We have received, in the past few days, no fewer than four observations about the handling of potential obstruction and malicious contact situations. None of us who spoke with the coaches, and in one situation, the AD, were at the games and we make no judgments regarding the calls made. This memo is only to remind everyone of the basic rules and interpretations. Please take the time to go over this.
Obstruction: (FED 2-22-1): “Obstruction is an act (intentional or unintentional, as well as physical or verbal) by a fielder, any member of the defensive team or its team personnel that hinders a runner or changes the pattern of play as in 5-1-3 and 8-3-2, or when a catcher or fielder hinders a batter as in 5-1-2h, 8-1-1e, 8-3-1c and 8-3-2. When obstruction occurs, the ball becomes dead at the end of playing action and the umpire has the authority to determine which base or bases shall be awarded the runners according to the rule violated.”
2-22-3: (Obstruction is when) “The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve”
A fielder may not deny access to a base the runner is attempting to achieve without secure possession of the ball. In FED, there is no exception for an “impending catch”. An interpretation does allow the fielder to be in the baseline if the throw takes him there. That means he moves in just in time to catch the ball. He cannot be there waiting for the ball. This was an interpretation and POE a couple of years back. A situation from that time, still in the book provides an example at the plate:
Casebook Situation 2-22.1 C: R3 is advancing to score when F7 throws home. F2 completely blocks the plate with his lower leg/knee (a) while in possession of the ball; (b) while juggling the ball and attempting to gain secure possession; (c) before the ball has reached him.
Rulings: In (a), legal play. In (b) and (c), obstruction.
“Access” to the base is interpreted as having access to that edge of the base facing the runner. The fielder cannot claim that the runner had access to the side or back of the base by reaching around, or could have made a “hook” slide. This comes into play not only at home but also at first on pick-off attempts. R1 must have access to the nearest edge of first base. The first baseman cannot completely block that portion of the base before he receives the throw from the pitcher.
Malicious Contact: Unfortunately, we are not given as much guidance when it comes to malicious contact. The primary mention of malicious contact in the rule book is 8-4-2e (the runner is out when he…)”Initiates malicious contact.” In addition, 8-4-2-e 1:“Malicious contact supersedes obstruction”.
There is no definition of malicious contact in the rulebook, and only, even semi-official definition FED has ever provided was in an article written at least 15 years ago by then FED national rules interpreter, Brad Rumble. In the article, he wrote that malicious contact was “contact with the intent to cause injury or harm.”
That’s a pretty high standard for umpires to determine.
I believe that we have undercalled malicious contact, erring on the side of the runner. I would suggest that that is backwards, and in the name of safety, we need to err on the side of the fielder. Things to look for: Runner moving his arms or hands forward at the time of contact in a “pushing” motion, lowered shoulder, cleats at knee level or above during a slide, failing to slide or avoid when he has the time – choosing “hard contact” instead.
There are also some cues to observe for considering that contact is not malicious: the attempt to “hold-up” or slow down, a late or clumsy slide, tripping or stumbling.
This is not a science. All the calls described in the memo are based on umpire judgment. While it is difficult to teach judgment, it can be refined with experience, guidelines and thoughtfulness.
The bottom line is that in this matter, perhaps more than any other in baseball, our job is to take our time, think the play over and do the best we can do to protect the players.
Thank you for all you’ve done this season and keep up the great effort.
It seems there is some confusion about a “catch and carry” rule in high school baseball. This came up in a game at Gonzaga Prep today when it became apparent that umpires have been less consistent with our interpretation of the rules regarding dead ball areas when speaking to coaches.
“Catch and Carry”, as it occurs in professional baseball, does NOT exist in high school ball, nor, for that matter, in college ball under most circumstances. (The exception being the "Thurston plate conference exception")
Under pro rules, if a fielder’s momentum takes him completely into dead ball territory after a catch, he may throw from there to make a play.
HOWEVER, Under NFHS rules (high school ball), if a fielder’s momentum takes him completely into dead ball territory after a catch, the play is killed and, with runners on base, bases are awarded except when the catch is the third out. The fielder may not throw from dead ball territory, nor may he re-establish himself in live ball territory and throw from there.
That said, under high school rules, if a fielder steps, with one foot, into dead ball territory and keeps the other in liveball territory, play continues. This is not “catch and carry” since the fielder did not completely enter dead ball territory.
Please review review FED rule 5-1-1(i) and number 18 on the Dead Ball table on page 35. Let’s be consistent.
