on the field.
Continue to work hard, communicate and stay focused
every time with every pitch on every play.
Conference games have begun and now more than ever there needs to be a renewed focus on game management. Teams are working hard to qualify for postseason and every game is more important than the last one played.
Good game management and attention to detail is a way to prevent unexpected things from happening in the game. It is beyond the calling of outs and safes it is the manner in which you approach all of the other situations that may occur in a game. Umpires need to listen and address all game issues in a professional manner
Game administration: As a crew, you need to have a thorough pre-game. Review the pregame checklist within the CCA manual. It should guide your discussion.
Sportsmanship: It is an In Focus Topic this year. It is important that we have a clear understanding of good sportsmanship. If a coach or any game personnel exhibits poor sportsmanship it is your responsibility to address the issue. If the behavior warrants a warning then it is your responsibility to make sure the crew is aware that a warning had been issued and the reason for the warning. If there is an ejection, then follow the protocol in the manual. It clearly states each umpires responsibility.
On the field: Partner communication is extremely important. Umpire to umpire signals and verbal communication are two methods to convey information between umpires.
Line-up cards: Good line-up card management begins at the pre-game conference with the coaches, crew and should continue until the last out of the game. When a change occurs in the line-up inform each coach and confirm that they have the change. This will alleviate any possible line-up change protests. Take your time.
Before you accept any line-up card change(s) look to make sure that the pitcher has the ball in the pitcher’s circle and then call time to accept the change(s).
Preventable and common sense situations that arise in the game: When possible be proactive in preventing violations. If the coach is about to take their second charged defensive conference in an inning, make sure they know they already used one. This could prevent an administrative ejection.
Home run: New this year, rule 220.127.116.11 states that offensive team personnel shall congregate only in foul territory around home plate to congratulate the runner(s). If the on deck batter or bat girl moves into fair territory to move a bat during an out-of-the park home run this is not a team warning. She is preventing a possible injury and this does not warrant a team warning. The restriction is only in effect until the final runner touches home plate.
Finally, be alert and constantly vigilant to all of the actions on the field and within the dugout area. Work as a team. Communicate with each other. Know your responsibilities as well as your partners. Work together to conduct the game in accordance of the 2014-2015 NCAA Softball Rulebooks and 2014 CCA manual.
Now, more than ever the accuracy of the strike zone is of ultimate importance. With the increasing number of collegiate games being televised each year, current technology is capable of showing fallacies in judgment far more than ever imagined. Because of this, the strike zone is constantly the hot topic of conversations of the SUP, college coaches, conference coordinators, umpires, players and the fans.
So, the question is; “What steps can umpires take to help be more accurate calling a consistent strike zone?” Several umpire development camps across the country offer tools to help umpires have a better understanding of the zone. One tool is the use of instant replay for each pitch at different angles to confirm the ball’s location as it crosses the plate. This allows the plate umpire to evaluate the call. These tools are impressive because they allow umpires to practice seeing an accurate strike zone, but they do not take into account game situations and pitchers’ inconsistencies.
In many other aspects of the game, umpires have opened themselves up to being thinking umpires by using progressive mechanics to become more accurate. On force plays, umpires no longer go to an arbitrary “X” on the ball field and make the call. Umpires find an angle to the throw that allows for the best chance to observe all elements of the play as they come together. Umpires no longer choose a static position on tag plays and remain in one place while the play happens. Now when necessary, umpires move with the play and dynamically find the best place to observe all the elements of the play. Umpires have a better chance of seeing the field by not moving into the infield on every play, but rather choosing a position either inside the diamond or outside the diamond that allows for the best chance to observe how the whole play develops.
In that vein of progressive thinking, umpires have a better chance of seeing and calling an accurate strike zone. In the past it was taught to establish a stance that places the umpire off the inside corner, above and outside the zone. This is a great position because it allows the plate umpire to see the outside corner and the entire plate. The only downside of this position is that it places the plate umpire a foot and a half away from a pitch on the outside corner which is probably the most difficult pitch to call.
So why stay where you are not in position to make the best call? In certain situations, umpires have to adjust away from the norm. When a batter is legally crowding the plate and the catcher is legally setting up inside, umpires must adjust to get a good look at the pitch. When the catcher is setting up high, umpires adjust from the norm to allow a view of the plate. So in the situations when the catcher sets up on the outside corner or further out, why shouldn’t the plate umpire move closer to see all they need to see? The answer is, “We should move to get a better look.”
