SCENARIO: With runners at first and second bases with one out in the AA division, the pitcher pitched the ball and the runner at 2nd base left for third when the pitch was 2/3’s of the way to the catcher. The umpire called the pitch dead and issued a warning to the batting team. The coach for the defensive team became very upset, feeling that his team was hurt by the call. He felt the umpire applied the rule incorrectly and wanted the pitch, which would have been a strike, wasn’t counted. What is the rule about runners leaving early? To what level is a coach allowed to vent his frustrations?
RULES - The Official Rules of Major League Baseball do not cover the runner leaving early situation because upper divisions of baseball allow for leading off. We must look next to the Pony International rules for further clarification. In the Orem Youth Baseball A, AA, and AAA divisions we follow this rule found on the bottom of page 19 in the 2013 Pony International Rule Book:
(3) Runners may steal bases, but shall not leave the base they are occupying at the time of the pitch until the pitched ball has reached or passed the catcher. Once the pitcher has stepped on the rubber with possession of the ball, runners who leave base before the pitched ball reaches or passes the catcher shall be called out and the pitch shall be considered as a dead ball.
NOTE: In single A there is no stealing.
OFFICIAL RULING - The PONY rules require the umpire to identify a runner leaving early, calling the pitched ball dead, and finally calling the runner out.
OYB WARNING: Since the rule is only imposed on the younger and more inexperienced players, OYB allows for one team warning that is to be imposed in the same manner. This means the umpire is to identify the runner leaving early, call the pitched ball dead, and then issue the warning that would allow the play to reset without official penalty.
PURPOSE: The purpose of the rule is to immediately penalize the batting team. The pitch is called dead and the runner who broke the rule is immediately called out. This protects the defensive team because the pitch could be hit for a home run that would score multiple runs when the infraction occurs. For this reason the pitch is called dead immediately and the penalty imposed.
COACH GRIEVANCE: The rule was imposed correctly, but the acting head coach expressed his frustration loudly while coming from the dugout. This was the biggest infraction because he displayed to his young 8-10 year old players that it is okay to make a scene by loudly expressing disapproval over an umpire’s judgment call. This attitude can contaminate the younger players and allow them to think that showing loud verbal disapproval is acceptable behavior. This attitude cannot be tolerated as it disrespects the game. The coach was heard to state loudly, “This guy doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is always making up the rules as he goes.” Obviously still upset, the coach approached the umpire again between innings to point out the “2 things” he had issues with. The first was this rule, to which the umpire opened his rule book and offered to allow the coach to read the already highlighted rule. The coach declined and made his protest upon the way the “Warning” was made and that he was certain was not in the rule book. He said it hurt his team and he wanted his strike counted. The umpire stated the purpose and implementation of the “warning” call and provided the home run scenario. As the coach walked away he stated that he preferred that if the batter had a hit home run that it would have counted against them. At this point in the game his team was well on the way to their 16-3 win. As the umpire, I’m afraid that the players learned that open disrespect for the umpires and the rules is acceptable behavior by their head coach.
OTHER KEY POINTS: In the pregame meeting with the coaches, the umpires went over the special rules, including the “runners leaving early” rule, including how it would be applied and that there would be one “warning” issued. Also discussed were how protests should be made without loud vocal protestations. Unfortunately the head coach left the game half way through and the assistant coach was left in the role of acting head coach when the warning call was made. His demeanor might have been almost understandable, but the acting head coach also is the head coach for a Monday Night Lights team where he has been explained the same rules by the same umpires just 10 days prior.
RECOMMENDATION TO COACHES: The coaches need to read and know the rules for their division, and keep their emotions in check. The majority of the rules come from the 2013 Official Rules of Major League Baseball, with some additions by PONY International 2013 Rules and Regulations, and finally the league and division specific local Orem Youth Baseball rules. Coaches need to maintain positive attitudes and show respect for the game, the rules, and the umpires assigned to officiate the game. Coaches also need to know which rules can be protested and which are judgment calls and allow no protest. Protest should be made without loud verbal disapproval designed to incite the emotions of their players and their fans.
OTHER IMPORTANT RULES:
2013 MLB RULES Official Rules: 4.00 Starting and Ending a Game
(a) No manager, player, substitute, coach, trainer or batboy shall at any time, whether from the bench, the coachs box or on the playing field, or elsewhere --
(1) Incite, or try to incite, by word or sign a demonstration by spectators;
(2) Use language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator;
Official Rules: 9.00 The Umpire
(b) Each umpire is the representative of the league and of professional baseball, and is authorized and required to enforce all of these rules. Each umpire has authority to order a player, coach, manager or club officer or employee to do or refrain from doing anything which affects the administering of these rules, and to enforce the prescribed penalties.
(c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.
(a) Any umpires decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
Rule 9.02(a) Comment: Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game.
(b) If there is reasonable doubt that any umpires decision may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made. Such appeal shall be made only to the umpire who made the protested decision.
And in extreme cases rarely experienced at the Orem Youth Baseball fields...
When the occupants of a players bench show violent disapproval of an umpires decision, the umpire shall first give warning that such disapproval shall cease. If such action continues --
PENALTY: The umpire shall order the offenders from the bench to the club house. If he is unable to detect the offender, or offenders, he may clear the bench of all substitute players. The manager of the offending team shall have the privilege of recalling to the playing field only those players needed for substitution in the game.
And finally, many coaches and fans are unaware of these general guidelines given to umpires...
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS TO UMPIRES
Umpires, on the field, should not indulge in conversation with players. Keep out of the coaching box and do not talk to the coach on duty.
Keep your uniform in good condition. Be active and alert on the field.
Be courteous, always, to club officials; avoid visiting in club offices and thoughtless familiarity with officers or employees of contesting clubs. When you enter a ball park your sole duty is to umpire a ball game as the representative of baseball.
Do not allow criticism to keep you from studying out bad situations that may lead to protested games. Carry your rule book. It is better to consult the rules and hold up the game 10 minutes to decide a knotty problem than to have a game thrown out on protest and replayed.
Keep the game moving. A ball game is often helped by energetic and earnest work of the umpires.
You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self-control.
You no doubt are going to make mistakes, but never attempt to even up after having made one. Make all decisions as you see them and forget which is the home or visiting club.
Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up, than whether or not a runner missed a base. Do not call the plays too quickly, or turn away too fast when a fielder is throwing to complete a double play. Watch out for dropped balls after you have called a man out.
Do not come running with your arm up or down, denoting out or safe. Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion.
Each umpire team should work out a simple set of signals, so the proper umpire can always right a manifestly wrong decision when convinced he has made an error. If sure you got the play correctly, do not be stampeded by players appeals to ask the other man. If not sure, ask one of your associates. Do not carry this to extremes, be alert and get your own plays. But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt dont hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as being right.
A most important rule for umpires is always BE IN POSITION TO SEE EVERY PLAY. Even though your decision may be 100 percent right, players still question it if they feel you were not in a spot to see the play clearly and definitely. Finally, be courteous, impartial and firm, and so compel respect from all.