The official definition of the Major League Baseball strike zone reads as follows:
“The strike zone is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The strike zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.”
There is also a line that pertains to the outer boundaries of the plate which, translated, means the black of the plate is considered part of the strike zone.
The same knees-to-letters strike zone applies to Maine high school softball.
Every umpire has his or her interpretation of the strike zone.
Your low ball umpires will give you a few more inches below the knee but will shrink the top of the zone. Your high ball umpires do just the opposite, giving you a few inches above the shoulders but taking a few away at the knees.
Some umps will give you a few inches off the outside corner and others will give you a few off the inside corner.
Every hitter must adapt to the umpire.
If you’re a hitter and a high ball umpire calls a third strike on you above the shoulders, that’s your fault. You didn’t adjust.
Hitters and pitchers alike will tell you that their primary concern is consistency. Whether you’re a high ball ump or a low ball ump or one who gives more of the outside corner or one who gives more of the inside corner, they just want you to be consistent.
Having witnessed a bunch of high school softball games to date, the umpiring has been respectable.
The home plate umps have been reasonably consistent and you can tell they enjoy what they do and are well-respected by the players and coaches as well they should be.
They are hardworking and conscientious.
But most of them have a small strike zone.
If anything, it should be larger.
These are high school girls not major league pitchers.
You want hitters to be aggressive.
You want them going up to the plate excited about taking their hacks.
A larger strike zone also moves the game along.
The fielders are up on their toes knowing a ball could be hit their way on any pitch.
One thing I learned coaching Little League was the importance of keeping your outfielders upright at all times.
It’s much more difficult for an outfielder to get a good jump on a fly ball if he or she has to get to their feet first from a prone position.
Plus, if they are in a prone position, the likelihood is that they are daydreaming and don’t know if there’s anyone on base, if there are any outs, who’s leading, what the inning it is and, in extreme cases, what sport they’re playing.
A small strike zone makes it even more difficult to keep them upright.
I am not asking umpires to call a strike if any pitch is within the area code.
All I’m asking is for them to consider a little expansion of the strike zone. Nobody likes a game to get bogged down with walks or three-ball counts.