The umpire’s manual defines the “slot” as the area between the catcher’s inside shoulder and the batter. It is in this area that the plate umpire must work to view the pitch. If the catcher has established herself on the outside corner, by the book umpires are able to work a little closer to her to get a little closer to the pitch’s intended location. This is a slight adjustment the plate umpire should take to see the entire plate and be far closer to the catcher’s current position. The plate umpire must actively be aware of the catcher’s movements, delayed as they may be, and use these clues to help get a better view of the zone. Remember, to be set when the pitch is released if you determine to move to the position giving you a better view.
Over the years umpires have had basic mechanics ingrained that might suggest if we move our head, we will move our strike zone. Is that true? Are we using the plate as a focal point to establish our zone? The plate never moves and we are responsible to compare the position of the ball to the static position of the plate. If our strike zone stretches outside with the movement of our head that means that we are using our imagination to establish the zone, rather than the plate.
Be aware that in doing this, the plate stance should remain rather consistent. But, the truth of the matter is that even though we try to mirror our stance side to side, pitch to pitch, our stance may inevitably alter slightly as we find better positions to see the pitches.
Every adjustment that umpires make is made solely for the purpose of giving themselves a better chance of getting the call right. If we have an opportunity to get closer to a pitch to accurately to see the pitch, then we should seize that opportunity. Make the best call under the best circumstances.
By Paul Edds and Donna Vavrinec
Attention: Procedural Changes
There are two new procedural changes:
1. Rule 13 Misconduct, section 13.1 effect states: “In all cases involving an ejection, the ejecting umpire is responsible for submitting in writing an incident report as soon as possible but no later than 72 hours after the incident.” After discussion with the NCAA rules committee it was asked if umpires could submit the incident report as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. Umpires should also contact Dee Abrahamson as soon as possible for protests or rule violations that carry a suspension in addition to the ejection. Take care of these administrative issues as quickly as possible.
2. Preventative umpiring: Rule 10.1.3 states: “The catcher must be within the catcher’s box from the time the pitcher steps on the pitcher’s plate until the pitch is released. No part of the catcher’s feet may be outside the lines until the pitch is released.” Effect: Illegal pitch. Exception: When time is called by the umpire.
Umpires are to use preventative umpiring when the catcher stands and moves in front of the plate to signal a possible play on a steal. Umpires should suspend play by calling “time” to allow the catcher to signal her infielders.
Attention: Umpire Uniform
There has been much discussion and many questions concerning umpire uniforms. The NCAA softball committee and the SUP have reviewed the umpire uniform and supports the rule that umpires across the country should be dressed alike. Rule 15.1 clearly states the approved umpire uniform. Please review Rule 15.1 page 187 in the 2012-2013 rule book. The standard uniform is located in section 18.104.22.168 and the only approved alternate uniform parts are detailed in 22.214.171.124. No other options are available.
Conferences may not change the color of shirts, jackets or pants; they may have conference affiliations embroidered on the caps and /or shirts for the use in conference play. This applies for all divisions.
When umpiring games for a cause umpires may wear a small ribbon/commemorative pin on your hat or on your left chest pocket in support of the cause. Alternate colored shirts, hats, ball bags, wrist bands and masks are not legal umpire uniforms and should not be worn when umpiring a collegiate softball game.
Attention: New Mechanic Changes for the 2013 season
There are two mechanic changes that are not in the 2013 CCA manual but will be used this year.
The change is in the umpire to umpire signals. Base umpires will now only signal to the plate umpire indicating that a third strike was not caught. It alerts all umpires to a potential play on the batter-runner. The signal is used at all times when the batter, by rule is entitled to run if the third strike is dropped. If the batter is out by rule do not use this signal. You no longer need to indicate that the ball was caught only if it was dropped. Please review the signal on page 293 of the CCA manual.
The second change is on a check swing request. The plate umpire by rule when asked to get help or if there is any doubt about a swing attempt shall ask for help from the open umpire. The open umpire must remain with the swing or action (bunt/slap) long enough to give help when asked even if a runner is attempting to steal. Please review the signal on page 295 of the CCA manual.
These changes occurred after much discussion with umpires, coordinators and the SUP staff.
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