Umpire Indicator Buying Guide

Feb 7th, 2018

Umpire indicators - often mistakenly called counters or clickers, because of their clicking sound while turning - are essential in keeping up with strikes, balls, outs and with some indicators the inning or score as well.

Umpire indicators are always referred to by their number of dials. A 3-dial records strikes, balls and outs while a 4-dial has an extra dial for inning (or score if needed).

Traditionally, the first dial has been for strikes. Newer models often have balls as the first dial. Given that you announce balls first when asked for the count, newer umpires often prefer a "balls-first" indicator (below) whereas veteran umpires are often used to the "strikes-first" indicator (above in both). It's your preference.

After you determine whether you want 3 dials or 4 and balls-first or strikes first, you're almost home.

From there, some indicators are plastic (above) and some are metal (below). Your choice comes down to a difference of feel. A metal one will feel somewhat heavier, generally be more durable and make your partner more envious. However, metal indicators have smooth surfaces and may slip a little in your hand with sweat. A plastic one has a more textured surface, will be more slip-resistant and is generally more value-priced.

The optic yellow dial indicators (above) have become the most popular in just the last few years and are the easiest-to-read, especially at night, compared to their white-dial counterparts.

Lastly, size may matter. Look for an oversized indicator if you have large hands and/or want it to fit more ergonomically in your hand.

Look for a standard 3-dial indicator if you have smaller hands. As you will be pulling your mask off with the same hand that your indicator is in, a smaller indicator may give you more room to grab your mask - something that might be especially helpful to new umpires. (Hint: all standard size 3-dial indicators are small unless marked "oversized".) 

more on indicators

Umpire indicators are listed by count. A 3/2/2 indicator is one that counts (or clicks) up to 3 balls, 2 strikes and 2 outs. A 4/3/3 does so to 4 balls, 3 strikes and 3 outs. Many have suggested that a 3/2/2 indicator is all that is needed considering when one makes it to either 4 balls, 3 strikes or 3 outs, either the at-bat or inning is over - and technically you never have to rest on any of those higher 4, 3 or 3 numbers.

One umpire indicator, the All-Star is sometimes referred to as a "braille" or "no-look" indicator. This indicator is notched differently with each wheel turn so you can feel which number strike, ball and out you are on rather than having to look when referencing the count. Getting used to this indicator takes a little practice, but many umpires swear by it after they do.

Rookies Only

Always hold your indicator in your left hand even if you are right handed. Because you make strike and out calls with your right hand, holding the indicator in your left lessens the chance the indicator "flies" out when you make your call.

Between innings, you can place it in your left pocket or in one of your ball bag's inner pockets.

Generally, an indicator is used for plate work only.

Store your indicator with other accessories such as your plate brush in a separate compartment or bag. Due to its size, it can easily get lost in your umpire equipment bag.

Best Practices

Keep a spare or back-up indicator in case you lose one or need to loan one to a partner.

About the Author

Picture of Jim Kirk

President Jim Kirk

Jim has had a passion for sports since he can remember. After playing baseball at Centre College, he worked as a high school umpire in Kentucky - during the Elbeco shirt years. He became involved in E-Commerce while working on an MBA in the early 2000s and bought Ump-Attire.com in 2006. Jim is proud of Ump-Attire.com's success, staff and sponsorship of various groups including Minor League Baseball Umpires, Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy and UMPS CARE, the charity of MLB umpires. He served on their board of directors and was named their 2015 Ambassador Award recipient.

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