As umpires begin calling league games for the summer softball season there are several things that you can do to polish your calling during a game. There is a list of many things that may seem small but will enhance your game calling and both teams will up their respect of you as the evening continues. Getting out from behind the plate, being the right position, hustling, and selling calls are all important aspects of calling a league slow pitch softball game.
This article will focus on selling the call. Yes, you are a just a league umpire that is calling one of probably three or four games on your field that night. The people playing the game are just there for fun and probably have had a beer or two, but it is still important to be supportive of both teams as you officiate.
When I mean be supportive of both teams I mean to do a good job. Selling the call is a way of acknowledging a good play on either offense or defense. A dramatic call may also be necessary to embellish a close play no matter what that call may be.
Selling the call adds style to your game and a little flair but it also recognizes that something out of the ordinary just happened on the field. The call can happen anywhere at any time but the point is to make sure the teams know that you were on top of a very good play.
Selling a strike call in slow pitch may seem like a small thing but just by inflecting your voice just a bit or lengthening the call may give an indication as to the pitch that was just thrown. Instead of saying a curt “strike” and then making the call on an obvious pitch down the middle, hold the call longer and draw it out to “striiiiiike.” I do this for just about every called second strike.
A strike that may not look like a strike at first is also appropriate for a selling of the strike call. At my plate conference I tell the team captains two things about my strike calls. First is that if any part of the ball crosses any part of the plate when it breaks through the batter’s strike zone, that’s going to be a strike. I also say that a strike is a hittable pitch. The teams will know beforehand what a strike is and making the call slightly differently on a second strike will let the teams know that I told them ahead of time that what the batter just saw was a strike.
A sell call for an out or safe at a base is the most common dramatic call that umpires make. The out is what we call the “overhand out” when it appears we’re throwing an invisible ball towards the base where the out happened. Even on force outs that are close I’ll occasionally overhand it. A safe call is sold when you take a step towards the base or even repeat the safe call once.
Close calls, great plays by either runner or fielder, and plays at the plate are all candidates for making a large call that deserves extra umpf from the umpire. Making a more pronounced call not only gives respect to the play that was just made but also lets the teams know that you’re there and making the right decision. Mutual respect will elevate everyone’s game leading to a better night for everyone on the softball field.