On the website www.umpirebible.com, it is stated that the strike zone has “no lines that mark it, no buzzers or bells that go off when it’s touched.” This is true. But we know where it is. It is that rectangular box above home plate. According to the USA SB rule book, the strike zone is “that space over any part of home plate, when a batter assumes a natural batting stance adjacent to home plate.” In FP, it is “between the batter’s arm pits and the top of the knee.” In SP, it is “between the batter’s back shoulder and the front knee.” Of course, veteran FP umpires know that the older the player, the lower is the top of the strike zone. And all the ball must be above the knee.
We know that if any part of the ball crosses any part of the plate, it is a strike. The diameter of a 12-inch softball is 3.8 inches. So, if we add 17 inches and 3.8 inches and 3.8 inches, we get the actual width of the strike zone of 24.6 inches. For training purposes, I cut a piece of plywood 24.6 inches wide and painted on it a 17-inch home plate.
What do great umpires say about calling strikes?
“New umpires tend to be egregiously high and much too narrow with their strike zones. Add the full width of a softball to both sides of the black.…Don’t miss any strikes. Call a wide plate and do it consistently for both teams….Calling a wide plate offers many benefits. With an aggressive zone, the batters will likewise be aggressive. Many more pitches will be hit and the fielders will play better defense because they will be ready for action. The game will be better, faster, and more interesting and your ratings will improve.”
Jay Miner, Referee magazine, November 1997
“You ought to look for strikes…. Pick the correct answer. Calling strikes is better than calling balls because…
Batters come to the plate ready to swing
The game goes faster
Most pitchers can throw strikes, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt
The strike call is more dramatic
All of the above
…by far the most popular answer is (5).” p.205
Carl Childress, The Baseball Umpire’s Encyclopedia, 2012
“What I am saying is that when I have a borderline pitch, I try to call it a strike.”
Tim Welke, major league umpire, Referee magazine, July 1994
Rule of thumb for calling strikes- On a borderline high or low pitch, give the benefit of the doubt to the batter and call a ball. On a borderline outside or inside pitch, give the benefit of the doubt to the pitcher and call a strike.
1. Make your verbal call while still in the set position, then rise and make the strike signal if a strike.
2. For a swing and a miss, verbalize nothing, but rise and signal strike
3. For the called third strike, in FP you may give the “bow and arrow” signal but be aware of the age of your batter.
4. For the called third strike in SP, just announce “Strike” then add “Three.” The “Three” should be a little louder that your other strike calls.
David Martin, April 2018
"Let me know how I can help you achieve your officiating goals."
David Martin, Denton, Texas
World Baseball Softball Confederation Certified
USA Softball Umpire 38 years
USA Softball National Indicator Fraternity/Elite
USA Softball of Texas District 13 Umpire in Chief Slow Pitch