Signs for the Players and Fans
first instructor made it clear: the plate umpire's right hand signals play,
strike, out, fair ball - "the ball's alive", and on the rarest of
occasions "infield fly" and hopefully even rarer, an ejection. The
left hand does everything else including awarding bases, controlling the pitcher
and holding the indicator and the mask. Remembers that simple instruction and
almost everyone, coach, player and fan, will be crystal clear about your
with strike and ball, this is the one call the plate umpire will make most often
during a game. Pointing at the pitcher (or the plate) with the right hand and
calling "play." The call is essential for the batter and catcher. The
gesture is essential for the pitcher, defense and offense.. In every case in the
rule book (Section 5.00) it is clear that the play signal is a verbal signal:
"....the umpire shall call "Play"."
Barkhuis, an umpire from the Netherlands, points out that "this
signal/call is very important for your partner(s) too! They must know the
exact moment the ball becomes alive. If they don't, they will not be able to
respond correctly in situations where the pitcher makes a pickoff attempt or
drops the ball while standing on the rubber. These are just a few
examples." Perhaps more important than the ballplayer knowing is your
partner(s) knowing the ball is alive.
though umpires know it is important, it is not absolutely required however.
Professional umpires may, or may not give the point and play indicator. As soon
as the pitcher is "in contact" with the rubber, meaning they intend to
start the pitch cycle, the ball is assumed to be alive.
signaled with the right hand, each umpire develops a personalized system for
signaling the strike. Some do the traditional bang-the-door clenched fist; some
indicate the strike out to the side with a pointed finger. Some umpires face
forward, some turns. Some call strike then signal, others do both
simultaneously. One essential element is not to turn away from the action
particularly in a two man system. In a two or three man system, by not facing
forward, an umpire might even miss a play at the plate while going through their
actions. Umpire school teaches you to keep your eyes on the ball as you make
you say "Strike One," signal "Strike" or both?
Gawthrop from Anne Arundel County, Maryland wrote to add this comment:
"Generally, on a swinging strike, as the plate umpire, I NEVER VERBALIZE my
call but rather indicate to the players and fans with a raised right arm (in my
case, with a clenched fist). The exception to the NOT VERBALIZING is on a third
strike; the plate umpire again raises his right arm and says "Strike
Three" firmly but does not "sell the call." If the catcher has
dropped or trapped the pitch, you still go through with a firm "Strike
Three" keeping eye-contact with the batter/catcher."
school teaches you to say "Strike One," "Strike two," and
"Strike Three!" with a growing emphasis on each one.
signaled, but maybe a touch of body english, but no hand gestures. The general
preference is that the verbal signal "ball" loud enough that both
dugouts can hear it. Calling "Ball One," "Ball Two," etc.
allows you to maintain the rhythm of your calls. Never indicate why a pitch
was a ball, for example: "High, Ball One"
Four" is announced clearly. You should NEVER point to first base even with
the left hand. Just say "BALL FOUR". If the umpire points to first
after the pitch and the defense thinks it's strike 3 and starts to leave the
field chaos abounds. Even if you use the left hand, the players may not take
note of which hand it was and be confused. Professional umpires never point to
both hands into the air and calling in a loud voice "TIME!" All
umpires on the field will immediately signal the time call. Sometimes the call
must be made several times in order to shut things down. Once time is called
every effort must be made by all umpires to stop the action taking place.
learn that there are many moments when time is out, and it has not been called.
This is normal in the course of a game as the umpires change their field
positions, players repair equipment, or hundreds of other reasons. It may be the
a simple lifting of the hands communication between crew members, or the plate
umpire holding the stop hand up. Not all "t"ime is big-"T"ime.
are signaled using the left hand. Strikes are signaled using the right hand.
