QUESTION: “Is it a rule that if you play with 8 players you have to take an automatic out? Especially in the instructional league, if you are already short a player in the field and you are at a disadvantage.” Coach David
ANSWER: In Major League Baseball you must bat with a roster of 9 players. If you do not have 9, then every time that missing batter comes up, then you are assessed an out. That isn’t an issue in MLB because you are paying grown men big bucks to play the game and you have at least 24 players ready to fill the 9 batting slots during the game.
18b - A team failing to field at least nine uniformed players within 15 minutes after scheduled starting time of a game, or at any time during the game, shall forfeit the game.
However, we play in Orem Youth Baseball where we play batting our full roster. This means that if 12 young men show up, then we bat the full 12 players. OYB has tweaked the Pony International rule to state...
Each game will start on time. If a team has less than eight (8) players at game time, then they become the visiting team and bat first. If after their at bat and 15 minutes after game start time they still do not have eight (8) players, then the game will be called a forfeit. Forfeited games can be played as a scrimmage.
This means that a team can start the game with less than 8 players, without penalty, but after 15 minutes of game time they can play the duration of the game with 8 or more players. Orem Youth Baseball is NOT trying to penalize a team. Having only 8 players is plenty of penalty all by itself. The key focus is on starting games on time and playing with at least 8 players. Due to Boy Scout campouts, school activities, and family commitments, it can be tough for coaches to fill a roster of 9 for some games so OYB also gives this provision...
If you know beforehand that you cannot field a team of 9 players, contact the division commissioner for a list of players you can bring up from a younger division.
If you bring up a player, they cannot pitch or play catcher. They also should bat at the end of the lineup. Substitute players must exit the game if enough additional regular team players arrive to fill a full roster.
EARLY NOTICE SCENARIO: Your question is timely because I was notified last night that I will be shorthanded, as a coach, for my game Friday night. We lost one player to a long boarding accident that broke his arm. Two more of my players have a Boy Scout campout. And finally, our strongest player has a super-league game at the same time so I am looking at a list of 8 players left to battle the toughest team in our division. It would add insult to injury to also penalize my team an out every time a 9th batter failed to step into the batter’s box, and that is NOT what OYB is all about. I will definitely be having a younger division player join our roster for the game. Luckily I have enough notice to be able to fill the void.
NO-NOTICE SCENARIO: But what happens when you do not have notice. A week ago on Friday I knew that that 9 was the most that were going to show up for a game, also due to campouts. With just minutes to go before the start of the game my starting pitcher still had not arrived. He never did show up due to a school function (dance), and his mother felt little remorse. The family had no intention of even letting me know, figuring we always have more than 9 young men at the games. That puts a coach in a difficult position, as OYB games are not always the top priority for families. We could have played with just 8, but one of our players thought there might be an issue so he brought along one of his friends who plays in the younger division and so we batted him 9th and played him in left and right field. I notified the opposing coach before the game and all was well.
MID-GAME NOTICE: There are times when a player has to leave during the game and this may also drop your roster to 8 players even though you started with 9 or more.This happened to me twice earlier this season. In one instance the player had to leave 45 minutes early due to court mandated truancy school. The second had to leave early to participate in an LDS church baptisms for the dead temple assignment. In each case I notified the opposing coach and the player was dropped from the batting order without penalty. This could also happen in the case of injury during the game.
TOURNAMENT PLAY: The same rules are followed in OYB tournaments, although the rosters are usually at full strength for the tournament games.
CONFUSION: Since this is a non-issue with MLB due to their full big money paid rosters, the confusion arises due to the local high school rules. The National Federation of High School rules state that finishing game with 8 players is permitted with an out recorded when the empty spot in batting order is reached. The NFHS rules can be harsh. Look at this scenario from their rules interpretations...
With no outs, B1 has a 2-1 count when his nose begins to bleed. He is not able to get it stopped and as a result cannot finish his at-bat. The team has no substitutes available. His coach believes that the batter next up in the order can assume his count. RULING: B2 cannot assume B1’s count. With no substitutes available, B1 is declared out and B2 will come to bat with one out. An out will be called each time that spot in the batting order comes to bat. When an eligible substitute becomes available, the team may return to playing with nine players. (4-4-1f, Note 1, Note 2)
FAIR GAMESMANSHIP: It saddens me when I see the victory as the top priority for the coaches, especially in the OYB instructional divisions. This game is for the boys and coaches do not have to fight and claw for every possible advantage to gain a victory. Coaches should be understanding of issues with other teams and be ready to freely agree to using fair and equitable gamesmanship tactics. Let me flashback 6 years when my son Adam was 12 and I was coaching his AAA team...
We were winning the end of the year tournament game and in the fourth inning we went from being able to steal easily to being thrown out every time we were off the bag. We ultimately lost the game in the final inning. What I was never notified before the game was that the other team was missing some of their 12 players so the other coach brought down Majors to fill his roster of 12. I don’t mean brought up a younger player, I mean he brought down from the stronger division 3 players to give him a team of 12 players. He had 9 of his regular players to start with, but he wanted the strength and a roster of twelve. This was a season end tournament game with the losers going home. At that time you could bring down a player from the stronger same age division as long as the player was in the lower half of the upper division team’s batting lineup to give you the needed 9 players. The coach claimed later that he did not understand the rule and thought he had to have twelve to play (yet we had only 10 facing him that night). OYB rules stated that the player was not allowed to play at pitcher or catcher, and they were required to bat at the end of the line-up. This rule was in place so that the added player did not severely alter the play of the team and the outcome of the game. It was supposed to be an even for even trade to help fill a void. When a player was added to a team the opposing coach was also supposed to be notified before the game of any non-roster players. So there we were facing a full roster of 12 with 3 being upper division superstars. In the forth inning the coach placed one of the majors at catcher and this is why our team’s ability to steal was suddenly stopped. This same player was also batting fourth in their line-up.
In the last inning I was notified by a parent who recognized the upper division players and I immediately notified the umpires and formally protested the game. We finished playing the game and we lost by one run with our season being over. I then wrote up my protest complaint and submitted it to the league officials. They ruled in our team’s favor and mandated a forfeit and we continued on in the tournament. I was glad that justice prevailed, but I was saddened to see the other coach break the rules so that his team could win. The real losers were the boys on the other team that went home as winners and then notified that their season was over due to a forfeit caused by a coach who would stop at nothing to get the win. I also hated the fact that the coach caused a young man to play catcher with the young man knowing that he was breaking the rules. At that time all of the upper division players knew the rules about playing down. The majors were the big fish and the AAA games were a little pond that allowed them to dominate in every way.
The fact of the matter is that none of this should have ever happened. Gamesmanship starts with the coach as he leads his team through the season. Coaches should obey the rules and play fair, otherwise why do we play this game? What are we supposed to be teaching these young men? So whether we are coaching in the instructional divisions or the competition divisions, good gamesmanship should prevail! I’ll get down off my soapbox now.