FYI Blue, the strike zone is described in the rule book

Just had to bring this one up after finishing up the season. The rule book of every major organization takes the time and ink to print its definition of the strike zone in its respective rule book. So why do some umpires feel they need to develop and call their own strike zones?

This past weekend we had one umpire in particular who was just unbelievable. His strike zone appeared to be the size and shape of a shoebox. Not even a good pair of Timberlands either. More like a pair of pumps from the Junior Miss area.

We were in the field, our pitcher threw a pitch that crossed the plate above the knees. The Blue called it a ball. We asked where the pitch was and he indicated it was too low. He also wasn’t calling anything on the outside corner, and God forbid you should let the ball get any higher than the waistband. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room, especially for a finesse pitcher. What you wind up with is a lot of easily hit balls.

As reminder to the men and women in blue, the strike zone extends from the top of the knees to the armpits, and from one side of the plate to the other. The entire ball does not have to cross the plate to be a strike. As long as some part of the ball passes some part of the plate within the height detailed above it is a strike. That also means if you see a curve ball that actually curves as it crosses the front part of the plate, if it nips the plate it is a strike. Also, the height is determined by where the ball crosses the plate, not by where it is caught by the catcher. In other words, if a drop ball crosses above the knees while over the plate and winds up on the ground behind the plate, it is a strike.

I know a lot of you know it, and call it that way to the best of your ability. I also know it’s not easy to do — I’ve done it.  I hope that when you work with someone who decides the book rule isn’t good enough for him or her and decides to redefine the strike zone you will say something — either to the UIC, or to whoever runs the scheduling. The game is a lot more fun when you let the players play it.


About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on July 29, 2009, in Rules and Umpires. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This has been the worst year for us with the strike zone. Each umpire had their own and in most games it moved from pitch to pitch. It’s hard to teach 9 yr old girls the strike zone when one pitch at the eyes is a ball then the next one is a strike. Tournament officiating was much better than our league play. Guess it’s time to find a better league.


  2. Yeah, inconsistency is the worst. With the guy I described from last weekend he wouldn’t give us anything low, then all of a sudden he called a pitch at the shins a strike. Rung up a girl from the other team who didn’t know what hit her. Were you facing adult or kid umpires? Paid or volunteer? That has some bearing on it, of course. I will say in a couple of tournaments we saw some outstanding umpires so it’s not all bad news. Locally I really liked the blues from GLOA. But it does drive me crazy when an umpire inserts himself into the game, or tries to “even it out” by calling a tighter zone on the pitcher he perceives to be better. Again, stick the book as best you can and I’ll have no complaints.


  3. Rick Cartwright

    We had a mixed season with umps. Seemed to be whether they were training new blues. I think we had the same ump you did Ken. He had no idea of the slot, set up about four fett directly behind catcher (no kidding) and only called what he could see (not much). More than one tea complained and when they reviewed his mechanics, he was instructed and it got somewhat better. BTW, this was a qualifier. There were many crews set up in this way and the results were the same, poor and inconsistant calling. I know you need to be in there to learn, but not at those levels (14-18). Other tourneys they were great.


  4. It is unfair to all those girls out there who work their pitching craft to have everything taken away and given to a speedballer who throws it right down the gullet. I’ll never understand an umpire who wants to make the game go slower by shrinking the zone.


  5. Agree. I wonder sometimes if they’re trying to introduce more scoring into the game by forcing pitchers to throw meatballs. But that’s not their job. If the associations want to change the rulebook to shrink the zone, then do it. Otherwise, call the zone the pitchers have been working to learn. No one wins in a walkfest.


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