Come On Blue!
Spitball - Going to the mouth while on the pitching rubber
QUESTION: Hey Michael, in a 13-14 year old Utah State Tournament Pony division game last night the pitcher kept going to his mouth while standing astride the rubber. He would wipe his hand off on his uniform before touching the ball, but isn't this a balk?
ANSWER: It is wrong to go to the mouth while standing upon the pitching rubber, but it is not a balk. Instead, the umpire should issue a warning and then the next time it happens he should award a ball by saying "That's a ball; you went to your mouth." In the Major Leagues the umpire would remove the ball from play when the first warning is issued, but we do not have that good fortune in the youth leagues to remove $12 baseballs from play. Instead, the umpire should take that ball and switch it with another used ball being used in the game and wipe the offending ball clean before putting it back into play.
Here are the official citations... But first, you should understand that the MLB Rules are brief and the more detailed explanation in the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. Umpire Manual 2014 gives a much clearer explanation of what is allowed and how it is to be handled by the umpires when this issue arises...
Rules of Major League Baseball
The pitcher shall not --
(a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.
PENALTY: For violation of this part of this rule the umpires shall immediately call a ball. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batsman or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation. Repeated offenders shall be subject to a fine by the league president.
And here is a photo from my PBUC Umpire Manual 2014
So is it right for a pitcher to go to his mouth while anywhere on the mound? It is okay as long as he is not in contact with the pitcher's plate and he fully wipes off his hand before touching the ball.
Now take a look at the PONY International rules that state the same rule with extreme clarity...
Make it a great day!
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah