THE "PAUSE - READ - REACT" TECHNIQUE
When a fly ball or line drive is hit to the outfield, that could possibly be a "trouble ball," the base umpire must determine whether or not he/she should go out on the ball. In order to make this decision, the base umpire should use a procedure called the pauseread-react technique. In this technique, after the ball has been batted the base umpire will hesitate momentarily ("pause"), actually take his/her eye off the ball, and focus his/her attention on the reactions of the outfielder ("read"). The outfielder's reactions will then tell the base umpire whether or not he/she should go out on the ball ("react"). In other words, by the base umpire hesitating momentarily and taking his/her eye off the ball so as to "key" off the outfielders, he/she will be able to tell if the play looks like "trouble," indicating that he/she should go out on the ball. (By "trouble" we mean balls such as fair/foul decisions down the right field line, home runs, balls off the outfield wall, diving catches by the outfielder, catches at the warning track or at the wall, catches made by the outfielder with his/her back towards the infield, catches made by the outfielder below his/her waist on a full run, three players converging on a fly ball, etc.) Again, by the base umpire watching for the outfielder's reactions, he/she will be able to tell if there is a possibility of "trouble" on a particular fly ball or line drive, thereby indicating that he/she should go out on the ball.
Specifically, the base umpire should be looking for any of the following four reactions from the outfielders, any one of which would indicate that he/she should go out on the ball:
(1) The outfielder is running hard in towards the infield as though he/she is going to make the catch on a dead run (or as though he/she will dive to make the catch). (In addition to this, the infielders will usually be yelling "in, in, in!" on such a play.) This would be an indication that the base umpire should go out on the ball.
(2) The outfielder has turned his/her back to the infield and is running towards the outfield wall with his/her back to the infield. This is another indication that the base umpire should immediately go out on the ball.
(3) Three fielders (for example, the center fielder, right fielder, and 2nd baseman) are all converging on the ball, and it appears that any one of the three might catch the ball. This again is another indication that the base umpire should go out.
(4) The right fielder is running towards the right field line (i.e., towards his/her left), and it appears that a fair/foul decision may have to be made on the line. (Note that a fair/foul decision should be made any time the ball drops, or is initially touched, within approximately 20 feet of the foul line.) Again, this would be another indication that the base umpire should go out (only when the base umpire is in the A position).
By the base umpire hesitating momentarily, taking his/her eye off the ball, zeroing in on the reactions of the outfielders, and watching for the movements described above, he/she will gain a very good indication of whether or not he/she should go out on a ball with no one on.
Should the base umpire observe any one of the four preceding keys which would indicate he/she should go out on a ball, he/she would communicate to the plate umpire that he/she is going out by shouting at his/her partner, "Going out!" or "I'm going out!" He/she would then run to the outfield, getting the best possible distance and angle for the play. The base umpire should slow his/her run down to a virtual stop as he/she feels the play is about to occur. Moreover, should the ball require a fair/foul decision down the right field line, the base umpire must make sure he/she is completely stopped and set for this particular call. (The same would be true for a home run decision, particularly if it were a home run call close to the right field foul pole.) In other words, if the decision is a fair/foul decision down the right field line (or a fair/foul home run decision), the base umpire must be certain he/she comes to a complete stop and set while straddling the foul line when observing the play.
On a fly ball or line drive which will be fielded near the foul line, the base umpire should indicate fair or foul by pointing in the appropriate direction the moment the ball is touched by the fielder. Then, after the fair/foul indication has been made, the umpire will wait for the catch or no catch to occur and signal that (when needed). Umpires should remember: Fair/foul FIRST, THEN catch/no catch.