The key umpire in fast-pitch softball faces the demanding task of make split-second rulings hundreds of times each game, regardless of the compete level. Those who execute that responsibility finest have one point in common: consistency.

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The ide of call balls and strikes is straightforward. Every rules code specifies the strike zone in details language. In practice, however, things are more complicated. Pitches often adjust direction together they technique home plate, darting up or down, left or right.

Batters can be taller or shorter, and also the dimension of the strike zone from optimal to bottom alters accordingly. Those batters may use one unorthodox stance, which forces the plate umpire to visualize the proper strike zone based on the “natural batting stance” specified in the rule codes of the NCAA, USA Softball, NFHS and also the USSSA.


“The rulebook is our standard,” claimed Arthur “Butch” Andrey, the rule interpreter for the Chester County thing of Pennsylvania Interscholastic strong Association softball umpires. “But the still her judgment. If you want that perfect to win zone, much better turn on the (video) machine.”

Achieving consistency when calling balls and strikes starts v the an interpretation of the win zone. In NFHS, USA and also USSSA, that is the room over residence plate in between the batter’s armpit and also the height of the knees once the batter assumes a organic batting stance. The NCAA specifies the bottom that the batter’s sternum instead of the armpit.

All rules codes specify that a pitch must be judged as it crosses residence plate in flight, and also a strike should be dubbed on a key in i m sorry any part of the round passes v the to win zone and the batter does not swing.

NCAA rule offer added guidance to assist umpires build consistency in call balls and also strikes. The rulebook notes the broad of the strike zone is resolved regardless the the batter. The plate chin is 17 inches wide and the diameter the a soft ball is 3.82 inches, make the actual broad of the strike zone 24.64 inches as soon as the inner edge of the ball is over the sheet of the plate.

As a result, umpires have to pay specific attention to the six-inch area between the leaf of the plate and also the inner sheet of the batter’s box, often referred to as “the river.” A key in the area need to be ruled a strike just if any part of the round passes over at the very least the leaf of the plate.

Umpire Brandon Hibbler, Schnecksville, Pa., said emerging a consistent strike zone is a key to ensuring a video game proceeds smoothly. His approach is to be aggressive in calling strikes from the start of the game. He also pays close fist to whether a pitcher is concentrating on the inside portion of the plate.

“I’m no going to give a pitcher (called strikes in) the river if she’s not hitting it consistently. That’s what she taught,” claimed Hibbler, who is in his seventh season together an NCAA umpire and also has 10 year of NFHS experience, including a Pennsylvania state championship game. “You want to have a great flow come the game. If a pitcher litter strikes, you’re walk to have actually a great flow. Having a consistent strike zone to adjust the tone. You’re yes, really there for 14 innings (the 7 innings because that each team’s pitcher).


“You don’t desire a coach frustrated around the strike zone at an early stage in the game. You always hear a coach complain since the strike zone is also tight, not too wide. You desire to do the batter swing rather of make the pitcher work so hard.”

For Sonny Pompilii, the Chester, Pa., who started his umpiring career in 1970, consistency in calling balls and also strikes starts with positioning. That stresses the prominence of lining increase in the slot position, i m sorry the assorted mechanics manuals explain as suspect a heel-toe view behind the catcher, set slightly inside the inside corner of house plate and also outside the perimeter of the to win zone.

He also suggests umpires be aware of how far behind the catcher they heat up. Pompilii recommends a street of six to 10 inches. As well far back can reason umpires to no accurately judge the bottom the the to win zone and the outside edge of the plate.

From the slot, Pompilii advises umpires to focus on getting to the collection position, the downward motion in which the umpire will certainly lock the position of his or her head in order to the pitch. The vital is to appropriately time the movement to the collection position together the pitcher prepares to throw.

“You’ve acquired to view the round released. If friend don’t view the release, the ball’s going to explode ~ above you once it gets to the plate,” claimed Pompilii, who has officiated two international Softball Federation civilization championship tournaments and also is the district 6 umpire-in-chief and a state deputy UIC because that USA soft ball of Pennsylvania. “A lot of brand-new umpires go under as the pitcher is breaking her hands, acquiring ready to pitch, and they’re quiet going down as the catcher is capturing the ball. I’d rather have them set up early, prior to the key is released, 보다 late. You need to be still. Save your head stationary, track the round with your nose into the glove.”

When it concerns judging pitches, Pompilii stated he focuses on placing of the batter and also the catcher in bespeak to carry out visual cues that assist him attain a constant strike zone.

“Use the catcher as a tool, as much as her 2 shoulders and two knees, for the perimeter the the to win zone. If she catches it within that perimeter, nine times out of 10 that going to it is in a strike,” stated Pompilii, a 30-year collegiate umpire who has worked 5 NCAA division II nationwide championship tournaments.

“If the catcher captures the ball with her gloves up, it’s commonly a strike. If she captures the round with her glove down, it’s typically a ball.


“I look at the batter’s elbows,” he continued. “Just around all of them, the elbow are ideal at the sternum (when taking their stance). Have your eyes just below the peak of the (strike) zone. That method you aren’t going to speak to a high strike. That’s the toughest key to struggle in fast-pitch softball.”

While the capacity to call a continuous strike zone entails a selection of factors and how each umpire implements them, most umpires agree ~ above one concept: A pitch that is called a to win in the an initial inning need to be called a strike in the last inning. Umpires have to not change their interpretation of the to win zone as the game goes on.

“Whatever I speak to for one team, i’m going to call for the other team,” claimed Andrey, an east Fallowfield, Pa., resident who has an ext than 20 years of NFHS experience and also 12 years together a collegiate umpire.

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Andrey claimed his strategy to achieving a constant strike zone requires confidence, concentration and comfort.

“Confidence is No. 1; being all set is the huge thing, so i’m confident. … Understand cases of the game and also the batter,” Andrey said. “Be comfortable. Make certain you view the pitch. Girlfriend don’t desire to hide behind the catcher. And you have to concentrate ~ above every pitch. Friend can constantly make a failure (if you shed concentration), and that failure can acquire you in trouble.”