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   Umpire Signs & Signals

Umpires use a number of signals. Some of these are familiar and are associated with the Rules of Baseball, like safe, out, foul, etc. In addition to these, there are signs and signals that umpires use to communicate with one another during the games, saying things like "first-to-third," "it's infield fly situation," and many others.

Following is a summary of three sets of signals. It is very important to cover your umpire signs and signals at your pre-game meeting (see Umpire Pre-Game Meetings):

 

Basic Signs for the Players and Fans

The right hand is the "action" hand and the plate umpire uses the action hand to signal things like play, strike, out, fair ball (i.e., live ball), infield fly, and so forth. He uses his left hand for controlling the game or when pointing to a partner, when controlling the pitcher, and for holding the indicator and the mask.

 

Ball

There is no signal for a called ball. Instead, simply verbalize the call, "ball". Call the ball while still down, then come up. On ball four, don't point to first base, just say "ball." If the batter doesn't head toward first base, you can simply say to him "that's four."

Strike

Signal strikes with your right hand. Use the traditional clenched fist ("pounding the door"), or signal with your hand/finger shot out to the side. On a called strike, verbalize sharply; everyone should hear. On a swinging strike do not verbalize; simply give the signal.

Safe

Extend both arms together in front of you and then give a quick, sweeping motion outward, roughly parallel to the ground, palms down. On close plays, you can also verbalize the call, "safe", or "he's safe". This helps sell a close call. You can also verbalize information to help sell an extremely close call, things like "Safe - he's under the tag", of "Safe - he pulled his foot." On obvious calls ("stadium calls") don't verbalize the call.

Out

Form a hammer with a clenched right fist and deliver a quick, sharp blow. Some degree of personal style is allowed on the out call, as long you are not distracted from seeing any continuing action. If necessary, verbalize and signal additional information to sell a close call, like "off the bag" or "on the transfer."

Fair Ball

Point the right hand toward fair territory. Never verbalize "fair ball." On a close call, to emphasize the call, stab your arm into fair territory multiple times emphatically.

Foul Ball

The signal for foul ball is the same as for "Time" or other dead ball situation: Raise both hands and call loudly "Foul." Make the call loud and sharp, so everyone hears. Note that, once verbalized, you cannot reverse a call of foul ball.

Play

Point at the pitcher with the right hand with a stabbing motion and call "Play."

You must put the ball back in play following every time the ball goes dead, whether foul ball, hit-by-pitch, called "time", or other reason. When the pitcher has the ball and is ready (he must have engaged the rubber), and the catcher is in the catcher's box and is also ready, point and call "play". Under no circumstances should you allow the pitcher to go into his windup until you have called "Play".

Time

Raise both hands and call "Time" in a loud voice. Make the call loud and sharp. It is essential that everyone on the field hear you.

Important: When any umpire calls "Time," all other umpires should echo the call by also signaling and, if there is play in progress, also verbalizing "Time."
time

(Time with a small "t"). There are occasions when time is out, but "Time" has not been called. An example is when the pitcher is ready but the batter is not yet set; in this case, the plate umpire might put up his hand as a stop sign to the pitcher, signaling him to wait. It is important to understand that when you put up a stop sign like that you have called time. So you must put the ball back in play.

Important: Be very careful with this small-"t" Time. Be certain, for example, that all continuous play has come to a stop, that runners are back to their bases, and that no sudden actions are imminent. You're in a world of hurt if you've got a hand up signaling time, just as a runner breaks and a bang-bang play develops, an overthrow occurs, a run scores, and THEN you have to get everyone's attention to bring it all back.
The count

Indicate pitch count using the left hand for balls and the right hand for strikes. On fields that do not have scoreboards, give the count frequently; always give the count on an "action" pitch (with three balls and/or two strikes). Call the count loudly, so both benches (and base coaches) can hear it clearly. Finally, don't abbreviate the count by verbalizing things like "twenty-two" for two and two, or saying "full count" when the count is three and two.

3rd strike not
caught

Give the strike sign, but do not call or signal the batter out. Instead, clear the catcher and give the safe sign.


 

Advanced Signs for Inside the Game

Several signs are important for communicating with the scorekeeping, coaches, and players.

Run Counts/
Doesn't count

The only time you should signal that a run scores is on a timing play to indicate that an advancing runner did (or did not) cross the plate before a 3rd out was made on the bases. In this case, signal and verbalize:

  • Point to the plate emphatically and shout in the direction of the scorekeeper: "Run scores; score the run!"
  • Sweep your open palms across (much like the safe sign) and shout in the direction of the scorekeeper: "No run; no run scores!"
Check swing/
called Strike

Point at the batter with the left hand then signal the strike with your right while verbalizing "Yes, he went."

