No player or coach may ever question the call of an umpire that involves a matter of judgement (e.g., fair/foul; ball/strike; tag/no tag). The umpire’s call is considered final. Any questioning or challenging of such calls will result in a warning from the umpire; persistence will result in ejection from the game.
Players and coaches may, however, question the interpretation of a rule and how it is applied (e.g., how many bases are awarded a runner, and from what point, if a live ball thrown by a fielder goes out of the playing area; the consequences of a foul tip on the second vs third strike; the consequences of a coach nudging his/her base runner to get running; etc.). While coaches and players are strongly encouraged to do their homework by reading and learning the rules, such enquiries are generally welcomed, provided they are civil and short, because they help build a better understanding of how the rules apply.
The routine for an enquiry of an umpire is as follows:
- Wait for play to stop.
- Request “time” from the Umpire (often called “Blue”).
- When – and only when – the umpire calls time and invites you to come onto the field, enter the field. (Note that you “request” time; the umpire “calls” it.)
- Go directly to the umpire and keep the conversation quiet and civil – i.e., no big public scene.
- Ask the umpire what the rule was, how it applied, what he/she saw and why he/she thinks it applies.
- If you have a different interpretation/understanding, point that out and ask if the umpire agrees if it applies, and if not, why not.
- If the response does not seem adequate, ask if the umpire minds checking with his/her partner. (He/she may not always agree to do this, but often will, for maximum certainty.)
- Accept the umpire’s final decision.
- NEVER go onto the field without umpire’s permission, and especially NEVER go on with the opposing coach. Wait until the other coach has been dealt with and has left the field, and if any issues remain unclear or unresolved, ask for YOUR solo turn with the umpire. Make sure your bench remains silent during your conversation.
- Remember that we are ALL learning – umpires too. Besides, as former Umpire In Chief Doug Diak says: “Umpires are not always right, but they’re never wrong.”