For whatever reason, 2021 has been quite the year for Major League umpires. From awful strike zones to simply guessing on catches in the outfield, this year’s umpiring has often been less than stellar. Unfortunately, terrible umpiring also happens in the minor leagues, to the detriment of top Royals prospect Bobby Witt, Jr.
The scene: in Tuesday night’s game, Witt hit an absolute no-doubt home run 430 feet to left field. It was his second home run and would be one of three hits in the day. But despite clearly touching home plate, Witt was called out by the ump. Here’s the video:
Well...— NW Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) June 9, 2021
Bobby Witt Jr. mashes one 430 feet to left field but the home plate umpire says he didn’t touch home plate after circling the bases...
So this goes down as a really, really long triple. pic.twitter.com/mrYKnRSnGh
Witt shuffles at the end, but he stares down and makes sure that he touches home plate. Witt knows what happens when you don’t touch home plate—it’s an out. In fact, this same thing happened earlier in the day in Pittsburgh. Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a home run but didn’t step on first base, and since you’re only rewarded a base if you step on it, continuing around counted as an out.
The umps made the correct call on Hayes, but as you can see in Witt’s video, they did not do so with Witt. It’s as clear as possible with Double-A cameras at that angle that he touches home plate. Though grainy, this screenshot is about as clear as you can possible get: Witt absolutely touched home plate.
Zoom in and take a look at the white around his shoe—not only does it look like Witt stepped on home plate, but he stepped right in the middle of it. Now, is it possible that the ump made the right call? Maybe, to be charitable. But again, Witt was staring down as he crossed it. If he missed the plate, he would have gone back and tagged it. I’m going to trust the player in this scenario. This is not Witt’s first career home run.
UPDATE: Witt indeed says he touched home plate.
UPDATE UPDATE: Different videos have entered the chat, and at the very least it is clear that it is...no longer clear?
Personally, I still think he touches the plate, and neither of those angles are definitive. But there’s certainly more intrigue!
The good thing for the Royals is that touching home plate is independent of the skill it took to mash the home run in the first place, which is what really counts. Human umpires: gotta love ‘em, because there’s no alternative right now.