Chapter 12: How to move an umpires strike zone in your favor
Keep in mind…all of the below is based on our experience pitching…what we have included in this blog does not always work but will sometimes give you the upper hand…some umps have no system or no “ideal” spot or seem to change it every inning…be relaxed with these umps and always show respect.
In the beginning the Umpire is neither your ally nor enemy, but you can easily make him either. He will watch you warm up and may comment on your style: “You’re close to Illegal” which of course means you are legal. If this or any other remark comes up, call him aside and ask him (with a smile) for his recommendation. No matter what it may be thank him for the tip and tell him (still smiling) “thanks, I will work on it”. Go back and continue warming up until you hear “play ball”.
After you have seen a few batters you will know his strike zone. He may favor one of the four edges, when you know which it is, start to work on that edge. Keep throwing at it and with every third or so pitch place the ball just a little further out of the zone. If you do this slowly, by the end of the game he may have moved his strike zone for you to a location the batters can’t deal with. Be sure and tell your coach the zone you are working on because the ump may apply the same zone to the other pitcher. If your team’s batters know this you have an edge. When your team bats the first couple of innings have someone behind home plate to see if their pitcher is doing the same as you are. If they are working another corner or edge you might remember to switch to it if you are having trouble moving your edge. This of course, depends on your bag of pitches. For instance if you have an excellent drop or curve ball you may be working the outside and down edges or corner. If the other pitcher is working the zone’s top and you don’t have a rise ball stick to your first choice. If you do this carefully after a few innings the game will be under your control. BUT you can lose this control if you either:
1) FORCING A CORNER: If you throw any pitch that you expect he would call a strike (because he has before) and you get a “ball” call DO NOT THROW THE SAME PITCH INTO THE SAME AREA RIGHT AWAY. The ump will call a second duplicate pitch exactly as the first pitch. If it was called a ball, so will the second pitch, even if he knows the first call was wrong. You have to put a few different pitches in between before you come back to the area you are working. In other words “Don’t force a corner” The good news here is if you get an unexpected strike call on a pitch clearly out of the strike zone come back with exactly the same pitch to the same location immediately. Do not try to extend this pitch location selection beyond the batter you are facing. Do everything you can to keep the ump from looking foolish in the manner he is calling your strike zone.
2) DISPUTING A CALLED PITCH: If you throw a pitch that was clearly a strike and complain about it you will be in trouble. If it happens a few times in the game you may step out of the circle and with a smile, ask him if the pitch was too outside or ? Whatever he says nod your smiling head “YES” and go right back into the circle and continue the game but with a different pitch. The ump and you both know he made a mistake and so does the crowd. If you ask this question and seemingly agree with his answer he is off the hook with the crowd….thanks to you! Now he owes you one! And, as a side note, after you do this a few times in a season your fans will catch on to what you are up to and smile knowingly. Fun for all!!!! This really works and gets easier to use as you gain in age and ability, see ”WORKING THE UMP” in the next chapter to see what else can be done to give you an edge with the umps.
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