Ask the Umpire

Updated Sunday May 20, 2012 by PBSA.

ASK THE UMPIRE : I have been or currently am a PIAA, ASA, NFHS, College and USSSA umpire. I have over 12 years experince and have umpired national qualifying tornaments as well as nationwide competitions. The idea of ASK THE UMPIRE [A/U] is to allow PLAYERS, PARENTS, COACHES, and FANS THE ABILITY TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT PARTICULAR RULES, SCENARIOS, PLAYS, UMPIRE CALLS, and ANYTHING ELSE THAT PERTAINS TO THE GAMES OF BASEBALL, SLOW PITCH SOFTBALL and FAST PITCH. I will reply as promptly as possible and refer to the approprate rule book i applicable. So lets "PLAY BALL" 

This article has 18 Comments.
Ronald Sakolsky commented on May 27, 12:22pm
"After numerous phone calls, face to face inquiries and players questions ASK THE UMPIRE is going to welcome in the new season with a rule few know anything about. In fact about 99% of the spectators and members have no clue what a "catcher's balk" is and many have never seen one called. The other night in the late night pony game at the Plum Boro complex that was not the case. As the game went into extra innings and a runner on third a "catcher's balk" was called and the winning run was advanced to score. The question asked "DID THE UMPIRE MAKE THE RIGHT CALL?" In MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AND AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL the pitcher must pitch the intentional 4 balls for an intentional pass. In all other leagues including high school it is a verbal command from the coach or pitcher. PLUM BASEBALL does play UNDER MAJOR LEAGUE RULES unless they have an in-house rule that overrides the Major League rule. A "catcher's balk" is under Major League rule 4.03 states " the catcher must remain with both feet within the lines of the catcher's box until the ball LEAVES the pitcher's hand" FAILURE TO DO SO IS A BALK [runners advance one base]. Therefore "by the book" if the plate umpire felt the catcher left early he can call the catcher's balk and it is not an appealable play because it is the umpire's discretion. HOWEVER and this is a big HOWEVER making a call on a "catcher's balk" in extra innings to bring home the winning run is really a difficult call for a 12-14 year old to swallow as well as a coach and team. BUT A/U [ask the umpire] will never not justify or support the rule book and in this case the rule was followed. Fortunately from my understanding the umpires convened and the coach's [both teams] showed their disapproval with the call and the call was reversed. Kudos to the umpire crew for reversing the call and allowing the kids to determine the outcome of the game not a rarely used rule that nearly no one knows. Now the 99% that had no clue what a "catcher's balk" may drop to 95% but the umpire did. In the end the kids continued to play and a walk-off homer was hit and won the game any way. NOW EVERYONE KNOWS what ASK THE UMPIRE IS ALL ABOUT: questions, inquiries, seeking information or general knowledge. Have a great rest of the season and please keep your interest alive by dropping a line to A/U anytime. "
Mandy Shebeck commented on May 30, 11:56pm
"When the ball is hit in the base path say down 1st base line. The fielder has the right to field the ball. Now is the player bobbles the ball into foul territory, At this point does the fielder have to relinquish the base path to the runner? At this point is it a judgement call for interference by the umpire? Follow up, if not how much distance off the base path is the runner allowed to have to avoid contact with the fielder who may be reaching for the ball? "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on May 31, 4:38am
"REPSOND TO "INTERFERENCE" and Mandy Shebeck: Thank you Mandy for being the first of I hope many to use this link. You are correct that the fielder is entitled to field the “fair” ball. The batter-runner [which he is called until he reaches first base and then becomes the runner] must avoid “any hinderance in the judgment of the umpire” to the fielder making the play. HOWEVER, if the fielder bobbles the ball or misplays it the runner is entitled to progress toward to the base. You are also correct in that it is completely “a judgment call” by the umpire but the bobble should nullify the avoidance because the runner is responsible for his/her actions “under normal fielding circumstances; a bobble is not normal. Under MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL RULE 7.08(B) “the runner is out if he/she hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball whether it is intentional or not”. The runner is entitled to three feet outside of the baseline but keep in mind between 1B – 2B and 2B-3B there is no line so the runner establishes his/her own baseline from the point they turn to the next base and the next base. For example: if a runner overruns 1B and goes 20 feet down the first baseline and then turns to 2B his/her baseline is the point they turned and a direct point [2o feet up from 