by John Bible

With a new baseball season rolling along, here are a few tips and hacks involving plate work that can help you out as an onfield umpire. From long‑time umpire and Referee magazine contributor Jon Bible.

1. When you receive the lineup cards at home plate, be sure they contain the proper number of players, correctly positioned. If a designated hitter is used, ensure that this is reflected. This kind of preventive action can eliminate a lot of confusion later on.

2. Get the home coach to go over the ground rules. It’s his park and he knows them better than you do, and it won’t detract from the authoritative image you want to project.

3. If there is a designated hitter rule, keep a laminated copy of it in your pocket and refer to it if needed. I did this several times, even in postseason play, and it always ended the discussion. I don’t buy the notion that an umpire should never trot out the rulebook on the field; if that is the only way to end a dispute and ensure that a rule is being properly applied, do it. I did this three or four times in my career and the pillars of society never did crumble.

4. At the start of the game, ask the catchers if their pitchers throw anything unusual. This will alert you to the unexpected — like pitches that break two feet — and it lets the catchers know you’re making an extra effort to prepare. People are more likely to stay off your back if they think you’re putting out 110 percent effort.

5. Get behind the catcher and take a few warmup pitches in the top and bottom of the first inning. You may not think you need to do this, but it sends a better message than if you just stand to the side and watch the pitchers throw.

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