As we have learned in previous chapters, umpires are the officiators of the game. They ensure that all players and coaches are following the rules, and they make many crucial decisions that determine the outcome of pitches and plays.
There are usually three (3) referees in a baseball game:
To communicate their decisions, umpires make calls. These calls involve yelling out certain words or phrases, accompanied with specific hand signals. We will learn about some of the calls umpires make later in this chapter.
The Plate Umpire (Umpire-In-Chief)
The plate umpire is the final decision maker. He is responsible for all major decisions and calling pitches strikes or balls while standing in the batter's box behind the batter and catcher. Only the team captains can make an appeal to the plate umpire without the risk of being ejected from the game.
1st Base/3rd Base Umpires
To start the game, the umpire yells, Play! and points at the pitcher with his right hand. He also calls Play to start the game again after a dead ball, once the pitcher, catcher, and batter are ready.
To signal that the pitch was a strike, the home plate umpire makes a fist with his right hand and makes a single, quick pounding motion. Some umpires also use their right hand to point to the side, also signaling a strike. If the strike was a called strike, meaning the batter did not swing and the ball went through the strike zone, the umpire will yell, Strike. However, if it was a swinging strike, meaning the batter swung at the pitch and missed, the umpire usually will not verbalize.
To signal that a player is out, the umpire makes a fist with his right hand, then makes a single, quick hammer motion. The personal style of the out call, especially in the Major Leagues, varies depending on the umpire, but it is usually pretty clear what the call is. They also often call, Out! as they make the arm motion.
To signal that a runner is out, the umpire that is closest to the players will make the safe call. To do this, the umpire spreads his arms out horizontally, with his palms facing the ground. If it was a close call, meaning it was hard for observers to tell for certain if the runner was out, the umpire will also yell, Safe!