QUESTION: We watched you umpiring an AA 8-10 year old team and you issued a warning to our team for having players without helmets standing and watching the game from the dugout opening. A couple of batters later you called a pitch dead and gave the batter a strike. This is nowhere in the rules of baseball and this seemed to unfairly hurt the batter. How is this fair?
ANSWER: Wile it may not seem fair, the umpires are assigned by OYB to oversee the game on a specific field and ensure the safety of the youth players. They can impose whatever rules they deem appropriate that are not already defined in the Official Rules of Major League Baseball, the rules of Pony International, and the rules specific to the divisions of Orem Youth Baseball.
Official Rules: 9.00 The Umpire 9.01
(c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.
HISTORY: Five years ago there were several injuries at the OYB fields related with multiple on-deck batters and players without helmets standing in the dugout openings. The insurance provider for the league sent out a warning that premiums would skyrocket if corrective action was not taken. I was involved with the OYB website at the time and we immediately created the following rule...
3) Only one player from the batting team is permitted in the “on deck” batting circle. Players without helmets must stay behind and away from the opening to field from the dugout.
Coaches, players, and fans thought OYB was being unrealistic and it has taken a long time to get the point across that due to player safety we have to be very strict on this rule. Take a look at this real-life OYB photo during an OYB AA game as the player is receiving the pitch.
You can see that the coach (in red) does not care about his 3 batters on-deck (in green) and the fourth without a helmet standing in the dugout opening. It has been my experience that coaches do not outwardly care until they have been penalized. Warnings are sweet, but real changes are not made until some type of penalty has been imposed and then change is almost immediate. Obviously this photo is the extreme, but this is what we were dealing with as the rule was created.
WARNINGS REPEATEDLY IGNORED - CASE STUDY: In one early season game I told the Monday Night Lights 12U coaches during the pre-game meeting about the “multiple on-deck and players without helmets standing in the dugout opening” rule and told them that I would immediately stop play and issue a warning. 13 times I had to stop the game and have the coach get his helmetless players out of the dugout opening. The other coach actually got mad at me for delaying the game with the repeated warning. The warned coach obviously did not care, and must have forgot a key coaching principle that the players will give importance to the aspects of the game that the coach stresses are important. Player safety seems to be way down the list of priorities under win, win, win. After the game I spoke with the OYB officials and told them that I was going to start imposing a strike after the first warning, and they gave me the go ahead and we rehearsed the injuries from prior seasons and the insurance issues. The very next game I issued a warning to a different team and several minutes later I called the pitch dead, pointed to the coach and said “Look at your dugout” and then called out “Strike 1!” The coach came unglued, but he immediately placed one of his assistant coaches on a bucket in the doorway of the dugout with the specific job to keep his helmetless players away from the opening. I have witnessed the same thing several times since as this season has progressed. It is interesting to note that I have never yet had to issue two pitchless strike calls in the same game. Why? Because the coaches do not want to be penalized and although reluctant for safety’s sake, they will comply to prevent getting a pitchless strike called against them... Strange, isn’t it?
RULING ON THE FIELD: Either the plate umpire or the field umpire should immediately call the pitch/play dead and assess a strike to the batter. If the batter already has two strikes, then he is called out and play proceeds.
HOW HAVE THINGS IMPROVED?: You saw the photo above snapped a few years back. I took my camera down to the ball fields on May 20, 2013 and here is a photo snapped on the same field with the same age players... What do you think?
It is a different team, but the coach isn’t the least bit concerned (red) while he has an on-deck batter (yellow) and two players (yellow) without helmets in the opening and on the field watching their batter hit. It looks like we have some more coaches and umpires to train so that we can both lessen the league’s liability and prevent some unneeded injuries to the young players.