Robo's Rants

Life Member, Geoff Robertson has enjoyed a long and historic career umpiring in not just New South Wales, but Australia and further abroad. Previously the State Director of Umpiring, one of his most notable achievements in officiating was calling the very first pitch thrown in Olympic Baseball in Barcelona in 1992. Forever passionate about officiating his favourite game, below you can read and benefit from his insights into all the different facets of umpiring. Enjoy.

Some years ago I was chatting with Jim Evans, no need to discuss his credentials, and I spoke to him about his umpiring style. Jim said that he simply umpired what he taught. Good point as not enough umpire instructors in Australia have the same attitude. They teach what they umpire. There doesn't appear to be any research by them before they give a presentation on rules or mechanics. Thus we don't see rookie umpires with limited basics. So many are confused. Way too much is put into "flair" before basics. You Umpire Instructors have a responsibility. It's not difficult, there are sufficient publications and papers out there on umpiring, and the game deserves this as a minimum.

Officials perform one of sports most difficult tasks, good officiating facilitates the sport event, ensuing that the outcome is dependant upon the skills and tactics of the players. Poor officiating detracts from the contest and decreases the enjoyment of the game for players, managers and fans.

Psychological factors are the most critical yet most tedious aspect of officiating. Officials face as much pressure and emotion as do athletes and managers. What separates the best officials from the pack is psychological skills, which few officials take time to develop.

Good timing will keep you out of trouble Bad timing will get you into trouble

Always think good towards your fellow umpires. Encourage them. Hope generally that they succeed. Don’t wish them ill hoping you’ll step into their shoes. It doesn’t work. You’ll only succeed by doing it right yourself, not by others failures. Don’t get too wrapped up in yourself. Project a good self-image.

On overthrows, out of play, the runner gets the base he’s going for plus one There is no such award of bases. There are one base awards, two base awards, three base awards, and, even four base awards, but not a one plus one. Overthrown balls result in an award of two bases for every runner. So if the runner on first takes off on a fly ball that is caught and then the ball is thrown out of play in attempt to retire him back at first. He is awarded third.

As a catchers mitt, by definition, must have a circumference, then you can't use a first base mitt or a glove as they don't have circumference. Just as a first base mitt only has linear measurement you can't use a catchers mitt at first. The catcher may wear a mitt within dimensions of the rule. The first base may wear a mitt or a glove within the dimensions of the rule.

A few other misconceptions • If a batted ball hits the plate first it is foul, or dead. • The ball is dead on an illegal pitch. • Runners cannot advance on an infield fly. • A fielder is never entitled to block the path of a baserunner. • If a base coach touches a runner in any way or at any time, the runner is called out. • Runners cannot run backwards on the bases. • A batter who is standing in the batter’s box cannot be called out on interference. • The defence must touch the base with the ball in possession to make an appeal. • Runners who were stealing must return on the bases if the batter hits a foul tip. All of the above statements are false.

Fielders must get out of the way of runners Partially correct. Generally fielders are entitled to go after batted balls without interference from the baserunners. If there is no batted ball in the area, fielders must take care not to obstruct the runners in any way, not by slowing them down, or making them alter direction, or make a wider turn. Fielders do have the right to field the ball, including charging in to get a favourable hop. The runners had better find a way to avoid the fielder, preferably by running behind the fielder. This is not running off the baseline! Runners establish their own baselines; they do not follow an imaginary straight line between the bases. Runners have the right to run, fielders have the right to field, but, not at the same place at the same time. Otherwise penalties have to be assessed.

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