As a professional baseball or softball umpire, you don't want to keep track of balls, strikes and outs with your fingers. Thankfully, there's a tool to help you keep track of everything. There are also tools to keep you safe and a tool to keep the plate spick-and-span. There's even a tool that lets you store all your other tools. Umpires who work major league or minor league games have tools supplied to them by the leagues themselves. Those who umpire at the amateur level, such as for college or high school games, might need to supply their own tools.
No matter how good your memory is, remembering how many strikes a batter has or if there's one or two outs isn't easy, especially as the game drags on. That's why umpires carry an indicator with them so they won't have to overtax their minds. An indicator is a small tool that typically has three dials -- one to keep track of strikes, another for balls and the last one for outs. Some indicators have a fourth dial that tracks what inning you're in. You spin the dial and the number in the corresponding category changes.
While you won't need much in the way of protection if you're a base umpire, you will need some armor when standing behind the plate. Leg guards wrap around the front of your legs and protect your shins and knees from deflected balls. A mask is vital to prevent facial injuries. Some umpires prefer only the mask while others prefer a full helmet and cage. To keep your chest and shoulders safe, always wear a chest protector. Most protectors come with shoulder guards. Some umpires opt for the cheaper foam shield. You'll need to hold the shield out in front of you at all times as opposed to the protector, which you wear. Another disadvantage of a shield is it might not protect your shoulders. Some umpires also wear feet guards, which slide over the top of your shoes. Some leg guards come with feet guards.
Home plate gets dirty in a hurry, so after every half-inning it usually needs to be dusted off so the pitcher has an idea of the strike zone. Since wiping off the plate with your hand isn't very effective, you'll need a plate brush to do the job. If you have to purchase your own brush, you might want one with a scraper on the end so you can scrape away caked-on dirt that tends to build up along the edges of the plate.
An umpire bag is similar to a fanny pack, except more fashionable and without zippers. The bag clips around your waist and has room for your plate brush, indicator and extra balls that you can toss to the pitcher, or hand to the catcher, when one flies out of play.
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