The Correct Call!

I am always in pursuit of the perfect game. Not as a pitcher striking out every batter. Not as a batter hitting for a cycle including a grand-slam home run. But as an umpire calling a perfect game, while handling every disputed call with poise and confidence.

Struck At Second - How To Rule?

Struck At Second - How To Rule?

Michael Leavitt 160Gus J Sopeña shared on Facebook yesterday afternoon...

Good day fellow umpires. First, let me preface this by saying that I am by far one of the most inexperienced umpires out of all of you. Having said that, I am seeking further knowledge on a play at a slow pitch game just last week. Very curious to hear your opinions on what you would had called. Here's the situation:

Bases loaded. Batter hits a sharp line drive right at the runner on 2B. Runner on 2B (the batters teammate) STAYS on the bag, puts his hand up to avoid the ball hitting him in the head. Ball hits runner on 2B's hands while still on 2B. The runner did NOT attempt to touch the ball. He was simply avoiding the ball hitting him. The umpire calls a dead ball. Awards the runners on 3B and 2B home plate and their team 2 runs. Runner on 1st goes to 2B. Hitter goes to 1st. Someone that had spoken to the umpire said that he explained his ruling saying that had the runner on 2B NOT hit the ball, it would have been a base hit and both runners on 3B and 2B would had scored anyway.

Very curious to hear how you experienced and knowledgeable umpires would had called this play. Thank you in advance for your time. Gus J Sopeña

I did not see Gus' post, and he approached me while I was umpiring at Lakeside last night. He verbally shared the same play. As with all scenarios, I defer my immediate feedback until I ask the appropriate questions and then hesitate to agree or disagree with the ruling because I am probably hearing partial information. Instead, I love to hear the scenario from one perspective, and then hear the other side of the pancake from the person who rules on the play.

Here were my questions Gus:

  • 1) How many outs were there? None.
  • 2) Was it a line drive, ground ball, or pop fly? Line drive.
  • 3) Was the runner at second base on the base when he was struck? Yes.
  • 4) When it was ruled dead, was there an injury? No.

NOTE: I could not figure out the reason for the dead ball ruling on the field. This led us into a logic scenario with Gus. He was under the impression that a runner being hit while on the base immediately killed the ball.

Situation 1 - Gus, if the runner was running to third and was struck by a line drive with the third baseman behind them ready to make the catch, what would you call? Gus "Dead ball interference, Out!"

Situation 2 - If the runner was running to third and the shortstop and third baseman were playing up for a bunt or a weak hitter and the same bounding ball hit the runner, then what would you have? Gus - "Live ball, play on!"

Situation 3 - If a ball hits a runner standing in fair territory on a base with no intent on the part of the runner to interfere and it has no effect on a defensive player, then what do you have? GUS - "Live ball, play on!" Then why do you have a dead ball in your scenario? Gus - I don't know.

A light turned on in Gus' head that something was not right. We were either missing some details, or else the umpire made an incorrect ruling. I had no idea who the umpire was and I was giving the umpire who made the ruling all confidence. There had to be more to the play. The outcome that I heard was that it was called a dead ball, with the runner at second and the one at third being given home, while the batter runner and the runner from first being given first and second. This puzzled me because I could not find any reason why the logic of giving a runner the base they would have reached, but then penalizing those behind him differently quite strange. Add to that my dismay on why we even had a dead ball on the play... There had to be an injury, but that does not explain the hit runner being award home.

Going to the rule book there are several rules that can be applied correctly and even more that can be misapplied to this situation.

MOMENT OF IMPACT

I can only imagine the tension the umpire must have felt when the batter was hit. To be alone, in one man coverage, this makes it even tougher for an umpire to be spot on accurate. When it all occurred, I could only imagine the things going through the umpire's head....

  • Wait, are the runners and umpires on the field part of the field?
  • What about that rule where if they are hit and the ball goes out of play the ball is dead and runners all go somewhere?
  • And then there is the injured rule? Was he struck in the head? What if I don't call it dead? Will I be sued for letting this play continue?
  • Where were the fielders when he was struck?
  • Wasn't he standing on the bag when he was struck? Or was the pitcher's movement blocking my full view? I did have two other runners and a batter-runner for which I was still responsible.
  • What if I kill it? Where do the runners go? 1st base or 2nd? Or do I get to decide? These men sure run fast?

The bottom line is that this is a difficult situation for even a two or three man crew, let alone one manning it for watermelon ball. Let's review the USA Softball rules regarding hit batter-runners and runners.

2018 USA Rules 6008-5   RUNNERS ARE ENTITLED TO ADVANCE WITHOUT LIABILITY TO BE PUT OUT

I. When a fair batted ball:

4. Deflects off a runner or umpire and goes out of play, after passing an infielder. excluding the pitcher and provided no other fielder had a chance to make an out.

EFFECT

  • 1) The ball is dead.
  • 2) All runners are awarded two bases from the time of the pitch.

