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Ask the Ump

"Hey, Blue, what’s the call?!?”

At a time when practically everyone, from loyal follower of youth baseball to adult weekend warrior, has an opinion about the men in blue, County Baseball introduces an interactive service that allows you, the spectator, and them, the arbiters of the game, to have the last word – or at least the next best thing, a place to register your dispute and obtain the correct answer.

“Ask the Ump” provides a long needed forum for discussing and clarifying some of the most vexing and frequently occurring game situations that leave baseball fans young and old scratching their heads – not to mention other popular forms of expression. Where you, the coach, player, parent, and league official want answers, New Jersey Baseball Magazine is now here to provide them.

Simply convey your question, observation, or knotty problem to County Baseball through our Contact page. We will respond quickly with the explanation you seek, along with our rules’ sources of information. To get you started, here are three of County Baseball's favorites:

Submit your play or situation to New Jersey Baseball Magazine


MLB Logo Play #21 -Submitted by RJ

Play: Batter hits low line drive that strikes the front of the pitching rubber and caroms into the air. Before it hits the ground, an in-fielder catches the ball. Is it an out?

I've been playing for 35 years and never saw this call: The ump called the batter out. I always believed the rubber was like a base in the sense that a carom is treated as if it hit the ground. Am I right and the umpire wrong?


The game is played on a diamond-shaped playing field. The four corners of the diamond are the home plate, first base, second base and third base. In the middle of the infield is a raised mound – known as the pitcher’s mound – where the pitcher stands when pitching the ball to the batter. The area beyond the infield, which is bordered by the first and third baselines, is called the outfield.

Ruling: A batted ball that strikes the pitcher's plate and rebounds into foul territory before passing 1st base or 3rd base is a foul ball. If it stays in fair territory, the ball re-mains a fair ball, and the defense may make a play.

The pitching rubber is part of the playing field. In that sense, you are correct in saying that the ball has hit the ground when it touches the pitching rubber, much the same as if a batted ball strikes a base.

A difference arises between the two situations in that when a bat-ted ball hits a base it immediately becomes a fair ball. This is not the case when a batted ball hits the pitcher's plate, in which case it depends on where the ball caroms. In the situation you describe, the fielder has caught a batted ball that has already touched the ground - i.e., a ground ball. The batter is not out, as in a caught fly ball, until put out .


MLB Logo Play #22 -Courtesy of Fordham Sports Info, WFUV Radio 


A Matter of Perspective

Play: In a game versus Iona, Fordham rallies from 9-1 down to tie the game. With the score tied at 9 in the bottom of the 8th and bases loaded, Fordham goes ahead with game-winning hit. The base runner at first scores by leaping over the Iona catcher and landing on home plate with a handstand, to put Fordham ahead 12-9, which was the final score.

Ruling: If this incident were to take place in a MLB game, the MLB Rules do not discuss the case of runners leaping over defensive players attempting to make a play on them. MLB rules cover when a base runner runs more than three feet away from the baseline to avoid being tagged. Past practice and generally accepted interpretation concerns running outside the baseline left or right, not up-and-over. In this case, and until the MLB Rules cover somersaulting over defensive players by base runners, the base runner in a MLB game would not be declared out.

By contrast, the NFHS Rules prohibit base runners from “jumping, hurdling, and leaping” over fielders unless the fielders are “lying on the ground.” The NFHS Rules also specify that “diving over a fielder is illegal.” Consequently, a high school player who somersaults the catcher in an attempt to avoid being tagged would be declared out by the covering umpire.


MLB Logo Play #23 -Submitted by Ben 


The Running Lane
to 1st Base

Play: After a dropped third strike, my batter walks back to the dugout, but he doesn’t enter the dugout. What is the baseline for him to run to first base?


Staying in Your Lane

Ruling: This situation may pose problems depending on (1) where the batter actually is located when he/she decides to run to 1st base, and (2) the path he/she chooses to take in doing so. If the batter has walked completely back to the dugout or team bench and decides then to run, he/she must return to the established baseline from home to 1st. Usually, this baseline is clearly drawn on the field.

For example, the batter is not entitled to run in a direct line from a point immediately in front of his/her team bench to 1st base. In this instance, the covering umpire may rule the batter out for running outside the baseline.

A properly trained umpire will exercise reasonable discretion and use appropriate judgment in the case of a batter who walks only a few steps away from the home plate area before deciding to run.


MLB Logo Play #24 -Submitted by Tom M 

Play: The catcher, seeing that the runner from 3rd is attempting to steal home, reaches out over the plate to catch the pitch and then tag the runner. Is this a balk?


JACKIE ROBINSON
STEALING HOME • MAY 15, 1952

Ruling: This is a balk only if the catcher obstructs the batter in some way.

Rule 7.07 implies that the act of the catcher reaching out over home plate to field the pitched ball is not in itself interference, provided the catcher does not "step on or in front of home base...or touch the batter or hit his bat."

Also, the definitions of obstruction and interference must be taken into consideration. Regarding obstruction, the act of the catcher reaching out over home plate to catch the pitch meets the definition only if he "impedes the progress of any runner," or, in the case of the play you pose, the batter-runner.

The definition of defensive interference is satisfied only if the catcher "hinders or prevents (the) batter from hitting a pitch."


