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Recently, a few parents and players have talked to me about the ‘strike zone’ issues. Usually, they describe a bad call or two that the ump called on their son or daughter which resulted in a strikeout. I also had a parent submit a video recently in a 10u elite travel ball game where the pitcher appeared to be lobbing the ball in.
This article is important because it’s going to help you reframe your expectations of the umpire and give you a strategy based on your hitting style and size that will help you control the zone as a hitter.
Before I get into the “Strike Zone Secrets”, we must define the strike zone. MLB.com defines the strike zone as follows:
“The official strike zone is the area over the home plate from the midpoint between a batter's shoulders and the top of the uniform pants -- when the batter is in his stance and prepared to swing at a pitched ball -- and a point just below the kneecap. In order to get a strike call, part of the ball must cross over part of the home plate while in the aforementioned area.”
Now that we’ve defined the strike zone, here are 2 facts about umpires and a strategy that will help you get more pitches you want to hit versus take based on your size and hitting strengths.
The strike zone at most youth tournaments MUST be larger than the MLB definition. Players are LEARNING...and honestly, so are the umpires, coaches, and parents. In the video below, Garret stands in different parts of the batter’s box and we freeze-frame the ball at different ‘strike zone possibility calls’.
As you can see, those pitches crossed Garrett at different places based on where he stood in the box. For the record, those pitches were intended to simulate a coach pitch or 9u game pitch from an average pitcher.
Umpires, parents, and players all would perceive those pitches differently depending on where they stand and how tall they are as a player. Check out the video below to see a 9u game and an example of game pitches looking like the one we demonstrated previously.
Players, coaches, and parents must be able to understand the umpire’s perspective on balls and strikes. And while they won’t always call balls and strikes to the letter of the law, their word is the law. And their perception and decision are all that matters.
Umpires at the triple crown elite winter world series in Rocky Mount, NC are not highly paid individuals. They aren’t highly trained either. They are usually parents of players who no longer play ball that just love to be around the game. Sometimes, they’re younger kids looking to make an extra buck on the weekends or even volunteers helping out for community service hours.
None of these umpires are malicious or hate you or your player. All of these umpires are doing the best they can and have no intention of screwing up the game or making incorrect calls.
This will give the pitch more time to ‘fall’ into your hitting zone. If you’re a taller player, and low pitches get you out, stand more towards the front to increase the chances of getting a higher pitch. In both of those pitches in Garrett’s video, the catcher would have caught the pitch at perfect ‘target’ height. Because of this, it is extremely important for shorter players to stand in the back of the box to give them and umpires the most realistic view of THEIR strike zone.