May 2007 Rule Clarifications and Plays

May 31, 2007, 12:12 p.m. (ET)
Many rules and play questions have been received since the April 2007 Rules Clarifications and Plays web posting. Some of the questions have provoked much thought and lively discussion. From the questions received the following five topics – with plays in some cases - are provided for information, to clarify a rule, and / or to clean up any misconceptions or misinformation. Additionally, a correction to the Official Rules of Softball is also provided.
  

Error in Rule Book – Pitching Distances

In the March Edition of the Rules Clarifications and Plays web posting, information was provided to correct errors in the OFFICIAL DISTANCE TABLE found in Rule 2, Section 1, page 61, pertaining to the G14U, G16U and G16U B Divisions. That information remains valid, but it is not complete. When the table was reviewed further, it was discovered that other information, primarily dealing with the JO Boys portion of the OFFICIAL DISTANCE TABLE, was omitted or needed correcting. The JO portion of the OFFICIAL DISTANCE TABLE should read as follows:

Printable version of following table

Division
Bases Pitching Min. Fence Max. Fence
FAST PITCH
G10-U 60' 35' 175' 225'
G12-U 60' 40' 200' 225'
G14-U 60' 40' 200' 225'
G16-U 60' 40' 200' 225'
G18-U 60' 40' 200' 225'
G18-U GOLD 60' 43' 200' 225'
B10-U 60' 35' 150' 175'
B12-U 60' 40' 175' 200'
B14-U 60' 46' 175' 200'
B16-U 60' 46' 200' 225'
B18-U 60' 46' 225' 250'
 
SLOW PITCH
G10-U 60' 40' 175' 200'
G12-U 60' 46' 175' 200'
G14-U 60' 50' 225' 250'
G16-U 60' 50' 225' 250'
G18-U 60' 50' 225' 250'
B10-U 60' 40' 200' 225'
B12-U 60' 46' 225' 250'
B14-U 65' 50' 275' 300'
B16-U 65' 50' 275' 300'
B18-U 65' 50' 275' 300'

Please replace the existing JO portion of the OFFICIAL DISTANCE TABLE with the table above, and ensure that all local associations have the information.

Batter-Runner Obstructed between Home Plate and First Base

When the batter-runner is obstructed between home plate and first base on a fly ball that is caught, two rules are in conflict for the umpire responsible for making a call. First, Rule 8, Section 2 C states that the batter-runner is out if a fly ball is caught by a fielder before it touches the ground, any object or person other than a defensive player. The second rule is Rule 8, Section 5 B, EXCEPTION 1 which states that an obstructed runner may not be called out between the two bases they were obstructed and EXCEPTION 2 which states that if obstruction occurs, the umpire shall award the runner or batter-runner the base or bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, had there been no obstruction. In the case of a fly ball that is caught, the batter-runner could not have reached first base and there is no provision in our rules that permit the batter to return to home plate and bat again. Rule 8, Section 1 D, also known as Catcher's Obstruction, does not apply in this situation. This rule refers to the catcher obstructing the batter's attempt to hit a pitched ball. Therefore, the interpretation for this situation is that the out stands on the fly ball that is caught and the obstruction is ignored. Remember, this only applies to a fly ball that is caught. If the fly ball is not caught, or the batter hits a ground ball and the batter-runner is obstructed between home plate and first base, the batter-runner should be protected at least to first base.

Play 1: B1 hits a fly ball to the outfield where F9 catches the ball for the first out. While B1 was leaving the plate area, F2 tripped B1 causing B1 to fall to the ground.

Ruling: The umpire should signal delayed dead ball and call “obstruction" when the obstruction occurs. When F9 catches the fly ball for the out the umpire should ignore the obstruction and rule B1 out on the catch. (Rule 8, Section 2 C; Rule 8, Section 5 B EXCEPTION 2)

Play 2: With one out and R1 on 1B, B2 hits a ground ball to F6. While leaving the plate area, B2 is tripped by F2 causing B2 to fall to the ground. F6 fields the ball and throws B2 out at 1B.

Ruling: The umpire should signal a delayed dead ball and call “obstruction" on F2 for tripping B2. When B2 is put out before reaching 1B, the umpire should call “time" and award B2 and R1 the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, had there been no obstruction. Since this is a batted ground ball the batter-runner is awarded at least 1B. (Rule 8, Section 5 B)

Does the Run Score

The latest issue regarding whether or not a run can score on the third out of an inning deals with the batter-runner stepping back to avoid a tag between home plate and first base. Whenever a question arises regarding whether or not a run scores, under any circumstance, we should refer to Rule 5, Section 5. This rule covers each situation in which a run shall score, as well as situations in which a run shall not be scored.