8-7 THE RUNNER IS OUT

J. When a runner interferes:

4.Intentionally with any defensive player having the opportunity to make an out with a deflected batted ball.

EFFECT

  • A. The ball is dead.
  • B. The runner is out.
  • C. The batter-runner is awarded first base.
  • D. Runners must return to the last base touched at the time of the interference.

8-7 RUNNER IS OUT

K. When a runner is struck with a fair untouched batted ball while not in contact with a base before it passes an infielder, excluding the pitcher, or if it passes an infielder and another fielder has the opportunity to make an out. The ball is dead and the runner is out.

EFFECT

  • A. The ball is dead.
  • B. The runner is out.
  • C. The batter-runner is awarded first base.
  • D. Runners must return to the last base touched at the time of the interference.

8-4 RUNNERS ARE ENTITLED TO ADVANCE WITH LIABILITY TO BE PUT OUT

E. If a fair ball:

  1. Contacts an umpire or a runner after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, provided no other fielder had a chance to make an out, or:
  2.  When a fair batted ball has been touched by a fielder, including the pitcher, and the runner did not intentionally interfere with the batted ball or the fielder attempting to field the batted ball.

EFFECT

  • The ball remains live.

8-6 A RUNNER MUST RETURN TO THEIR BASE

C. When a batter-runner or runner is called out for interference. All other runners shall return to their last base touched at the time of the interference.

EFFECT

  • 1) The ball is dead.
  • 2) All runners must return to their base without liability to be put out, except when force to advance to the next base because the batter became a batter-runner.
  • 3) Runners are not required to touch the intervening bases while returning to a base.

8-8 THE RUNNER IS NOT OUT

D. When a runner is hit with a fair untouched batted ball that has passed an infielder, excluding the pitcher, and in the umpire's judgement, no other fielder had an opportunity to make an out.

8-8 THE RUNNER IS NOT OUT

E. When a runner is hit with a fair untouched batted ball over foul territory that, in the umpire's judgement, no fielder had an opportunity to make an out.

8-8 THE RUNNER IS NOT OUT

F. When a runner is hit by a fair batted ball after it touches or is touched by any fielder, including the pitcher, and the runner could not avoid contact with the ball.

8-8 THE RUNNER IS NOT OUT

M. When hit by a batted ball while in contact with a base, unless the runner intentionally interferes with the ball or the fielder making a play.

RULE SUPPLEMENT #33

A. Runner interference includes:

1) A runner or batter-runner who interferes with a fielder executing a play, including the batter-runner touching the white portion of the double base at first base and colliding with the fielder trying to catch a thrown ball from a fielder.

A) When a runner interferes with a fielder, the umpire must determine if the interference occurred before or after the runner who interfered was put out and then apply the appropriate rule.

B) When a runner is hit by a fair batted ball, it is interference if it occurred before the ball passed an infielder, excluding the pitcher, and provided the runner was not in contact with the base. It is interference if the batted ball deflects off one defensive player and the runner intentionally interferes with any defensive player who has the opportunity to make an out.

C) A runner could be standing on base and a defensive player bumps the runner while watching the flight of the ball. If the defensive player fails to make a catch on a ball that could have been caught, it is the umpire's judgement whether or not interference should be called. The rule provides that a runner must vacate any space needed by a fielder to make a play on a batted ball, unless the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when the hindrance occurs. In this case, the runner should not be called out unless the hindrance in intentional.

D) If interference occurs by the runner on a foul fly ball not caught but, in the umpire's judgment, could have been caught with ordinary effort had interference not occurred, the runner is out and the batter is also out. If in the judgment of the umpire, the foul fly ball could not have been caught with ordinary effort, a strike is called the ball is dead, and the batter remains at bat.

E) For crash interference, refer to RS #13

2) A runner or batter-runner who is hot by a fair batted ball, or

3) Interfering with a thrown ball.

ONLINE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION

Gus J Sopeña shared...

GusGood day fellow umpires. First, let me preface this by saying that I am by far one of thee most inexperienced umpires out of all of you. Having said that, I am seeking further knowledge on a play I saw at a slow pitch game just last week. Very curious to hear your opinions on what you would had called. Here's the situation:

Bases loaded. Batter hits a sharp line drive right at the runner on 2B. Runner on 2B (the batters teammate) STAYS on the bag, puts his hand up to avoid the ball hitting him in the head. Ball hits runner on 2B's hands while still on 2B. The runner did NOT attempt to touch the ball. He was simply avoiding the ball hitting him. The umpire calls a dead ball. Awards the runners on 3B and 2B home plate and their team 2 runs. Runner on 1st goes to 2B. Hitter goes to 1st. Someone that had spoken to the umpire said that he explained his ruling saying that had the runner on 2B NOT hit the ball, it would have been a base hit and both runners on 3B and 2B would had scored anyway.

Very curious to hear how you experienced and knowledgeable umpires would had called this play. Thank you in advance for your time.