Check swing
/Appeal

Step back from the plate and with your left arm gesture to the base umpire and ask "Did he go?" If the answer is yes the base umpire gives the strike signal while saying "Yes, he went!" If the answer is no, the base umpire gives a safe sign with "No, he did not go!"

Foul Tip

Extend you left arm and brush the back of your left hand with your right hand, then signal the strike with the right hand. Never verbalize "foul tip" because this could be confused with a call of "foul."

Infield Fly

Point into the air with the right hand and verbalize "infield fly, batter's out!" Verbalize in your loudest voice. All umpires on the field should echo the call. For more about the infield fly, see Infield Fly Rule.

Home Run

Signal a home run by pointing at the sky with the right arm and twirling the index finger.

Ground-rule
double

Signal a ground-rule double by holding two fingers up and by verbalizing "That's a ground-rule double." All runners move two bases from time of pitch and the ball is dead.

Awarding Bases

Point to affected base runner and state "You, second base" or "You, third base", etc. Move the lead runner first, then following runners in order.

Balk

Call clearly: "That's a Balk!"

Call balks with reference to the action. If the pitcher completes the delivery of the ball, or throws to a base, you are in a delayed dead ball situation. So, point at the pitcher and say "That's a balk". Then, if the pitcher stops his delivery, call "Time ... that's a balk" and award bases as appropriate. Otherwise, allow action to complete, then call "Time!", announce the balk and award bases as appropriate.

Note: In high school play (FED rules), balks are an immediate dead ball. It's a stupid rule, but it is what it is.
Interference

Point at the player committing the interference and verbalize loudly and clearly "Time! That's interference!" Ensure that all play stops and then enforce penalties, as appropriate. For more information, see Offensive Interference.

Obstruction

First, note whether you have Type (a) or Type (b) obstruction. Type (a) obstruction occurs when a play is being made on the obstructed runner and results in an immediate dead ball. Type (b) obstruction occurs when a play is not being made on the obstructed runner, and this is a delayed dead ball.

In both cases, point to the offending player and verbalize loudly and clearly "That's obstruction". If this is Type (a) obstruction, immediately call time and award bases as appropriate. If Type (b), wait for conclusion of continuous action on the play, then call Time and enforce penalties as appropriate.

Catch/
No Catch

Signal a catch using the Out sign: raised right arm with a clenched fist. No verbalization is necessary.

For no-catch, use the Safe sign; be sure to verbalize "No catch!" or "On the ground" loudly and clearly. The verbal call needs only to be given on a trouble ball. In cases where the no-catch resulted from the fielder juggling the ball and not securing possession, you can provide a juggling motion to indicate this. When the no-catch results from the ball touching the ground (on a close or trouble ball), point to the ground after signaling no-catch.


 

Signs for the Umpire Crew

Following are a basic set of signs that umpire crews use to pass important information or ask for it. These signs are not formalized and might vary somewhat from league to league. Be sure to cover your crew signs during the pre-game meeting.

Generally, umpire signals originate with the plate umpire; on receiving a signal, the base umpire then flashes back the signal to indicate that he's received it. On three- or four-man crews, the exchange is with the interior umpire (the one in positions B or C).

Outs

With each new batter (except the first, obviously), the PU flashes the number of outs by extending fingers either at his side, or in front of him. For no outs, use a clenched fist.

Infield Fly

When you're in an infield fly situation, signal by touching the brim of the hat. Some crews indicate the number of outs by touching the brim with one finger or a fist.

First-to-third
rotation

With a runner on first, or runners on first and third, the PU should signal the first-to-third rotation by pointing at third base. For more information, see The Basic Rotations (two-man).

Staying home

With a runner in scoring position (except for first-to-third situation), PU should signal that he's staying at home – that is, will not rotate to other bases for a play. For more information, see The Basic Rotations (two-man).

Playing back

When infielders are "playing in" (e.g., to get a ground out at home), the BU should move back behind the middle infielder to avoid interfering with the play. When doing so, move your hand up and down behind your head, with the palm facing home. This alerts the PU to take catch/no-catch on all infield fly balls.

We need to talk

It's useful to have a signal that says to your partner, "We need to talk." Some crews use the arms crossed like an "X" in front of the chest, but this might be too obvious. This signal is very useful in situations where your partner is in an argument with a manager over a call and you have useful information for him. You never insert yourself in the middle of another umpire's call unless that umpire asks for help. But if you have information that could help him, a subtle signal can be a life-saver for him.

Time play

With two outs and a runner in scoring position, tap the wrist on the left hand (where a watch is normally worn) with two finger of the right hand to indicate a potential timing play. You could then point to home plate with two fingers to indicate that you're staying home on the play. Note, however, that a timing play can occur on plays that begin with fewer than two outs, so you must be alert to the possibility on all plays at the plate. In fact, it is for this reason that some organizations now discourage use of the time play signal.