Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Rotating into Position

Tmac is back with a rotation play from Monday night's all-Florida affair between Tampa and Miami.

Umpire Barksdale moves in close to make a call.
In this situation, we have a fly ball to the outfield with one out and a runner on first. Upon reading the hit to deep left field, the 3B Umpire goes out to see the possible catch/no catch, HR or a ball bouncing out of play—whether going out five feet or 50, he makes clear to his crew that he has gone out and left the infield, leaving third base uncovered, as in traditional three-man, prompting HP Umpire Lance Barksdale to rotate to 3rd and the 1B Umpire Jim Wolf to cover home plate (U2 stays put). The rotation is flawless. What makes this play a teachable moment is how well Barksdale alters his position as the play develops. You can see Barksdale at the :15 second mark in the video read that he has one possible play: a following throw from the catcher to the third baseman on the runner. Many umpires take this play in a position that is impossible to see, but Barksdale gets into what I like to call the Keyhole.... And i can tell you there isn't a lot of room to see this play.... You obviously can't take the play from the coaches box or even with the bag so he rotates to the only place he can—about 3 feet beyond the bag in fair territory.

What makes this play different from taking a steal play in fair territory is his starting position as the play develops is around the bag. If you don't read a steal (of third base) properly and take it from fair from 20+ feet deep and in fair territory you're in a very bad position. If you are in tune with the game you may be able to get into Lance's position for a steal but you have to really be paying attention and not be scared to be closer than normal to the third base bag. This would be adjusting your positioning for a potential play. This type of thing separates good umpires from great umpires from elite umpires.

Barksdale continues moving to gain position.
Back to the play at hand you notice at :17 seconds Barksdale is developing his read of what is about to happen in less then a second. He leans in gets his perfect read and makes the confident correct call. He even clears some dirt from in front of the base as he leaves. The replays all prove to be inconclusive and the announcers briefly think he may be safe until we see the definitive angle at 1:53. Barksdale finds the keyhole standing with one foot fair and the other foul but the perfect lean and angle to see he was tagged on the elbow about four inches from the bag. To a professional like Barksdale, this looked like a piece of cake. He may even tell you he didn't think it was that close. What we learn here is not to be afraid to move as the play is developing. Don't be an observer, be an Umpire! The bottom line is excellent calls come from excellent positioning and this is TEXTBOOK! Well Done!
Alternate Link: Ball to the wall results in a run, out at third base in Battle of Florida (MIA)


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