Beginner’s Guide to Baseball Umpire Signals: What Do Those Hand Signals Mean? 

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Attention all Baseball Buddies! Get ready for an awesome journey into the world of Baseball.

Have you ever found yourself wondering about the mysterious signals that umpires give during a game? 

Do you get the feeling that you are missing essentials in the game as you don’t understand the signs?

Well, fear not because in this blog post we’ll be diving into the world of baseball umpire signals. 

From strike calls to safety signs, we’ll explore each gesture and its meaning so that by the end, you’ll never have to question an umpire’s call again. 

So grab your peanuts and cracker jacks and let’s get started!

Basic Umpire Signals

Umpire signals are used to communicate the umpire’s decisions to players and coaches on the field. 

They help players understand the outcome of a play and keep the game moving smoothly. There are six basic umpire signals in baseball:


In addition to raising their right hand and making a forward punching motion with it, the umpire may also call out “strike” verbally. 

The strike symbolizes that the pitch was in the strike zone which helps all the players and the audience to note that it was a strike and avoid any confusion. 

Out or strike


“Ball” is symbolized by extending the umpire’s left hand to the side. This indicates that the direction in which the pitch is missed is the strike zone. 

For example, if the pitch was low and outside, the umpire might extend their left arm out to the left as well as point toward first base with their right arm.


When the umpire signals a foul, they may also call out “foul” verbally. 

Also, the umpires may shift their body in a suitable position to get a better view of the path followed by the ball and to assure that the ball went outside the foul lines, along with pointing down at the foul line with their right arm. 

baseball foul signal


Along with extending their right arm and pointing down the first baseline, the umpire may also call out “fair ball” verbally. 

This signal lets the players and coaches on the field know that the ball is in play and that runners should advance accordingly.

Fair ball signal baseball


When the umpire signals an out, they may also raise their right arm above their head before making the punching motion. 

The importance of this signal is that it indicates that the play is over and all the players should go back to their bases.

Out baseball signal


In addition to extending both arms outward and to the sides, the umpire may also call out “safe” verbally. 

This signal lets everyone on the field know that the runner has successfully reached base and that play should continue.

Safe signal

*Source for graphics: NFHS

Advanced Umpire Signals

In addition to the basic umpire signals, several advanced signals are used to indicate specific situations on the field.

Infield Fly

The infield fly signal is a preventive measure taken to protect the offensive team from an unfair double-play opportunity. 

This signal indicates that after hitting when the ball is in the air and the umpire predicts that infielders will catch the ball without putting in any extra effort.

If the signal is made and the ball is not caught, the batter is not out by way of the infield fly rule.

Delayed Dead Ball

The delayed dead ball signal is used by the umpire to allow for any action that may happen on the field before calling the play dead. 

This gives opportunity to both runners and fielders either to advance or make a play respectively.

Significantly, the umpire holds the signal until the play is dead to avoid confusion.


The time signal is used to temporarily stop play for various reasons, such as to deal with an injured player, a disputed call, or inclement weather. 

The umpire will call out “time” and make a “T” motion with their hands to communicate the stoppage of play.


The obstruction signal is used to indicate a violation of fielding rules. 

In cases when the fielder unnecessarily blocks the way of the runner even though he does have the ball, umpires award the appropriate base to the runner by pointing in the direction of obstruction with their right arm. 


Interference signals indicate that a player has interfered with the natural course of play intentionally or unintentionally. 

The umpire will extend their arms straight out to the side horizontally to signal a dead ball due to interference.

Dead Ball

A dead ball signal indicates that a pitch is called a ball or strike, in case of an error on the field, or when interference occurs.  

When the dead ball is signaled, the umpire crosses both arms in front of themselves, indicating that play has ended and the ball has left the field.

Baseball umpire signals

Rules for Umpire Signals

Umpire signals hold significance in the whole game and it is expected that they use signals clearly and consistently for a smooth game. 

To ensure this consistency, the rules for umpire signals are standardized across all levels of play.

Umpires must be capable enough of quick decision-making with great accuracy. This not only helps in effective communication with the players but also with the coaches and fans. 

Additionally, umpires must ensure their fingers or hands do not touch their face or mouth while making signals to prevent the potential spread of communicable diseases. 

Finally, umpires must follow procedures for signaling plays in specific situations, such as the infield fly rule, obstruction, and interference. 

By following all the rules of games, umpires have the power to ensure a smooth and easy flow of the game and also to keep all the involved parties informed by using signals. 

Umpire Signals and Instant Replay

Baseball umpire signals have been a crucial part of the game for decades. The hand signals help umpires communicate their decisions to players, coaches, and fans. 

With the rise in innovation and the use of instant replay technology in games, the importance of the umpire’s signal has become even more significant.  Instant replay allows officials to review close calls, and accuracy is key for making the right call. 

Umpires must be clear and consistent in their signals so that the review process can go smoothly. 

The umpire must be capable of effectively communicating and explaining their signals to other officials for which they must pay attention to details. 

If technology is incorporated with the skills of an umpire, then the fans and audience will have confidence in the decisions made by them and consider the game as fair play.

Importance of Umpire Signals

Baseball Umpire signals are essential for maintaining the integrity of the game. 

While making an important decision all the involved parties must be on the same page which is possible only by effective communication. 

Umpire signals must be clear and consistent so that everyone understands what is happening on the field, from calling balls and strikes to indicating safeties and outs.

Without effective umpire signals, confusion can arise, and the game can become chaotic.

Common Umpire Mistakes

Mistakes that umpires commit can affect the whole game. Some of these mistakes are that the umpire for the sake of taking a quick decision gives a wrong decision without considering the evidence and situation properly. 

This type of mistake is committed when the umpires are required to make a decision and split second and so their judgment goes wrong. 

Another common mistake is failing to communicate effectively with other officials during a review. This can lead to inconsistent decisions and undermine the legitimacy of the replay process. 

To ensure fair and accurate execution of the game good communication and critical observation are essential. This also helps in avoiding mistakes and making sure the game is carried out smoothly. 

Umpire Signals in Different Leagues and Tournaments

Umpire signals can vary slightly from league to league and tournament to tournament.

However, most umpires follow a common set of signals that are recognized across different levels of play. 

For example, the signal for a strike is typically the same at all levels, with the umpire making a sweeping motion across their body with one arm.

Similarly, the signal for an out is usually a closed fist raised above the head.

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signals of baseball umpires

Umpire Signals in Youth Baseball

In youth baseball, umpire signals may be simplified or adapted to better suit the skills and understanding of younger players. 

For example, umpires may use exaggerated gestures or verbal cues to help players understand the call. They also show leniency when a player is not aware of what particularly the rules or signs indicate or how to respond to those signs. 

Overall, umpires in youth baseball must balance the importance of accurate calls with the need to nurture the growth and development of young athletes. 

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And that concludes our tour of Baseball Umpire Signals. What did you think?

Umpires have an important role in baseball, and it is essential to understand their signals. 

From the strike three calls to a safe base running signal, umpire hand gestures are very diverse and have been used for decades by all levels of baseball play. 

Knowing these signals helps the audience and the players to know the decision of the umpires immediately and they can respond accordingly.

With these tips, you should now be an expert in understanding baseball umpire signals!

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James Arnold
I'm James, and I live in Stanislaus County, California. I'm playing Baseball for many years, and I love this sport so much that I also encourage my kids (Danny and Sara) to play Baseball & Softball.