You Be the Umpire

You Be the Umpire


Now it’s your turn to be the umpire. Here’s an activity to see how well you can make the same calls umpires make.

The purpose of this activity is to play the role of an umpire and see if you can make accurate calls of pitches traveling in or out of the strike zone. You will compare your ball and strike calls with those of others and review the pitches afterwards on videotape.


  • Safety mask
  • Safety cup
  • Chest protector
  • Baseball
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Ball and strike data sheets


Set Up
Prepare a data sheet to use during the activity (see below). Give one sheet to the umpire, the batter, the pitcher, and the camera person. Have the camera person set up behind home plate with a camcorder behind home plate. Each person should record data about the pitches on a log like this:

Umpire 1




Pitch Location

Pitch 1






Pitch 2






Pitch 3






Umpire Location (Choose One)

__ Directly behind the plate
__ To the right of home plate
__ Behind the mound

Review the strike zone. Below is an illustration of the “zone” approved by major league baseball.

strikezone Step 1: You Be the Ump (Gather Data)
Take turns recording balls and strikes with a group of friends. You will need to go to a baseball diamond and have one person play the pitcher, the batter, and the umpire. Behind the umpire should be someone filming the action with a video camera. Take turns in each role. After each pitch, each person (not just the umpire) should record whether the pitch thrown was a ball or a strike. The hitter should not swing at any of the pitches.


Step 2: Change Umpire Position, Strike Zone, and Pitch Type
Repeat the above activity, but change the variables. For example, change the umpire’s position behind the plate. Instead of sitting directly behind the plate, set up at a slight angle to the right of the catcher. See if this helps your perception of the pitches as they cross the plate. In judging balls and strikes, the key thing to remember is to call the pitch a ball or strike based on where it is as it passes over the plate (not before or after). Next, put a new batter at the plate. The strike zone will change based on the height of the batter.

Last, experiment by throwing different pitches. If possible, try to vary the speed or trajectory of the pitches, i.e., throw a curve or fastball. Be careful not to throw anything the catcher can’t catch safely.

Step 3: Compare Data – Draw Conclusions
After everyone has taken turns umpiring, look at the video tape and compare the strikes called to what you see on “not-so-instant” replay. Would you change any of your calls if you could? Which pitches did everyone seem to agree on? Which ones did people see differently? Why were these pitches harder to agree on?

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