1B] to 2B. If HOWEVER the runner “to avoid interference” has to leave the baseline and the 3 feet area the umpire should take into consideration the scenario and rule accordingly. If the umpire deems the situation could warrant interference if the runner does not vacate the baseline or the 3 foot leeway and the runner does move further out the umpire should not rule on the interference. When you have umpire discretion on a unique play like this it is hard to stick strictly to the rulebook because it is “umpire discretion”. The foundation of umpire discretion is looking to allow both fielder and runner to play the game in a “normal” expected manner. Anything that causes a hinderance to a normal play can be construed as obstruction or interference. I hope this helped. FOR ANYONE ELSE LOOKING TO SEND INFORMATION OR QUESTIONS TO ASK THE UMPIRE :PLEASE submit 1- the level of play and 2- slow/fast softball or baseball with your submission. This helps in responding to rules from the different arenas that might apply i.e. ASA, Majors, Little League, In-House. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 1, 1:57pm
"SCOTT SEMBOWER TEXTED ME: with a runner on 2B and the batter walked on a passed ball the runner takes off for 3B. The catcher retrieves the ball and attempts to throw to 3B to pick off the runner. A player from the batting team's bench leaves the dugout to retrieve the bat and comes in the line of the throw- what is the call. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 1, 2:03pm
"reply to SEMBOWER- BENCH INTERFERENCE: This is a very interesting one because there is no rule specific to interference from the bench but I can handle it through , interference by a spectator [ rule 3.16 Major League and/or on-deck batter 7.1 D ASA]. Either rule is very specific “any interference by someone not on the field of play will “result in an out and according to ASA the runner closer to home is the out, unless there are no runners and then the batter is out.” A “bench interference” cannot be acceptable by an umpire at any time. Refer back to the previous A/U [ask the umpire] on “interference”. Both fielder and batter/runner have to be allowed to make a play in a normal situation.”. If that normal situation is altered there has to be a penalty imposed by the umpire. Mulligans are only in golf. I hope the runner going into 3B was called out and ball was dead so there was no other advancement other than the batter going to 1B on the walk. Thanks for the question. now I wrote this reply BEFORE hearing from a player at the game that the catcher DID NOT MAKE THE THROW. So let me clarify this response a little better. THE CATCHER MUST MAKE THE ATTEMPT TO THROW, even if that means the player coming off the bench gets hit by the ball. There is no way the umpire can ascertain that the player INTERFERED with the catcher's throw if the catcher does not make the throw. The decision to call the interference is made when the interference occurs and the interference does not occur if the catcher does not make the throw. I hope this clarifies it more. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 4, 9:17pm
"Question...runner on third leads, after the pitch the catcher throws down to pick him off and hits the runner in the back who is 2ft inside the foul line, what's the call? > Thanks > Al Deemer"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 4, 9:18pm
"hits runner in foul territory then there is no call. the runner is safe. if this were wiffleball the runner is out, lol. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 5, 1:26am
"CLARIFICATION FOR AL SEEMER: A/U apologizes for reading the question wrong but it was a chuckle but at my expense and no problem. The answer to the question asked: 2 feet inside [referring to "fair territiotry" is no call and play. It is an errand throw on the catcher. Runners are told tgo lead in foul territory and return in fair. Sorry Al for the misunderstand. Congrats on the win Sunday. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 5, 2:39pm
"There is no true rationale for fair return or foul but this question really spurred my curiosity so I delved deep into researching it. I have the official Olynpic Softball team rationale and it makes great sense. The runner should lead off third in foul to avoid being hit and actually SHOULD RETURN TO THE BASE IN FOUL: because by returning in fiar you are closer to the third baseman playing in front of the bag, SO RETURN TO THE BASE IN FOUL to make the tag harder. IF THE THRID BASEMAN IS PLAYING BEHIND THE BAG return in FAIR TERRITORY to [and I quote the Olympic team] "present an obstacle between the ball and the covering player". So 3rd baeman playing in FRONT OF THE BAG: runner leads foul and returns foul 3rd baseman playing behind the bag" runner leads foul returns fair A/U will do whatever it takes to get "you" the questioner the right answer; even scale the Green Monster of fenway if that is what it takes. "
Jon Salopek commented on June 23, 3:23am