Zack Barnett - Seems like a judgement play. Hard to say without seeing it. Maybe he felt the runner interfered with the play.

Gus J Sopeña - Yeah I can see that.

Gus J Sopeña - BTW- this was a play a supervisor had asked me about that happened on a field next to mine while I was umpiring at Lakeside last week. I was not playing in this game or umpiring this particular game. I was just not 100% sure I told our supervisor the correct answer when they had asked what I would had called.

Nilsen Septon - I'll throw my hat in to the ring. Without having actually seen the play.....there are 3 things that can happen if a base runner is hit by a batted ball. 1) base runner is out because of interference...but this is only if a defensive player from the infield has an opportunity to make a play on the ball...if not, I have no interference. 2) Dead ball...and only dead ball if I think the base runner might have been injured because of the batted ball. Once dead ball is called, you can't take it back. The award at this point is the batter gets 1st base, and only if the other runners are forced to advance (with the batter receiving 1st), then they advance one base...again, only if forced to advance. 3) Live ball...play on. Having said that, I did not see the play and possibly other things pertaining to the play. However, I don't recall anything in the rule book allowing a 2 base award.

Nilsen Septon - Oh...so if interference is the call, the base runner that caused the interference is out, batter gets 1st, and runners advance ONLY if forced to advance... otherwise, runners stay put.

Loren Walker - Nilsen is dead on...trust me on this he is 100% correct....and in the scenario you described the only way I'm calling a dead ball is if the player is seriously injured.

Cris Durbin - This was my play and as you were explained it is not quite accurate.

Cris Durbin  - Runners were on 1st and 2nd base. Line drive up the middle through the pitcher hit the runner up around the head ricocheting into left field. He was standing on the base when he got hit and did not intentionally interfere, and no other infielder had a opportunity to make an out, so at this point he is protected from interference. When hit he went straight to the ground and stayed down. So at this point I called immediate dead ball to check on the injury to the head. Luckily he got his arm up to protect his face and ended up getting up and being OK. While checking out the runner the left fielder picked up the ball in left field ran in and tagged the runner and said what are you going to do blue. By rule I award based I felt in my judgement they would have achieved on the play because of the dead ball. I put the runners on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. If it had hit him below the head area I would have allowed the play to continue.

Cris Durbin - The answer to 2018 USA softball Exam question 30 "With R1 on 3B, B2 hits a line drive striking F1 in the face that results in an apparent serious injury. The umpire should rule:

  • a. Call an immediate dead ball.
    b. Allow for the player to receive medical attention.
    c. Award the bases that they think would have been reached.
    d. All the above

Cris Durbin - D is the correct answer.

Zack Barnett - It isn't the same. The player was on the base...

Cris Durbin - It's still a dead ball

Cris Durbin - What would you do?

Cris Durbin - If he is not on the base Nilsen is right on.

Zack Barnett - I already said what id do. If I found the act to be intentional I'd call a dead ball. Otherwise let play continue

Cris Durbin - Only thing is if there is apparent injury to head it is dead ball intentional or not. If I had been able to tell that it hit is hand or arm I would have not called the play dead and let it play out. The player went down and stayed down. I erred on the side of caution.

Zack Barnett - He said it hit his arms

Cris Durbin - Your right then if you know for sure it hit the arm then play on.

Nilsen Septon - Thumbs up to Cris Durbin - sounds about right as Cris said he put the runners on 1, 2, and 3...and not 2 with the other two runners scoring as given in the original post. On a side note...it is always difficult in giving a ruling without seeing the actual play...case in point - 1st base coach has the batter safe by two steps when the base umpire has the batter out by half a step. Like it or not, people see what they want to see and they see different things according to what they think the rules are. I always find it interesting that when an umpire makes a mistake...and yes, that does happen, but the umpire gets crucified over that. However, when a player makes a glaring mistake, everyone is like - "Hey that's OK...Shake it off - Go gettem the next time..............................................."

Gus J Sopeña - Thanks everyone for the responses! Appreciate it. Learning experience for me too. Sorry again Cris Durbin for mixing up the details.

Cris Durbin - No worries!!

SIDE NOTE: I give high praises to Cris Durbin for his handling the discussions on Facebook the way he did. It is hard watching others offer criticisms and praises on calls made on the field.  We can be a harsh group, offering quick opinions on what ultimately turned out to be partial play information. Cris handled himself very well both on the Lakeside ball field and in our little Facebook playground. I am glad that we have a safe playground here and can discuss scenarios, rules, and real-life events.

RULING

With the impact to the head and the collapse of the runner on second, "Dead Ball!" When the situation is assessed with the player on the ground, then award the batter-runner first and force the runners around, scoring one run. However, if this looked like a double, then it is the umpire's discretion as to placing the runners where he feels is appropriate. Let's face it, failure to kill this particular play would be unrealistic whether it is men's slow pitch or girl's fast pitch.

Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

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