First Game Thoughts for 2024

The 2024 season has begun and I wanted to give my thoughts on my first game. I worked a 1-umpire JV game with a 5-run limit per inning. Here is the box score:

1 2 3 4 Final
R 5 0 0 3 8
J 5 5 5 3…Run Rule* 18

*10 after 4 innings for this particular league

I’ve talked to some umpires that feel that working a low-level JV game weakens their skills as an umpire; however, I would like to argue the opposite. First, if you are a less experienced umpires, you need to hone your ability to call every kind of rule that can happen. That will only happen by working many JV or recreation league games. If you are an experienced umpire, it is always good to review how to call so many rules that rarely happen in a high-level varsity game. But when these rare rule infractions DO happen in a varsity game, you better do it correctly.

Below is a list of all the rules that were called in my first game of the season:

  1. Runner leaving early on the pitch.
    • “No Pitch”, immediate dead ball, runner is out.
  2. Illegal Pitch
    • Delayed Dead Ball. Result of Play or Ball on batter.
  3. Obstruction at 1st base and at home on an inside the park home run.
    • Delayed Dead Ball. Protect the runner to the base they would have achieved if out.
  4. Cather’s Obstruction
    • Delayed Dead Ball. If batter does not reach first, the offensive coach gets choice of the result of the play or the penalty.
  5. Run Scores Question # 1
    • Batter hits a double and 2 runs score to make a total of 6 runs for the inning. Because of the 5-run limit, the team only gets 5 runs.
  6. Run Scores Question # 2
    • Run scores before the batter-runner is out at 1st. The team mistakenly thought that the run would score.
  7. Dropped 3rd
    • There were many dropped 3rd Sometimes the rule was in effect and sometimes it was not. Had to verbalize “Batter’s Out, Batter’s Out” several times.
  8. Substitution
    • Coach moved her pitcher to CF and then tried to put her substitute in for that player. It was a different player that had come out of the game.
  9. Using correct mechanics
    • On a force at 1st, the throw took F3 off the base and she tagged the runner. Verbalize “Tag…Out!” (in that order).
  10. Using correct mechanics
    • Verbalize, “Infield Fly, if Fair” used on a ball hit near the line.
  11. Fair/Foul
    • An assistant coach mumbled that the ball should have been fair because the player was in fair territory when it touched her glove. However, her glove was over foul territory.
  12. Game Management
    • The 3rd baseperson snapped at me when I called a player safe at 3rd. I explained that it was NOT a force play and she needed to tag her. I showed patience and understanding with the player that didn’t understand the rule.
  13. Substitution
    • I needed to take a minute to explain to the new coach how the re-entry rule worked as she didn’t understand when a player was no longer eligible to return to the game.
  14. Mistakes I made.
    • When the runner left early on the pitch, I mistakenly said “Dead Ball” instead of “No Pitch”
    • When the pitcher who threw very slowly, pitched toward the outside of the plate, I found myself leaning toward the outside as if to will the pitch to be a strike. However, by moving my body, my brain was less likely to see it as a possible strike. I corrected my leaning and only moved my head.


Making all these calls in 1:45 minutes can only make me a better umpire. More experienced umpires need to make these calls immediately and smoothly and seeing them in action reinforces those skills. Less experienced umpires can read and know these rules; however, nothing can replace the practice of actually calling them over and over until it becomes second nature. Don’t misinterpret this as a “rite of passage”.  Please don’t email me and say: “I called 4 illegal pitches and 5 obstructions in my last game, I’m ready for a higher level.” I am just trying to get all umpires to appreciate the invaluable experience you get from working low-level JV and recreation league games.