Before the Game
We are judged as umpires the moment we walk into a stadium or ballpark. Umpires should be dressed appropriately and be polite and courteous to any individuals you encounter.
If you are working a park for the first time, arrive early and walk the park during batting practice. When walking the park, keep an eye for trouble spots, such as dead ball territory, gaps in the fence, painted or chalked out of play lines, tarps, fences, padding, unusual dugout features (lips, posts / railings), and backstop / netting wires.
Once in uniform, an umpire must “look the part.” Shoes should be polished, pants ironed, caps creased, and shirts wrinkle-free. Ill-fitting or faded uniform items should be replaced. One look at an umpire’s appearance before the game can be a very clear indicator of just how invested they are in the job.
The Plate Meeting
At the plate meeting, the plate umpire shall collect the home team line-up first and the line-up from the visiting team second. Make sure they are presented in duplicate; ignore any assurances that the teams have already exchanged line-ups. Whether by error or intentionally, one coach may have given the opposing coach the wrong line-up, which could lead to a discrepancy later in the game.
Audit both line-up cards for obvious errors (player listed twice, listing a player who just pitched, filling out an incomplete card i.e. no subs, two players with the same last name, but no first initial, no signature, etc). Obvious errors may be corrected. Verify that all starting positions are listed, confirm the starting pitcher and whether or not the team intends to use the designated hitter. Should an umpire point out to a manager that they made an error with either the pitcher or the DH/EH prior to splitting the line-up 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.
Once the line-up cards are taken care of, make sure all peculiarities of the park are covered during ground rules. If the plate umpire is familiar with the park’s ground rules, the plate umpire will lead the discussion. Ground rules for each park the HBUA regularly works at are posted under the “Venues” page. If the plate umpire is not familiar with the park ground rules, have the home team manager lead the discussion. Do not be afraid to ask questions; you never know when a trouble spot will become a factor in the game. Ensure no ground rules contradict the Official Rules.
When substitutions are made, confirm all changes with appropriate manager, especially if the substitute is made without a formal announcement. If a substitution is announced, it becomes effective immediately (for instance, signalling to the bullpen is considered to be an announced substitution, although use good common sense if the wrong pitcher, if multiple are warming up, comes to the mound by mistake). Official Baseball Rule 3.08 discussed when unannounced substitutions become official. Note the change immediately, regardless of the situation. Take your time and write legibly; you could be saving yourself a future headache. Write while standing – do not bend over to write on your leg or remove your cap to write on the brim. Once you have noted the change, announce the change to the press box or scorekeeper and convey the change to the opposing manager. You can typically do this from the dirt circle of home plate, but you may be required to consult with him if multiple changes have been made, especially if they affect the batting order. Also, if the PA Announcer errs in the timing or content of his announcement, it shall in no way be considered official
Turning on Lights
The plate umpire is normally the individual to request the lights be turned on, although if there is a designated crew chief, they can also do so as a base umpire. Base umpires should assist the plate umpire in determining when it is becoming hazardous to continue the game in natural light.
Ideally, lights should be turned on at the top of an inning. For most HDBA night games, if the lights are not already on prior to the start of the game, have them turned on before the first pitch. If an unusually long inning is in progress, the umpire may ask for the lights to be turned on at any point if they feel it is necessary. Also bear in mind that there will be a delay between asking for the lights to be turned on and when the lights will take full effect, so do not wait too long.
Should umpires ask lights to be turned on due to darkness during a day game and natural conditions subsequently improve, have the lights turned back off.
Between Games of a Double Header
By Official Baseball Rule, the time between games of a double header cannot be less than 20 minutes or more than 30 minutes, unless agreed upon prior to the start of game 1. When you arrive at the park, meet with the management of the home team to determine the time that will be needed between games.
At the plate meeting, decide on a length of time between games with both managers. Following the conclusion of the first game, inform each manager of the time of the first pitch for game 2, and to be prepared to meet at home plate 5 minutes prior to this time. Any trouble with starting game 2 on time should be handled in a professional manner and reported to the league following the game.