Monday, April 26, 2010

Get in the Slot for Safest Umpire Plate Position

We talk a lot about which umpire gear is more protective than others. Certainly Wilson's wrap around padding is more so than other brands, hard shell protectors are more so than soft ones as well as other things previously discussed. Of course, that is assuming you get hit at all. What if you could simply get hit less often?

In a recent conversation with 10.5-year MLB Umpire Veteran Marvin Hudson during Spring Training in Fort Myers, we discussed this very issue. His advice is simple, "You want to get in the slot and get as low as you can."

Slot Position
If you don't know, the slot is the position in-between the catcher and the batter. In other words, if you are new to umpiring, resist standing directly behind the catcher and staying high. If you do, you are going to take your fair share of foul balls.

While in the slot, you could choose whatever stance is more comfortable to you from the scissor stance to the more popular "box" stance. The point here is that you are in the slot and low. There, you are more tucked away from foul balls and better able to use your catcher for protection.

"How low do you recommend?, I asked Marvin. "For me", he said, "I like to try to get my head down next to the catcher's ear". That's pretty low.

And for that outside corner that is sometimes troublesome for umpires in the slot, Marvin replied that with experience, "that's simply where your judgment comes in".

Thanks to Marvin for sharing some great advice to assist umpires of all levels be more protected behind the plate.

(Marvin and I at UMPS CARE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Event in Sept. 2009)

If you are an umpire who is looking to emulate someone with excellent plate mechanics and presence behind the plate, Marvin is a great one to watch. He is on Derryl Cousins crew this year and will be in Milwaukee tonight through Wednesday for their series against Pittsburgh.

More information and pics on this subject can be found elsewhere:
Plate Umpire Positioning

Basic Stances Behind the Plate

Slot graphic courtesy of the California District 25 Little League Umpires


Frankinaz said...

Undoubtedly as highlighted in this posting and in articles related to umpiring, the #1 safeguard in mitigating getting hit is the effective use of the catcher.

That being said, I am truly impressed how different umpires take the basic stance and then modify it a bit here and there.

Also, when it comes to the outside corner discussions, my guess is that the majority of us are doing high school, tournament, and little league and subscribe to the adage of that if that little voice in your head says that was a close pitch, we default to calling it a strike.

Before you start pounding the keys in retalitory response, think twice before you disagree as often I also will read and hear umpires speak say one thing and then once on the field, do something else.

I umpire for the love of baseball and I am always looking for feedback (good, bad, positive, negative, whatever) to help me move in a positive direction.

A safe and fun game to all!

Ron said...

I was told by a female umpire who had worked the olympics while I was working a tournament in Montreal a very good tip! That tip was to set up in the slot as pictured here on the website,but within a foot or so of the catcher, roughly the distance from your fist to your elbow from the catcher, and your ear at the top of the catchers head, I can see the outside corner with ease in this position! If Marvin has to guess about the outside corner he is setting up too low!!

Coach said...

I agree with Ron. You gotta try your best to actually see that outside corner and see it to the catcher's glove. Besides, with the skill and prowess of some pitchers and their late ball movement, I would hate to think I rang someone up on a pitch 6 inches off the plate or missed the one that ran well on to the plate Ishould have called

Chris Martin said...

What should you do if the catcher moves? In some instances you are left nearly totally exposed. I tend to re-adjust and move with the catcher, especially the younger ones!

Anonymous said...

Great reviews for the start of the 2011 Baseball Season and new year. Always great to review and refresh the mind. Thanks To all. great stuff.

From Korea

Jim Kirk said...

Thanks John. Had to make sure everyone had umpiring on their mind to start the year. Hope it is a good one.

Anonymous said...

Chris...if the catcher moves out. Stay where you are.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know MLB umps are guessing because when you are on TV we know you don't have a clue.

Dave D said...

I agree with the posters that getting too low means you miss the outside corner, especially on the bender or screwball that slides in from the outside.

We all wear equipment for a reason - and that's to protect ourselves from getting hit. Ducking behind the catcher, in my mind, does two things - 1) It can retard our view such that we will not see the pitch appropriately and 2) moving with with catcher (where they move out) means we don't see the pitch all the way in and we lose perspective which will, eventually, cost us in other ways.

Obviously, no one likes or wants to get hit, but it is a reality in our 'business'. We must be prepared for it and do the best job we can. 'Guessing' or 'judgment' on the outside corner, while often reasonable will, eventually, come back and bite us.

Stand in there, get the best view of the plate via the slot, and lock in position.

My $.02...

Steve Dandy said...

In Little League, our District UC Clinician teaches us the slot position. You get a great view of the plate, plus, MOST foul balls hit back in your direction will simply fly by you. Now, you will get hit, but, by being in the slot, you will see - and feel - FEWER foul balls making contact with you. said...

Recent research in how vision works suggests that a lot of what we see as 'late movement' is in reality an illusion that happens when we switch from foveal vision (focused) to peripheral vision. If you have ever seen a demonstration you will be ever convinced of the importance of watching the ball all the way to the glove. If you see ['late movement' of the ball, say it cuts insdie to a right hand hitter, oddds are you stopped focusing directly on the ball and switched to where the catchers glove was or something similar. Check out 'bet illusion of the year 2009' and be preared to have your beleifs rocked!