UMPIRE’S COMMUNICATION SIGNALS

  1. Umpire’s communication occurs in two forms: non-verbal communications whenever there is a change of base runners or outs and verbal communication and hand signals that occur when a fly ball is in flight or during plays.

  2. The non-verbal communications are given in the form of hand signals and should be given whenever there is a change in base runners or the number of outs.  When there are no runners on base (i.e. the base umpire is at the A position) no communications are used prior to the pitch.  Hand signals are first used after a batter/runner is safely on base and prior to the next pitch.  The home plate umpire should initiate the communications sequence.  Following the end of the previous play as the base umpire assumes his new position, the umpires should make eye contact and the plate umpire should give the appropriate hand signal for the current number of outs and the anticipated movement when the ball is put into play by the batter.  The base umpire should echo the hand signals given by the plate umpire unless signal given is inappropriate for the current situation.

  3. The approved hand signals are as follows:

    1. Outs:  A closed fist indicates no outs, one or two outs are indicated by extending the appropriate number of fingers.  Do not use the index finger and little finger to signal two outs, use the first two fingers in the V symbol to indicate two outs.

    2. Rotation play:  This is indicated by moving the hand in a circular motion or by pointing at third base.  This signal is used when there is a runner on first base or runners on first and third.  The rotation play is used when there is a base hit to the outfield, a miss-played ball goes into the outfield or on certain situations in the infield.

    3. Staying home:  Indicated by the plate umpire by pointing down towards home plate.  This signal is used when there is a runner on second base, runners on second and third or bases loaded. 

    4. Infield fly:  Indicated by touching the bill of cap or the top of the mask.  This signal indicates that the infield fly rule is in affect.  It is given when there are runners on first and second with less than two outs or the bases are full with less than two outs.

      1. With the infield fly in affect two additional signals are used for certain situations. Plate Umpire Covering plays at third:  Indicated by tapping one fist into the other palm.  This indicates that on a deep fly ball in the base umpire’s area of the outfield on which the runner from second may tag and advance to third, the plate umpire will rotate to third to cover any possible play there.  The base umpire is still responsible for the catch and tag up at second base.  If the fly is down the left field line the plate umpire can still cover the play at third but if the fly is down the first base line the base umpire is responsible for both the tag up at second and the play at third.  If the bases are full, the plate umpire will use the Staying home signal to indicate that he shall only cover any possible play at the plate and the base umpire is responsible for any plays at second and third.  Either of these signals is given following the Infield Fly signal as appropriate.

      2. NOTE:  For tag ups, the plate umpire is always responsible for the tag up at third and the base umpire is always responsible for tag ups at both first and second.

    5. Wipe Off: The Wipe Off is considered a negative signal and not necessary.  When the infield fly rule in no longer in affect, giving the Rotation or Staying Home signal alone would indicate the same situation.  DO NOT USE THE WIPE OFF 

    6. Timing Play:  Indicated by tapping either wrist.  This signal indicates that a timing play is possible.  It is usually given when there are two outs and a runner in scoring position.  This is a reminder to the plate umpire that should the third out not occur as a force at first or a fly ball, it will be necessary to judge whether the runner touches home before the third out is recorded.

  4. The hand signals along with verbal communication that are used while a fly ball is in flight or during plays are:

    1. When a fly ball is hit to the outfield, after reading the flight of the ball it is necessary to communicate responsibility with your partner.  To indicate that you are going to determine “catch-no catch” tap your chest while making eye contact with your partner.  To indicate that your partner should determine “catch-no catch”, point at your partner while making eye contact.  Verbal communications are used with either of these signals to indicate responsibility.  Always use your partner’s name and anything appropriate to convey responsibility; i.e. “Joe, my ball” or “Joe, you take it”.  Your partner should verbally respond and give the opposite hand signal to you.

    2. Going Out:  With the base umpire on the first base line (A position) and a fly is hit down the right field line or is a trouble ball to right field the Going Out signal is used.  This action is indicated by extending your left arm up and over your head as you start moving down the foul line.  At the same time as you signal and before you turn your back to the plate umpire, communicate verbally by saying “Joe, I’m going out”.  The plate umpire should respond with OKAY.

    3. Infield Fly:  Indicated by pointing straight up with the right hand.  This signal is used after the ball has reached its apex and either umpire determines that it is an infield fly (see definition in NFHS or Pro rule book).  While pointing up, call loudly “Infield fly, if fair the batter is out”.  The other umpire should echo this call in a loud voice.     

    4. Time:  Indicated by extending both arm above your head with fingers extended.  This signal is used when: 

      1. The ball becomes foul.

      2. The ball becomes dead for any reason.

      3. When a coach or player makes an appropriate request for time.

      4. When there is offensive interference.

    5. Fair/Foul:  Indicated by pointing towards fair or foul territory while facing down the foul line in question.  Note:  When the ball is foul, first indicate time followed by pointing into foul territory.  Also for a foul ball it is only necessary to point when the ball is hit near the foul line.  If ball is hit out of the playing area or is far from the foul line it is not necessary to point, just indicate time.
      Pointing the ball fair or foul can be done with either the left or right arm as appropriate and may be done with the mask in the plate umpire’s hand, it should not be done by pointing across your body.

    6. Strike:  May be indicated by using either the Hammer style or the Point style.  With the Hammer, the upper arm should be parallel to the ground and the hammer motion (similar to rapping on a door with the edge of your fist) should be in the general direction of the mound.  When using the Point, step or lean into the direction of the point.  For call strike both of these signals must be accompanied by a voice call.  For swinging strikes remain silent by give the hand signal.

    7. Foul Tip:  Indicated by extending the arm closest to the batter and either tapping the wrist with the other hand or swiping the wrist with the other hand, followed by the strike signal.  Do not vocalize a foul tip since the ball remains live.

    8. Out:  An out is generally indicated by a Hammer Style signal with the first accompanied by a verbal “He’s out”.   Usually the out signal is toned down for plays that are not close at all and the verbal portion may be dropped.  As plays become closer, the signal should become stronger and voice call should have added emphasis.  It is permissible to develop a Punch or similar move to give emphasis to very close plays.

    9. Safe:  A safe call is indicated by bringing the arms up to a straight out position in front of the body and the moving to the sides fully extended.  This should be done in one smooth motion.  As with the Out signal, when the runner is safe by a large margin it is not necessary to vocalize the safe, just give the hand signal.  Plays that are closer should be indicated with both the Safe signal and a vocal “Safe”.  Do not say “He’s safe”, just use the word safe.  If the play is very close, the signal an call can be doubled up.  Give the signal with a loud safe and then step towards the play and repeat the signal and call.

    10. Ball/Strike Count:         To give the count to the pitcher (or coach when asked) use the left hand to indicate balls and the right hand to indicate strikes.  A closed fist indicates zero and the appropriate number of balls and strikes are indicated by extending your fingers.  Do not use your thumb.  When giving the count do not flash it around the infield.  Give the count directly towards the mound and hold it long enough for the pitcher to see it.  If a coach asks for the count it is permissible to show the count towards him.  Also give the count vocally with the hand signals occasionally during the at bat.  Usually after the first three pitches and also when the count reaches 3 and 2.  Give the count as 2 and 1, or 2 balls – 1 strike.  Never use a whole number (i.e. 31) nor the word “full count.”

  5. When giving pre-pitch communications signals, keep the signals below your shoulders and only use enough movement to get the point across to your partner.  Try not to draw the attention of anyone but your partner.  Use only one hand to give pre-pitch signals.  Do not use the Hawaiian good luck gesture (Texan “hook’em horns”) to indicate a rotation play.