MLB Logo Play #25 -Submitted by Bobby R 

Play: Runner on third one out. batter hits ball to left field which is caught. Runner stays at third. Ball thrown in to third baseman. The Batter who is out continues to round first and pretend he is a runner drawing the throw from the third baseman who over throw's scoring the runner from third. Totally deceiving the defense.


Errant Throw or
Runners Interference?

This was in a Recreational Local league setting. I did read the rule in 7.00 the runner. It doesn't seem right that runners called out can still continue to advance to draw throws and plays so the other runners can advance???

Ruling: In determining interference, umpires have discretion based on "an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, hinders, or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." - MLB Rule 2.00 (a)

Rule 7 provides only partial guidance in the play situation that you pose. MLB Rule 7 states that a runner continuing to advance after he has been put out "shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering, or impeding the fielders." - MLB Rule 7.09 (e)

In the play you cite, interference occurs because the batter-runner commits an act that confuses a fielder attempting to make a play. The fielder's overthrow out of play is action that occurs during a dead ball, because, as it further states at the end of MLB Rule 2.00, on any interference "the runner is out and the ball is dead."

The dead ball prevents the runner at 3rd from advancing on the overthrow by the third baseman.


MLB Logo Play #26 -Submitted by Jonathan R 

Play: As a pitcher, how can I lengthen my stride to the plate? Do you know any drills that I can do to work on this?

Ruling: One way that ‘Ask The Ump’ has seen hard throwers have improved control, while simultaneously increased velocity, is to concentrate on reaching as far back as you can, as you start your delivery to the plate. The best major league pitchers reach so far back that their pitching hands nearly touch the ground behind them AS THEY'RE BEGINNING THEIR STRIDE TOWARD THE PLATE.

This has the effect of twisting or torqueing the body into a coiled spring, so that when you step toward the plate, the momentum that you generate keeps your center of gravity low, 'pulling' your arm to the same release point every time you deliver a pitch. Your throwing arm actually 'follows' your lower body as it uncoils into a max power-max control mechanic.

You end up positioned square to the plate, ready to field a batted ball coming back at you. Your feet land in perfect fielding position, every time, regardless of whether you throw a straight ball or junk, if you execute this technique properly.

IT'S NOT ABOUT SHEER ARM STRENGTH, AND IT'S NOT ABOUT 'PUSHING' OFF THE MOUND. IT'S ABOUT MAXIMUM TORQUE OR TWIST OF THE BODY INTO THAT COILED SPRING ACTION AND REACTION.

Another way to think of this mechanic is that your low center of gravity brings your back knee, DURING YOUR DELIVERY, as close to the ground as possible. If you watch old clips of Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson, you'll see exactly what we mean. (Bob Gibson was the toughest pitcher we ever saw, and Don Drysdale the meanest, while Greg Maddux was the most technically proficient and Sandy Koufax the smartest.)


Bob Gibson
Torqueing Up

Greg Maddux'
Low Center of Gravity

Sandy Koufax:
Flawless Mechanics

As far as present day pitchers go, NJB believes that Chris Lee and Mariano Rivera exhibit the best mechanics in this respect.


Chris Lee:
Modern Day Perfection

Mariano Rivera:
Rubber Meets the Road

‘Ask The Ump’ appreciates this opportunity to shed some light on this important pitching technique, because we see too many young arms literally ‘thrown out’ before they reach varsity and college levels. Power pitching has its merits in tournament and championship play, but learning to pitch with proper mechanics leads to longer careers on the mound. Young players, their coaches and their parents will do well to learn and apply proper mechanics rather than encouraging the undisciplined throwing of peas through brick walls during the developmental stages of training and physical growth.


MLB Logo Play #27 -Submitted by Jesse E 

Play: With a runner on 2nd and one out, the batter hits a soft liner over the shortstops' head into short left field for a single. The runner on 2nd does not run, thinking that the ball might be caught. The batter is obstructed rounding 1st and continues running to 2nd, where the defense tags both runners. What is the correct ruling?


Too Many Runners, Only One Base

Ruling: The batter is out when tagged with the ball. The batter is entitled to the base that, in the umpire’s judgment, he would have reached safely had the obstruction not occurred. In the play you cite, the batter could not have reached 2nd base safely, because the runner at 2nd did not advance on the hit. Therefore, the batter is not entitled to 2nd base, even though he was obstructed while rounding 1st.

In cases when two runners are on the same base, the preceding runner has the right to occupy that base. If tagged with the ball by the defense before he returns to the previous base, the following runner is declared out.


Submit your play, question or situation to New Jersey Baseball Magazine


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New Jersey Baseball & New Jersey Baseball Online are your original source for stories about the human interest side of baseball. Coverage ranges from travel team baseball and showcase tournaments to girls’ softball and women’s fast pitch to recruits and prospects; performance enhancing drugs and substances, such as steroids and human growth hormone (HGH); health & nutrition; sportsmanship; the best batting cages & baseball training academies, such as Frozen Ropes, The Hit Doctor, Zoned, Extra Innings, Batters Box, & Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy, women in baseball, youth baseball baseball history,, sports officiating and umpiring, field maintenance, men’s amateur baseball, and many others. NJB is also your first and best source for baseball rules and interpretations through its unique Ask The Ump feature.

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