Changing Calls

By Richard Siegel from notes taken from a clinic by Carl Childress
Edited by Steve Orinick

Umpire ConferenceOne of the most difficult situations between the lines is when an umpire must decide whether or not to reverse a call that has been made. Whenever an umpire reverses the call of another, most often trouble is sure to follow. Usually half of the participants are going to be disagreeable to any call adjustment. However, though this was not the case only a few years ago, the primary objective is to get the call correct. Other than a checked swing reversal, generally the umpiring crew should get together, discuss the situation and any reversal should be made by the umpire who made the original call. Below are some guideline as to when a call may or may not be reversed.


There are six recognized situations where a call can be reversed:

1. Half-swing at a pitch called a ball: The Plate Umpire judges that the batter did not make an attempt to hit the ball or he didn’t see the batter’s offer, and that the ball did not pass through the strike zone. Then only if asked by the Plate Umpire for help, the appropriate Base Umpire should indicate that the ball is a “strike” if he judges as such and the Plate Umpire should reverse the call.

2. Two umpires make opposite calls on the same play: The umpires should meet privately and discuss it, but it looks best and will cause the least trouble if the call by the umpire closer to the play stands. This should never occur, but in the real world, unfortunate events do happen.

3. Partner misinterprets a rule: If your partner applies the wrong base award or penalty you may ask him to meet privately and discuss it, but the umpire who made the mistake must agree to correct it and do so himself. This can be the result of:

4. The reversal results in a dead ball: An event occurs, unseen (or not acknowledged) by the umpire responsible for the call that would cause a dead ball. Examples are:

5. Ball dropped after a tag on a runner: When an umpire responsible for the call clearly errs in judgment because he did not see a ball dropped. If the ball is dropped after a tag where the runner is called “out,” it may be reversed if doing so would not put the defense at a further disadvantage.

6. Balks called by an umpire who clearly did not realize the pitcher’s foot was off the rubber.

Calls that should rarely be changed

Any judgment call: such as a out/safe, balk, obstruction, interference, fair/foul, ball/strike (with the exception of a checked swing).

Calls that may NEVER be changed

Call of “foul!” or “foul ball!” where the ball touches the ground, even if made in error. The ball is then treated as if it actually was foul. This rule is specifically contained in the NFHS rule book and is not in the OBR.
EXCEPTION: If the inadvertent call of "Foul!" was made while the ball was in-flight and was then subsequently caught for an out, the call of foul is ignored.

An ejection of a player, coach, or participant.

Special NFHS rule to know when a call is changed: Baseball: Rule 10-2-3.L, or Softball 10-2-3.m:
The Umpire-in-Chief [may] rectify any situation in which an umpire's decision that was reversed has placed either team at a disadvantage.

Umpire Communication / Umpire Tips

Page back