Live Game Observations

As part of the HBUA’s commitment to its members and umpire development, the Executive approved a live-game observation process a few years ago. The process, as outlined in the HBUA Policy and Procedure manual, consists of an in-person live game observation by a dedicated observer followed by a post-game discussion and concluded with a brief written summation. The goal of these observations is to raise the overall standard of officiating within the HBUA, not to be critical of umpires or for observers to flaunt their experience and credentials.

As we transition into the fall, following the conclusion of the Eastern League playoffs, Chris Marco will be observing games in an effort to ensure as many members as possible receive at least one observation prior to the conclusion of the season. With only a few weeks left, we cannot guarantee all members will be seen. Any members highly interested in an observation should contact Chris ( directly so that it may be prioritized.

Umps Care Charity Bowling Tournament


I’m playing in the Umps Care charity bowling tournament during spring training on March 17 in Florida. Umps Care is the official non-profit charity of professional baseball umpires, providing emotional and financial assistance to youth and families in need across the markets of MLB’s teams. The tournament is a fundraiser to help provide the following programs in 2018:

• Major league baseball experiences for 600 at-risk youth at each ballpark across the big leagues
• Build-a-Bear workshop experiences for 1300 children at 13 different children’s hospitals, and
• College scholarships for deserving young adults who were adopted later in life

Obviously, MLB is dominated by American-based teams, but Umps Care is active in Toronto on a consistent basis. Check out this piece Sportsnet ran during a broadcast in 2014 ( Umps Care also returned to Toronto in 2016 and 2017.

My spring crew and I are bowling in support of this great cause and I personally hope to raise more than $120 for our crew. Please visit our crew page and consider making a donation if you are in a position to support.

Our crew page: Continue reading

Line-Up Cards

When managers come to the plate for the pre-game meeting, after introductions, the plate umpire should then take the line-up cards of both teams, beginning with the home team’s card. If one manager arrives at the plate much earlier than the other, the umpire should wait until both arrive before taking any line-ups, even if it is the home team that arrives first. If a coach or player has brought out the line-up card, the umpires should ensure they are aware as to who the manager of the team is. Line-up cards must be presented to the plate umpire at least in duplicate at the plate meeting. Umpires who allow a team to only bring a single line-up card to home plate for any reason (typically because they have exchanged line-ups prior to the game) leave themselves vulnerable to a situation later in the game where batting-out-of-order has occurred and the copy of the line-up in possession of the umpire is different than the one in possession of the team. While the plate umpire’s copy of the line-up shall always be considered the official record, this situation is obviously extremely preventable and would not be looked upon favourably.

The plate umpire should then audit the line-up cards before splitting them for obvious correctable errors (player listed twice, listing nine batters plus a pitcher with more or less than one designated hitter, listing a player who just pitched as the starting pitcher, filling out an incomplete card i.e. no subs, two players with the same last name but no first initial, etc). Obvious errors may be corrected. Always confirm the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) by name. Should a team not list a DH and/or EH, confirm with their manager (or designate at the plate) that they do not wish to use one in that game. Should an umpire point out to a manager that they made an error with the line-up prior to splitting the cards, the mistake may be rectified. It is completely acceptable to return the line-up card to the manager who erred while pointing out any of the errors listed above. Once the cards are split however, it is too late. Focus when checking the line-up cards and avoid unnecessary conversation.!

Players must be listed by at least surname, although both first and last names are preferred. If multiple players have the same surname, the team must provide at least a first initial. It is not acceptable for a team to provide a batting order card with only players’ first names listed. The use of jersey numbers and positions is recommended but ultimately optional, except that the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) must be specified. There is no requirement for players serving a suspension to be noted on the line-up.

Once the plate umpire has audited the line-ups for obvious errors, they shall keep the top copy for themselves. The next copy shall go to the opposing team, with any remaining copies being returned to the original team. It is not necessary for the plate umpire to sign the line-up before distributing it. The plate meeting would then proceed to discussion of the ground rules.

Please note that in leagues where teams are not required to provide the plate umpire with an official line-up card, at no time may batting out of order be appealed by either team.

Plate umpires should always ensure to keep any changes to the line-up in a simple, clear, and neat manner in the event line-up cards must be transferred to another umpire due to suspension of a game that must be resumed.

Below we have several examples of proper and improper line-up cards from various levels of baseball.










Line-up cards from a suspended game in the Midwest League. Note that both managers have listed all players by surname only. This is perfectly acceptable. Peoria’s manager has also elected to highlight the position of his DH and pitcher in the batting order. This is a courtesy and not required. As you can see, all substitutes are still eligible to enter the game.

Kit @ Ldn 7-19Line-up cards from a suspended game in the Intercounty Baseball League. London has made one substitution (#97 Parris Austin entered the game in place of #6 Larry Balkwill in the sixth spot in the batting order) while Kitchener has made no substitutions.

Line-Up Card

Line-up card from a forfeited game in the IBL. Burlington’s manager failed to list any substitute players on the bottom of his line-up card. This error was noticed at the plate meeting, pointed out to the manager, and he was directed to add substitute players to the bottom of the line-up card. For whatever reason, he chose not to do so. Per IBL rules, a player must be listed as a reserve in order to be eligible to enter the game. When Burlington was unable to field a line-up with nine eligible players, the game was forfeited. Please note that the Official Rule regarding substitutes stipulates that reserve players are not required to be listed on the line-up card. However, a league, on it’s own authority, may supersede this rule and require a player to be listed on the line-up in order to be eligible. Notable leagues to require this include the IBL, New York-Penn League, and the Florida State League.

