April 2007 Rule Clarifications and Plays

April 30, 2007, 12:10 p.m. (ET)

Emergency Rule Change – Rule 2, Section 3 C

The rule change regarding the dimensions of the batter’s box in Slow Pitch, Rule 2, Section 3 C, which was enacted by the ASA Council effective January 1, 2007 has been rescinded by emergency vote of the council. Therefore, in the 11” and 12” Slow Pitch Divisions of play the dimensions of the batter’s box have reverted back to three feet by seven feet (3’X7’) effective immediately.

Men’s Class D Slow Pitch Home Run Rule Clarification

Recent and frequent questions concerning the intent of the 2007 rule change to Rule 5, Section 8 A EFFECT indicates confusion on the part of many persons involved in our game. With the change the rule now states, “For any in excess, the ball is dead, the batter is out, and no runners can advance. In Men’s Class D an over the fence home run will also be an inning ending out.” The confusion centers on the words “an inning ending out”.

The intent of the change to this rule is to penalize the offensive team in Men’s Class D Slow Pitch for violating the home run rule. Therefore, a homerun in Men’s Class D ends the offensive half-inning, and it is not necessarily an inning ending out. To end the inning in this manner when the home team is on defense would penalize that team even though they have not violated a rule. In this situation, the team on defense must be provided the opportunity to bat in that inning.

Play: Top of the second inning with no outs. B1 hits an over the fence homerun.

Ruling: The ball is dead, B1 is called out and the top half of the second inning ends. The team on defense now bats in the bottom half of the second inning.

Designated Player / Flex Player Rule Clarification

Recently a question arose regarding the use of the Designated Player (DP) and the FLEX Player in relation to whether or not the DP and the FLEX Player must be present at the game site in order to declare a team’s intention to use the DP / FLEX before the start of the game. Rule 4 supplies the answer to this question, but provides reason for doubt as well.

The first sentence of Rule 4, Section 1 A states, “A team must have the required number of players present in the dugout or team area to start or continue the game.” The intent of the rule is, therefore, clear; in order to declare the intention to use the DP / FLEX, a team must have a minimum of 10 players in the dugout or team area ready to play at the start of the game. However, the second sentence in the same paragraph states, “Players listed on the line-up card and not available at game time may be substituted for and re-entered later in the same spot in the batting order.” This sentence has caused the questioning of the requirement that the DP and the FLEX Player be present at the game site for the start of the game.

With the intent of the rule having been clearly stated in the first sentence of Rule 4, Section 1 A, the second sentence then refers to players that are originally listed on the line-up card and have not yet arrived at the game site, or players who are present and listed on the line-up card but become injured before the start of the game. In both these cases, the plate umpire has already accepted the line-up. This portion of the rule permits players in the situations mentioned above, and other similar situations, to play in the game using the re-entry provisions of the substitution rule. However, this portion of the rule does not allow a team to declare the intention to use the DP / FLEX Player without the proper number of players present in the dugout or team area ready to play.

This question has brought to light language in the Rule 4 that can be written better. Look for more clarity and simplicity in this portion of the rule in next year’s Official Rules of Softball.

NOTE: This rule clarification also applies to the use of the Extra Player (EP) in Slow Pitch.

Three-Foot Running Lane

Recent changes to the Three-Foot Running Lane rule by other softball codes have prompted many umpires and coaches to ask the ASA for a clarification or interpretation of what constitutes a batter-runner being “in the lane” or “out of the lane”.

The ASA has always taught that the three-foot running lane starts at ground level and extends straight up on both sides. After the batter becomes the batter-runner and they reach the start of the three-foot running lane, it is their responsibility to run inside the lane on the way to first base so as not to interfere with the throw to first base. However, an exception is made when the ball is being thrown from the foul side of first base. In this case, the three-foot running lane transfers to the fair side of the foul line where the runner is protected while running to the white portion of first base. In ASA, if the thrown ball hits a body part that is inside the three-foot running lane, there is no interference. In other words, the umpire should judge the ball in relationship to the body part it strikes. If that body part is inside the vertical plane of the three-foot running lane there is no violation, play on. Conversely, if the body part is outside the vertical plane of the three-foot running lane and is struck with the thrown ball, or the batter-runner interferes with the defense taking the throw while outside the three-foot running lane, the batter-runner is guilty of interference. The ball should be declared dead, the batter-runner should be called out and all runners should be returned to the last base touched at the time of the interference (Rule 8, Section 2 E).

Fourth Out Appeal Rule Clarification

A question arose regarding the possibility of allowing a fourth out appeal on the batter-runner who misses or does not reach first base in order to call a force out for the third out of a half inning, and thereby keeping a run from scoring. Rule 5, Section 5 C states, “No run shall score if a “fourth out” is the result of an appeal of a base missed or left too soon on a runner who has scored.” With this in mind, the batter-runner would be the last runner to score in any fourth out situation, therefore the fourth out appeal can not apply to the batter-runner.

Play: R1 on 3B and R2 on 2B with two outs. B3 gets a base hit to right field where F9 fields the ball and throws to home plate to retire R2 for the third out. R1 scored from 3B and B3 is advancing to 2B when the defense appeals that B3 missed 1B for the fourth out appeal nullifying the run by R1.

Ruling: The appeal should not be honored. By rule (Rule 5, Section 5 C), because R2 was called out at home plate for the third out the batter-runner missing 1B can not be appealed. R1’s run counts and the half inning is over.

Play: R1 on 3B and R2 on 2B with two outs. B3 strikes out but the catcher drops the third strike and the ball rolls to the back stop. R1 scores and R2 is thrown out at home plate for the third out. B3, seeing that R2 was thrown out at the plate, stops running short of reaching 1B. The defense noticed that B3 did not reach 1B and throws the ball to 1B to retire B1.

Ruling: Because R2 is the third out, the live ball appeal at 1B should not be honored. The half inning is over and R1’s run counts.

Clarifications to 2007 Umpire Exam Questions

Additional questions have arisen regarding the clarity of questions contained in the 2007 Umpire Exam. Those questions are listed below:

  1. Question #5, PART I – TRUE / FALSE. Should read: The official bat shall be round, not more than 2.250 inches in diameter, not more than 34 inches long and not exceed 38.0 ounces in weight. ASA rules specify that a bat can not be longer than 34 inches; therefore it can be less than 34 inches.
  2. Question #9, PART I – TRUE / FALSE. (SP) This question is correct as written. It is written in this manner to ensure umpires understand that the illegal pitch is called when the act (simulation of a legal pitch while not in contact with the pitcher’s plate) occurs, not when the pitcher then comes in contact with the pitcher’s plate and delivers a legal pitch.
  3. Question #17, PART I – TRUE / FALSE. In the first line, replace B1 with B2. Obviously, there is no B1 in this play.