Both hands extend to shoulder level at the same moment. A full count is
always signaled as "three balls, two strikes" and never signaled using
clenched fists. The count is relayed back to the pitcher after every pitch and a
verbal report is made usually after the second or third pitch and from that
point on. The count is always read aloud as "two balls, two strikes"
and not "two and two" or "twenty-two" or other similar
left and right arms are raised together, to shoulder level, in front of the
umpire and then a sweeping motion is performed out, parallel to the ground,
palms down. The verbal call of "safe" may be made. To complete the
call you normally return to the set position. To sell a safe call you might
consider doing it two or three times in rapid succession. It is not always
necessary to even make the sign or call. If the play is obvious do nothing.
clenched right fist and a short hammered motion seem to be favored by most
umpires. Again, personal style is acceptable as long as it does not distract you
from seeing any further plays taking place. Check that the fielder is really in
possession of the ball. The signal can be made with only a gesture or can be
sold with a loud call of "He's Out!" or "She's Out!" Signal
"He's Out!" ???? Players are running by, not focused on the umpire, on
a noisy diamond. If the player hears one sound he is "safe" ... if he
hears two "he's out!" If the players hear nothing, the call is usually
so obvious that everyone knows the result.
"Strike Three - You're Out!"
are encouraged not to make this call a part of their repertoire. Why? In
some leagues the third strike does not have to be caught while in others it must
be caught. Often the plate umpire is in the worst situation to call the trapped
ball, for example: a breaking ball in the dirt for the swinging third strike. An
umpire should only call "Strike Three." If you have a situation where
you know the batter now erroneously becomes a runner you can follow this by the
call "The Batter Is Out!"
this call is made the base umpire is often in a better position to relay the
possession or trapping of the ball to the plate umpire. Signaling, not calling,
a small discreet "out" means the ball was caught. Pointing to the
ground with your right hand can mean the ball was trapped or not caught. Some
crews are more insistent, and the base umpire will point to the ground
announcing "On the ground, on the ground" several times. This is crew
dependent and should be discussed before the game.
at the runner with the left hand; signal the out with the right hand. Complete
the sign by saying "On the tag, he's out!" if you want to sell it a
touch. (Remember you are the umpire, not the color commentator.)
"selling it" call that occurs when a runner slides under the tag or
the tag is high. You can save some grief by indicating a loud "Safe, he
missed the tag!" and following it with a tapping motion where the tag was.
Everyone will know you saw the tag and most will assume the runner had the bag
right hand points into the field in fair territory. There is no call
"Fair" anything ever made.
same signal as "Time" but the call becomes "Foul." Umpires
often add a point into foul territory with one hand after giving the time
signal. Once verbalized, this call sticks. Only in the rarest of moments can it
base umpire needs to pay specific attention to a ball hitting the batter in the
batter's box. If the batter has not moved the base umpire will immediately call
"Foul." If the batter is in motion the base umpire must delay to see
if the plate umpire is going to make a call. Only if the plate umpire is silent,
and the base umpire is certain the batter contacted the ball outside of the
batter's box would the base umpire signal "Time, that's interference, the
batter is out!" otherwise the call is "Foul!"
same signal as "Time" but the call becomes "No Pitch." If
you are the plate umpire, step away from the plate. You will use this call most
often in a softball game. It is used to indicate a leading off violation in some
leagues. The call is a clear "No Pitch" and the "Runner is
Out!" with a point and Out signal..
there are two schools of thought. Often you will see an umpires point at the
plate each time a run crosses the plate legally. Scorers often key on this
gesture (as well as catchers!) This is important on the "time-play" or
a "third-out" situation. It can also be important on a force play.
Bainter, a professional umpire noted, "As far as the point on the run
scoring, I think it is a matter of personal preference. Umpire Development
wants no signal from us whether it is obvious or not. It is not our job to
let anyone know, because what if the defense wants to appeal and throws the ball
away, allowing another runner to advance or even score? That is a situation
could put the offensive team in a tizzy. It has happened before."
Run Does Not Count!