UmpTalk #21: Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

One of the best ways to avoid incidents and also have fun in the field of umpiring is to leverage good umpire teamwork. Today’s podcast is about that communication on the field using good umpire signals with your partner(s) and how it can result in smoother games for everyone.

Today we talk about the signs and communications you give with your partner and how it needs to be part of your pregame meeting and discussions.

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  1. Showing outs to your partner following every scoring event, out or big play. Always return the signs of your partner. Don’t use “hook ‘em horns as two’s.
  2. Check-Swing – Come out crisply with your LEFT hand (to avoid confusion with a normal strike call) and firmly ask your partner, “did he go?”  Return with a verbal and commanding “no, he didn’t” or “yes, he went!”
  3. Ball in the dirt – a very subtle signal for umpires who have discussed it ahead of time.  Go down to your midsection with a fist from the field position. This tells your partner it was securely caught. Otherwise, open your hand or give no signal to say it was in the dirt.
  4. Balks – Don’t use two hands up anymore. It’s a delayed dead-ball. Simply point, firmly say “That’s a balk” and return to your ready position. As a partner, return the signal and say “BALK.”
  5. First and Third – “Hang 10” signal by the field umpire tells the plate umpire that he has responsibility at third, and the field ump will take the batter runner.
  6. Time Play – Show outs then point to the ground. Understand when a time play is in effect.

What other signals do you have with your partners? Do you have a “good call” signal?

UmpTalk #20: Dick Nelson – “Sarge”

Dick Nelson eyes prospective umpires at the Jim Evans European Classic Umpiring Camp. Photo by Thomas Haywood

If you’ve worked at or near the professional umpiring ranks for any length of time, you’ve come in contact with “Sarge.”  Dick Nelson is his real name, but I never knew his real name. I only knew that some guy named “Sarge” was ripping my ass my last week at Jim Evan’s school back in 1993.  Every umpire that came before and that followed has had the same experience.

The 79-year old Nelson is an institution for minor league umpires. He is, in many ways, “the” institution.  A former supervisor for MLB Umpires and current advisor to the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, Nelson has trained

The 79 year old Nelson has instructed over 70% of current MLB umpires. Photo by Thomas Haywood

or supervised over 70% of umpires working in the Major Leagues today and his influence over the art of umpiring runs as deep as every minor league and amateur baseball field.

It’s not often you get to speak with someone who quite literally “wrote the book,” but Dick Nelson, along with Jim Evans, wrote the book on the 2-man umpiring system.

Thomas Haywood, who will be providing a series of interviews and photographs he gathered during the Jim Evans European Classic this April in Austria.  He has spoken to a number of world umpires about differences in the world game vs the US game as well as the similarities of the game across the globe.

Nelson gives instruction on the 2-man umpiring system. Photo by Thomas Haywood

But it all starts with Sarge.

Thanks Thomas for chatting with this 45 year veteran of umpiring and sharing it with UmpTalk!