USA Softball News June 2007 Rule Clari...

June 2007 Rule Clarifications and Plays

June 30, 2007, 12:13 p.m. (ET)

Should Umpires Call “Time” to Rotate Back to Their Basic Starting Positions After End of Playing Action?

The question has been asked, should umpires who have rotated to cover a playing action call “TIME” to rotate back to their basic starting positions or should they move back one at a time while the plate umpire waits and watches for a Look Back Rule violation?

Many years ago the Look Back Rule was established to help speed-up the game by stopping the pitcher and the runner from “toying” with each other when the ball was being returned to the infield after it had been put in play. The rule was not established for the offense or defense to gain an advantage through “trick plays” or by “baiting” the other side into a violation. According to Rule 8, Section 7 T, the batter-runner and / or runner(s) must return to the base or advance to the next base once the ball is returned to the pitcher in the pitcher’s circle. Once the pitcher has possession of the ball in the eight-foot circle and the runner(s) have completed their base running responsibilities or all play has ceased, the play is over. Time can now be called. On the other hand, if umpires can rotate to their next starting position without calling “time” and still maintain at least one pair of eyes on any possible action in the infield because one umpire need not rotate or move very far, they should do so when it is obvious all play has ceased. Conversely, it is sometimes necessary for all umpires to turn their backs to the runner(s) on base at the same time in order to move after all play action has ceased and thereby keep the game moving at an acceptable pace. In this case, the umpire closest to home plate should call “time” and all umpires should then rotate simultaneously, versus one umpire watching the runner(s) while one umpire at a time moves to their next position.

Additionally, according to Rule 10, Section 4 B and E, the umpire will call “time” to brush off the plate or to perform other duties – rotations – not involved with a play. This keeps the game moving and the players are not subjected to waiting on the umpires to get back to their positions in order to resume play. This simple technique can pick-up the tempo of a game and keep it moving. (Rule 8, Section 7 T; Rule 10, Section 4 B and E; Rules Supplement 34)

Charged Conference?

Regarding a charge conference, should a coach be charged with a conference for going to the area of the eight-foot circle, talking to the pitcher, and then making a pitching change? What if the coach informs the umpire prior to talking to the pitcher?

In order to answer these questions we must visit the definition of “Charged Conference”. The definition states that a charge conference is: “When a team representative requests a suspension of play or DELAYS the game for the purpose of ‘delivering a message’ to another team member.” In the first question the team representative – coach – spoke with the pitcher thus delivering a message to that player and then informed the umpire that the pitcher was being removed. This IS a charged conference. With respect to the second question, if the coach informs the umpire that the pitcher is being removed and then proceeds to the eight-foot circle, it is NOT considered a conference. In this instance it is simply part of the pitching change; therefore, a conference should not be charged as the purpose of the visit is to change pitchers and not to deliver a message.

The sequence is the key, not whether the foul line was crossed by the coach. Again, if the umpire is informed of the pitching change prior to a message being delivered, a conference is NOT charged.

Player's Uniform

Several phone calls and emails have been received regarding the legality of certain colors on player uniforms. Specifically, the queries concern the use of the Optic Yellow color as part of the uniform some teams are now wearing. There is nothing in the Official Rules of Softball that prohibit the wearing of the Optic Yellow color on a player uniform. Rule 3, Section 6 states that uniforms must be like in color and style; it does not prohibit a particular color.

Comments received along with the queries include that this practice is being carried out to make the ball harder to see when delivered by the pitcher. This could be true, however we must be mindful of the fact that for many years while a white softball was being used in the ASA game the predominate colors of uniforms were white and gray. More importantly, the color of the uniform being the same as the color of the ball is not a violation of Rule 3, Section 6 or Rule 6.

Test Question

Questions have been received regarding Question #46 in the Mechanics Section of the 2007 Umpire Exam. The question reads:

In the Three-Umpire System, with R1 on 1B, B2 hits an obvious base hit to the outfield. The home plate umpire should:

  1. Trail the batter-runner and then cover home plate.
  2. Rotate to the holding zone on the 3B side and determine if there will be a play at 3B before moving inside the diamond.
  3. Stay at home in case R1 advances to home plate.
  4. Rotate to 3B and commit inside the diamond in case of a play at 3B.

The answer to this question is D. Umpires have asked why the answer does not also have “trail the batter-runner”. The Umpire Manual states, “The plate umpire should always trail with no runners on or with a runner at first base only unless the play takes them elsewhere.” Two items should be kept in mind on this play: First, with the play being an “obvious base hit”, the trailing of the batter-runner is wasted movement since a play at first base requiring the possible assistance of the plate umpire – pulled foot, swiped tag, etc. – will not take place. Secondly, for example, on a fly ball to left field near the foul line with a runner at first base only the plate umpire should stay with the fly ball for a possible catch / no catch, or fair / foul ball call because the play has taken the plate umpire elsewhere, not trailing the runner. The play action contained in the test question, an obvious base hit to the outfield, translates to a possible play at third base, not first base; and third base is the responsibility of the plate umpire. The emphasis of the question is: In the Three-Umpire System with a POSSIBLE play a third base, the plate umpire should commit inside the diamond. They should not go to the holding zone. Thus, answer D is correct.