Composite bat handles are LEGAL. The material from which the handle is made does not figure in on the legality of the bat. When it comes to composite the only thing we are looking for is composite barrels. Then we check to see if has a BBCOR label or is on our list.
Ferris JV had 7 or 8 legal bats tossed the other day. Please, if you have them in the coming days or weeks, do not toss bats based on the hanld material.
And...we will be sending the coaches our bat list and our flow chart so they can be prepared for the bat inspections. Please conduct these bat inspections carefully.
Several teams have a red Nike bat that has been both allowed and disallowed. This is obviously causing some issues with the coaches and players.
The bat, red in color has a composite handle which sports a BESR logo. The barrel of the bat has only the Nike Swoosh located near the bottom and the words AERO and ALLOY at the very top. As we discussed at our meeting, "ALLOY" is the same as ALUMINUM.
Thus, this bat is legal. It is not composite and it has both Alloy and BESR stamped on it.
All this said, if you see a red Nike bat, check it out as you would any other bat. There is no guarantee that all red Nike bats are the same.
Preventative umpiring will catch the bat prior to the batter hitting the ball: Remove the bat, warn the team.
However, as in the following situation, the defense, when appropriate, may have a choice between the penalty and the play.
SITUATION 10: With the bases loaded and no outs, Batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop. The defense is able to get the out at third base on R2 and at second base on R1, but R3 scores and the batter is safe at first. The plate umpire picks up the bat used by B4 and notices that it is a hollow composite bat that is not on the approved waiver list. RULING: B4 is guilty of using an illegal bat. The defense has the option of taking the play or the penalty for using an illegal bat.
The play will result in two outs, a runner at first and one run scored.
The penalty will have Batter declared out and all runners will be returned to their respective bases at the time of the pitch – bases loaded, one out, no run.
Got a great question from a member yesterday:
"I had a game where a kid brought his hands together at about chin level and stopped moving for a split second as soon as his hands came together. After that initial pause, he then brought his hands down to his midpoint and made more of a concerted effort to come set."
I think we've all seen this, and it appears at times that at the MLB level it's being allowed. However, I contacted a veteran of MLB umpiring and got this response:
If the first "stop" is complete and discernible, in other words if you would allow it as a stop by itself, then if the pitcher moves and stops again, call a balk for starting and stopping. If, however, that first stop is not complete and you would call a balk if it were the only "stop", then allow the "second" and complete "stop."
I saw John Stierwalt nail this balk an AA Legion game during the Wood Bat Tournament. Kudos.
We have received calls about balks from numerous coaches.
A recent contact alleges that the umpires consistently allowed pitchers to "roll" through the stop in the set position. He further alled that in conversation the umpire explained to him that the act of the hands coming together was sufficient for a "stop" in the set position.
No one knows if the coach is being accuate in his description or is misrepresenting the motion and/or the conversation.
But just in case there is any misunderstanding, 8.01 (b) requires that the pitcher come to a complete stop. The casebook interprets this as a "complete and discernible" stop of the entire body, not just the hands. The hands must stop and the front leg may not begin to move until the "complete and discernible" stop requirement has been met.
While there is no requirement as to number of seconds for the stop, a change of direction or "bounce" of the hands is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement. The umpire must determine that the entire body of the pitcher was completely and discernibly still.
Another question rose as to whether or not a pitcher may balk prior to coming set. Yes, he can, if he is in contact with the rubber. Examples: dropping the ball, feinting to first, throwing to a base with out stepping towards it or disengaging, starting to come up after receiving signals and hesitating or going back down. It is also a balk if the pitcher is in contact with the rubber or stands astride it without the ball.
We have had some coaches, including at least one AAA coach report that they have been told by some umpires that Batter's Interference requires contact before it can be enforced.
This is not correct.
Batter's interfernce only requres that the catcher was intefered with and that doe not require any contact. The presence of the batter in the way of the catcher who has shown any sign of attempting to throw is enough for interference. Neither contact nor an throw is required. The catcher popping up with the ball as the runner steals is enough to gauge intent by the catcher to throw. Double clutching is another sign of intent.
Bottom line, if the batter is in the way, even if he is falling after a swing, and interferes, that's batter interference. (No intent is required on the part of the batter. Thus the coach's excuse, "he couldn't help it." is irrelevant.)
We need not only to be consistent on this call, we need to get the rule requirements correct.