Tigers Line-Up

A's Line-Up









Line-up cards from a suspended Midget Tier One game. Both managers failed to fill out their line-ups correctly, listing players by first name only. These cards should have been returned to the managers at the plate meeting, so surnames could be added to all players. Note that Mississauga has no remaining players on the bench, as their substitute has entered the game and the original player in the line-up has re-entered for the substitute. Note also that Oakville is using a 9 player line-up with the pitcher batting and no substitutes. While Oakville’s manager listed only the position of his starting pitcher, there is no penalty for this. Only the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) must be noted on a line-up card.

Before the Game

For some of our newer umpires, we are going to take a look at a few game preliminaries to demonstrate how each game starts. For more seasoned umpires, do not underestimate the importance of good appearance during these times.

The Plate Meeting

Prior to each game, the umpires shall enter the field no fewer than five minutes prior to the scheduled starting time and proceed directly to home plate to exchange line-ups and cover the park ground rules. For fields with complicated ground rules and/or if the game will have a national anthem, five minutes is not enough and umpires are advised to arrive at the plate earlier so the game may start on time.

Once at home plate, the plate umpire will stand directly behind home plate, with the base umpire(s) opposite, facing each other. It is not necessary for the plate umpire to call “coaches” or “coaches and captains” upon arrival at the plate; each team’s manager should be aware that once the umpires have arrived, it is time for the plate meeting. Should there be an excessive delay by one or both teams, it would then be appropriate to ask the managers to come to the plate for the plate meeting. Upon their arrival, the managers (and any additional guests) shall stand in their respective batter’s boxes, bringing with them no fewer than two identical copies of their line-up. If there are three or more umpires, it is acceptable for the base umpires to stand either directly across the top of the batter’s boxes, or to angle themselves in a manner so as to form a semi-circle.

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In recent years, it has become common practice for the home team to receive a pep talk from their manager and then break for their positions on the field, at which point the manager comes to home plate and usually requests to do the plate meeting off to the side of home plate. DO NOT permit this to occur. Should the home team choose to start the game this way, the plate meeting shall still occur at home plate, for several reasons. Primarily, safety of the umpires and coaches. Second, it is extremely disrespectful to the umpire crew and visiting team. Third, it provides the home team an advantage, as they have extra time to warm-up for the start of the game. And fourth, it actually eliminates the umpire’s ability to correct a potential obvious error (addressed later) in the home team’s line-up card.

Umpires should introduce themselves by name to each manager, making it a point to learn the name of each manager as well. If a coach should introduce themselves by last name (i.e. “Hi, I’m Coach Smith”), be sure to ascertain their first name in a polite and professional way. While a coach can direct his team to address them in any manner they so choose, they do not have this authority over umpires and it is extremely unprofessional, and an intimidation tactic when directed to younger umpires, for a coach to expect an umpire to address them in this manner.

If a coach or player has come to the plate meeting instead of the manager, the umpires should ensure they are aware as to who the manager of the team is. If there are line-up cards presented, the plate umpire will check and distribute both line-ups (see a coming post for a review of line-up card procedures). In many HBUA games, teams are not required to provide the umpires with a line-up card. The plate meeting would then proceed to discussing ground rules.

The discussion of ground rules should not be taken lightly. Every year in baseball, protests occur because of situations that occur, which may have been prevented by a thorough review of the ground rules prior to each game. Plate umpires, regardless of crew seniority, should take charge and be the one to deliver the ground rules. The discussion of ground rules should begin with any features behind home plate and proceed around the diamond. Each park regularly officiated at by HBUA umpires is listed under the “Venues” tab and contains park ground rules, as established by the HBUA and agreed upon by the HDBA (or, in the case of Bernie Arbour Stadium, Minor League Baseball, from it’s time as a stadium in the New York-Penn League). Be sure to also review the “Universal Ground Rules” page, as several HDBA parks are well-built and have no unique ground rules beyond those covered in the universal rules. Do not discuss any playing rules while going over the ground rules however, if the game is to be played under any kind of time limit, it would be appropriate to inform the attendees of the plate meeting of those curfew times as well as which umpire has the official watch.

Once the discussion of ground rules and curfew, if applicable, has been completed, take a moment to ensure neither manager has any questions. If there are no questions, it is time to conclude the plate meeting.

The National Anthem

For games in which a national anthem is played before the game, umpires shall stand at attention facing the flag with their heels together, head erect, left arm extended down the leg, and right hand over the heart. If no flag is presented, the umpires shall face centre-field. There is to be absolutely no talking, laughing, spitting, or chewing during the playing of the anthem.

In the two-umpire system, each umpire will stand behind each batter’s box. In the three-umpire system, the base umpires shall stand behind each batter’s box with their toes on the back line of the box, with the plate umpire behind home plate. In the four-umpire system, the plate umpire shall stand left-of-centre of home plate, with the third base umpire to his left and the second base umpire to his right. In the event a six-umpire crew is used, the infield umpires should use this same alignment, with the left-field and right-field umpires standing on the extreme left and right, respectively. It is permissible for the catcher to join the umpires at home plate. In the two-umpire system, he shall stand between the umpires. In the three-umpire system, the catcher shall stand between the plate umpire and the first-base umpire. In the four or six-umpire system, the catcher shall stand between the plate umpire and second-base umpire.

Four-umpire system national anthem with no catcher

Four-umpire system national anthem with no catcher

Two-umpire system national anthem with no catcher at Bernie Arbour Stadium (flag behind home plate)

Two-umpire system national anthem with no catcher at Bernie Arbour Stadium (flag behind home plate)

Two-umpire system national anthem with catcher

Two-umpire system national anthem with catcher

Once the national anthem has concluded, if the players are on the field, the umpires shall break from home plate to their positions. In all other cases, the umpires shall not leave the plate until the defensive team takes the field.