Time Play: “play in which the non-force out to end a half inning is made at approximately the same time as a runner / runners are attempting to score at home where the umpire must adjudge which occurred first” (MiLBUD)
Typical time play scenario:
R2, 2 outs, batter tagged out between 1B and 2B with R2 attempting to score
In this scenario, umpires typically signal to each other the potential for a time play. This is typically done by tapping one’s wrist and, in the case of the plate umpire, pointing at the plate.
However, umpires must be alert at all times for the potential for a time play. One HBUA alumnus now in professional baseball had a time play at the MiLB Umpire Development Evaluation Course as the plate umpire that began with the bases loaded, one out, and a ground ball to the infield. The defense threw home to retire R3 (2 out). In an attempt to turn a home to first double play, the catcher threw to 1B, but the throw was wild and went into RF. R2 attempted to score, R1 advanced to 3B, and the batter attempted to reach 2B. The batter was thrown out at 2B moments after R2 crossed the plate. PU immediately scored the run before many people in the park even realized a time play had just occurred. It is this level of focus and concentration that is a “separator” among umpires.
Other common time play scenarios:
R2, R3, 1 out, fly ball to the outfield, both runners tagging
R1, 2 out, extra base hit to outfield with R1 attempting to score
R1, R3, 1 out, ground ball down the 1B line to the first baseman, steps on 1B and throws to 2B to retire R1 (reverse double play)
Positioning is critical – the umpire at the plate must line up the tag on the bases with the runner crossing home plate
Thus, the umpire shall vary their position according to the location of the play
Play at 3B: umpire assumes Third Baseline Extended (3BLEx)
Play at 2B: umpire assumes Point of Plate (PoP)
Play at 1B: umpire assumes First Baseline Extended (1BLEx)
The umpire starting the play at the point of the plate is absolutely essential
It is an equidistant adjustment from the PoP to 1BLEx or 3BLEx (much more difficult to have to adjust from a starting position at 1BLEx or even further up the line at P-15 for a time play at 2B or 3B)
Following a time play, the umpire will either “score that run” or wave off the run. The umpire at home will consider the out to have been made on the bases based on when the runner was tagged, not when another umpire signals the out. In a situation with multiple tag attempts, the umpire making the out call shall indicate where they believe the tag to have been applied.
The proper mechanics are as follows:
Point at the plate twice while verbalizing “that run scores” each time
Subsequently turn and point up to the press box while verbalizing “score that run”.
If multiple runs have scored on the play in close proximity to the out, the umpire shall turn to the scorer and indicate verbally and visually “score 2 runs.” A relaxed version of this mechanic is necessary if one of the runs scored well in advance of the time play.
Immediately turn and face the press box, waving arms above the head twice and verbalizing “no run, no run”
Mechanic must be done above the head to avoid confusion with a safe call
This mechanic is not necessary when the third out of the inning is the batter before 1B or a force out, unless the force out was as a result of an appeal (R1 missing 2B for instance) and all runs that scored are subsequently nullified by the appeal.
Note that although R1 clearly appears to be out, PU – who is in good position at 3BLEx for the time play at 3B – waits for U3 (3-Umpire system for this particular Spring Training game) to call the runner out before making a mechanic. Even though the out call was made after R2 scored, PU waves off the run, as R1 was tagged before R3 crossed the plate.