"My daughter is 9 yrs old and plays minor slow pitch softball. She needs a new bat. Are there any restrictions as to what kind of bat she can use ?"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 23, 11:47pm
"to Ms Lynn Salopek: A new bat for your daughter should have the ASA 2011 stamp on it. Other than that you should check with your local softball association, for example if it is PBSA (Plum), and check the by-laws or rules for her division. I checked the PBSA and did not locate and restrictions. I would suggest checking the Internet for the best prices before buying something at Dick's or anywhere else you will probably find it cheaper online. Thanks for the inquiry. I hope it helped and I HOPE OTHERS REMEMBER THIS LINK AND USE has been awhile since anything has come across A/U's desk and Ask the Umpire was thinking everyone had forgotten this link is around to assist in any questions on rules, leagues, etc. of baseball and softball. Thanks again"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on July 1, 10:58pm
"ask the umpire wants to extend a very heart-warming thank you to all the PLUM PARENTS, PLAYERS AND FAMILY MEMBERS that stopped by or were on my field as I umpired at the Penn Trafford tournament. It was truly my pleasure to see everyone from the 9 year olds thru the 13's and all my fellow community members. CONGRATULATIONS to all of the Plum teams that made it through to the semi's and beyond and continued success. I hoipe to see you all again under continuing successful experiences. "
Jim McGrath commented on July 23, 3:17pm
"The ASA stamp is 2004, not 2011. The webpage that provides the list of non-approved bats can be found at"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on April 29, 11:56pm
"WE ARE BACK PLAYING BALL and ASK THE UMPIRE IS ALREADY ROLLING elsewhere and ready to go with the PBSA. Love the game , respect the kids and have a BALL. "
Ronald Sakolsky commented on May 3, 12:58am
"PIAA high school baseball this year instituted anew balk rule. There is no longer a third to first pick off move for the pitcher. Even though MLB still allows the third to first from the pitcher and Plum Pony plays by MLB RULES Pres. Sekerka Has confirmed that PBSA WILL ENFORCE THE PIAA RULE. COACHES SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS. Play bal. !"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on May 27, 12:24am
"RECENTLY I WAS ASKED WHEN THE DROPPED THIRD STRIKE CAME INTO BASEBALL. Here is the history for you baseball experts. "Historical notes: Under the original Major League Code (1876), a batsman who struck at and missed a third strike OR failed to strike at a "good ball" for a called third strike was obligated to run to first base " in the case of hitting a fair ball." The rules of 1887 specified that the batsman became a base runner "...instantly after FOUR strikes had been declared by the umpire." This "four strike" provision lasted only one year. As late as the 1940's the batter was entitled to advance (with liability) after three strikes had been called by the umpire. By the time of recodification in 1950, a provision had been added that stipulated that the batter could advance (with liability) after three strikes had been called when the third stike was not caught unless there is a runner on first base with not more than one out. Essentially, this changed the previous rule in two ways: (1) The batter could legally advance as a runner ONLY if the third strike was NOT caught; and (2) The batter was not permitted to advance if first base was occupied with less than two outs. In 1956, the wording was simplified to it's present form." "
Dean Vought commented on June 2, 9:22am
"Can a switch-hitter change sides of the plate (i.e. switch from batting from the right side to the left side of the plate) at any time? What are the restrictions from changing sides of the plate while batting? Thanks, Dean Vought"
Ronald Sakolsky commented on June 22, 3:09am
"A batter may switch to the other box after every pitch if he so desires. He may do it on any ball strike count. One of the oldest myths in baseball is the one that says you can't switch boxes when you have two strikes on you. The only restriction on the batter is that he may not step into the other box after the pitcher is in position ready to pitch. Rule 6.06(b) So by the wording of the MLB rule, the batter can't switch batters boxes after the pitcher is set: 6.06 (b) He steps from one batters box to the other while the pitcher is in position ready to pitch; There appear to be no other restrictions specific to switch-hitters. Technically, if the batter wants to change into the other batter' s box he/ she should ask the umpire for time and then do it, but this rule is very rarely enforced. SORRY FOR THE DELAY IN ANSWERING BUT NO ONE HAS SENT IN A QUESTION THROUGH PLUM FOR OVER A YEAR. it is my pleasure to respond and hope to continue doing so in either baseball or softball. Have fun the rest of the season and tournament play. "
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