My Mushy Zone

For most of this season, I loved my strike zone. Off season cage work was paying off, and I felt really good. I was given a pretty high level schedule (including a dozen varsity games), and called my pitches with confidence. Not a peep, as I liked to say. I was locked in…rock solid.

And then I wasn’t. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve left every game wondering where my consistency has gone. I had a great Freshman tournament game a couple of weeks ago, where I felt like I was hitting on all cylinders. Since then, I’ve been struggling. Thankfully – knock on wood – I’m at the stage of my game where struggling is usually limited to a few bad pitches or batters. Or an inconsistency that some might not even notice. But it’s there. Last night I missed two dead on strike threes, right at the knee, on back to back batters, and then made up for it by calling the 2nd kid out on a pitch at the armpits. Terrible. Hopefully rock bottom-terrible.

Without a doubt, the level of play that I have been working has been the biggest factor. High school season has come to an end and my recent games have certainly been at a lower/younger level. At these levels, weaker hitters take a lot of pitches. In a good high school game, no one is taking a soft pitch up in the zone. In my recent games, I’ve had to call 100 of them, right up around the letters. It’s a lot of work and a lot of opportunity for self doubt. Similarly, I’ve seen weaker (and just younger) pitchers who’s pitches are dying as they cross the plate – again, not easy to get in a groove.

The answer is, of course, “one pitch at a time”. Forget about the last two weeks – and, in-game, forget about the last missed pitch. Back to basics, trust my zone, don’t give in, timing timing timing.   I’ll be all right.


2 responses

  1. I realize this is a few weeks late, but it’s comforting to see another umpire admit to having issues with this. I’ve just starting umpiring girls fast-pitch softball (having baseball and slow-pitch for years), and I go back and forth between Minor (5th-8th grade) and Major (9th-12th grade) League. About a third of the players play high school ball including a few pitchers, but overall the consistency of pitching has me completely second-guessing my strike zone.

    I feel like I’m calling a tighter strike zone than I want to… I kinda want to give the corners but for some reason can’t call them, especially for a slower, laboring pitcher. And the girls take FAR FAR too many pitches. I also tend toward a lower zone, giving the low strike and not the high one.

    The other complicating factor is that girls are limited to pitching a max 4 of innings per game, and many teams alternate innings rather than letting one girl pitch 4 in a row. That means I see in 2 innings I see 4 pitchers…I just get comfortable with what one is throwing and another girl is pitching the next inning. And then both teams do it.

    Anyway, sorry to drone on, but I wanted to let you know there’s others out here who understand and appreciate what it takes to umpire well.

  2. My only advice is: TIMING. See the pitch all the way into the glove, decide, and verbalize. And get that high strike right from the beginning. I’m sure you’ve already realized that everybody wants strikes. Make your job easier. And thanks for following!

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