Friday, April 23, 2010

Toughest Call -- Your Phobia

Among my umpire group, each of us has admitted to having a “toughest call” -- the calls that are difficult for each of us, for whatever reason. Think of it like a phobia where I’m not scared of snakes (and you are) but I can’t be anywhere near a clown but you aren’t bothered at all by them.  By the way, clowns and I are A-OK.

One of my colleagues fights with the low inside pitch. Another really dislikes making the catch/no-catch call on shoe-string attempts. Mine is a tricky one: In “B” or “C” position, with the throw to 1st from SS or 3B. It may be something about the runner going from my right-to-left while the ball is coming from behind me, over my shoulder.  That seems to be one of the times where I get most of the grief from players, coaches and fans.

I find myself hoping to get more of my “phobia” situations because that’s the only way I’m going to get comfortable – and more confident. In one recent game it seemed as though I got banger after banger after banger. Another game, nothing was close at all. You take what the game gives you.

Let me know about your toughest call…

UPDATE: After a game this weekend, I've now tried to change the angle of this call.  Rather than simply hold my position and allow the throw to come from behind me, I was able, on a few plays, to shift to my left, almost taking me back to the "B" position.  This gave me a better look.  I find it to be a tough call but that helps.


  1. First, the toughest calls are the ones where somebody screws up and turns what should be a routine call into something jacked up.

    But the two calls that are the toughest are the two which stretch the 2 man system.
    1. R3, <2 outs, trouble ball hit down RF line. You as the PU have 3 responsibilities and need to get them all right in the right order. First, you need to gain some distance to the play, then rule Fair/Foul, then catch/no catch, the tag of third and then bust back to the plate area for the potential play there.

    2. R2, < 2 outs, as BU. Grounder hit to the left side, F5/F6 look back runner, throw to 1st, R2 breaks when the fielder releases, F3 throws back to third for the tag of R3. The BU has to be aware not to over-commit to the play at first, make the call and do the best he can for the play at third.

    I had both plays in the past few weeks. In the second I did over-commit to first and had a decent angle but horrible distance.


  2. I'm not an umpire -- just a lifelong fan. Having just seen this happen in a Giant-Dodger game, I'd say the toughest call is one that doesn't come up that often -- having to observe two events that are not in proximity of each other at the same time. That could mean deciding whether a runner leaves third base too soon to try to score on a sacrifice fly. Tonight's situation was harder. The Dodgers had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two out, and the batter hit a bouncer to the third baseman. Instead of throwing to first base, he elected to tag the runner coming from second to third. This left it up to the home plate umpire to determine if the tag was applied before the lead runner crossed home plate. The home plate umpire ruled that the lead runner scored, and replays clearly showed it was a badly blown call. Fortunately, the call did not affect the outcome of the game, and I'm just guessing the third basemen got a lecture on fundamentals from his manager.