Play: R1 on 3B with two outs. B4 hits a slow ground ball to F3. R1, running on the play, crosses home plate as F3 fields the ball and steps toward B4 to attempt a tag. B4 stops and then steps back to avoid the tag.

Ruling: The ball is dead and the batter-runner is out, Rule 8, Section 2 H. The EFFECT to this rule is that the ball is dead and runner(s) must return to the last base legally touched at the time of the interference. Although R1 touched home plate before the interference, in this case the run does not score because Rule 5, Section 5 B 1 does not permit a run to be scored if the third out of the inning is the result of a batter-runner being called out prior to reaching first base. The run does not score.

Batting Out of Order

Batting out of order situations have always been considered difficult by many umpires. These situations can become easier to rule on by keeping three things in mind.

  1. Has a pitch been thrown after the incorrect batter has batted.
  2. Any outs made when the incorrect batter is at bat stand.
  3. When a pitch has not been thrown, if the incorrect batter makes an out and an appeal is made, the batter who should have batted is out and the batter who batted remains out and is skipped if they are scheduled to bat.

Remember, however, if the batter who is scheduled to bat is the third out of the inning, the correct batter to leadoff the next inning is the player who would have come to bat had the player been put out by ordinary play. (Rule 7, Section 2 D 3)

Play 1: With no outs, B9 is scheduled to bat but B1 bats. B1 hits a fly ball that is caught by F7. Before the next pitch, the defense appeals that B1 batted out of order.

Ruling: B9 is out as B9 is the correct batter and B1 remains out. B2 bats next with two outs. Per Rule 7, Section 2 D 2, after the incorrect batter has completed their turn at bat and before the next pitch, legal or illegal, to the following batter and before the pitcher and all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding positions and have left fair territory; the batter who should have batted is out and the next batter is the player whose name follows that of the player called out for failing to bat. EXCEPTION: If the incorrect batter is called out as a result of their time at bat and is scheduled to be the proper batter, skip that player and the next person in the line-up will be the batter.

Play 2: With one out, B7 is scheduled to bat, however B8 bats. B8 hits a fly ball that is caught for the second out of the inning. The defense appeals that B8 batted out of order and the umpire calls B7 out for the third out of the inning. Who is the leadoff batter in the next inning?

Ruling: B8. In this case, since the second out of the inning was made by B8 and the third out was made by B7 for failure to bat in the proper order, B8 is now the leadoff batter in the next inning. When the batter declared out is the third out of the inning the correct batter to leadoff the next inning is the player who would have come to bat had the player been put out by ordinary play. (Rule 7, Section 2 D 2 d)

Batting with an Illegal / Altered Bat

When a batter uses an illegal or altered bat and reaches base safely, and the next batter steps into the batter's box with the same bat, the following penalties are in effect:

  1. If noticed before a pitch is made to the next batter, only the batter who used the bat and is now on base is called out (Rule 8, Section 7 X).
  2. If the bat is altered, the player is ejected from the game and the tournament. The bat is removed from the game, runners put out prior to discovering the infraction remain out, and runners not put out return to the base they occupied at the time of the batted ball (Rule 7, Section 6 B).
  3. After a pitch to the current batter, that batter is called out and there is no penalty to the previous batter for using the illegal or altered bat (Rule 7, Section 6 C EFFECT).

Play: B1, having just hit a double, is on 2B. B2 picks up the bat just used by B1 and enters the batter's box. Before a pitch is made, the plate umpire notices that the bat is one that appears on the non-approved bat list.

Ruling: B1, who is on 2B, is called out and ejected from the game, and if in a tournament, from the tournament. The non-approved bat is removed from the game and B2 bats using a legal bat. (Rule 7, Section B and C; Rule 8, Section 7 X)

Two-Umpire System Mechanics Plate Coverage

Questions have arisen as to whether or not the base umpire in the Two-Umpire System is ever responsible to cover plays at the plate. The simple answer is NO, the base umpire never has responsibility for calls at home plate in the Two-Umpire System.

The plate umpire always has responsibility for calls at home plate, as described in pages 219 and 220 of the Umpire's Manual under the heading “Tag Plays at Home Plate". There is no reference anywhere in the Umpire Manual to the base umpire covering home plate in the Two-Umpire System. The reasoning for this mechanic has more to do with the base umpire's added responsibilities when multiple runners are on base. However, in the case of a lone runner where the plate umpire moves toward third base for a possible call, the plate umpire can still return to the plate area for a call by staying inside the diamond, thereby staying ahead of the runner and maintaining a 90 degrees angle to the path of the runner. As always, if there is a mechanical breakdown during a play and we need to deviate from a prescribed mechanic, we must communicate.

Again, plays at home plate are the sole responsibility of the Plate Umpire!