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Baseball / Softball

 

Bat Hitting Ball Second Time

QUESTION: Ruling on bat hitting ball second time. Batter hits ball and drops bat in fair territory and ball strikes bat second time. Is that dead ball b-r out? Other runners can not advance?

ANSWER:
1. If the bat is out of the batter's hands, dropped or thrown, and it hits the ball a second time in fair territory, the ball is dead and the batter runner is out.
2. However, if the BALL hits the bat on the ground, the batter is not out and the umpire must then determine whether the ball is fair or foul based on the fair / foul rule.
3. If the ball rolls against the bat in fair territory, the ball remains live.
4. If the ball stops or is touched in fair territory, it is a fair ball.
5. If the ball touches the bat in fair territory and then rolls to foul ground and stops, it is a foul ball.
6. If the ball rolls against the bat in foul territory, it is a foul ball.

RULE 6.05 A batter is out when -- (h) After hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair territory. The ball is dead and no runners may advance. If the batter-runner drops his bat and the ball rolls against the bat in fair territory and, in the umpire's judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, the ball is alive and in play;

 

SanFilippo:
Youth sports no longer about the kids


Anthony J. SanFilippo

Just finished coaching youth baseball for the summer, as has been the case for the past six years. However, this year the coaching foray stretched into late July and tournament baseball. It was a new experience from a coaching perspective. Last year, it was just cheering from the bleachers as the local 11-year old team reached the state tournament with my kid serving as a role player. This year was different. It was eye-opening. And frankly, what was witnessed was pretty darn embarrassing. First, let it be stated that tournament team baseball has simply taken over in every suburban community near and far. Whether it's Little League, Babe Ruth or the younger arm of the Bambino known as Cal Ripken Baseball, everything is geared toward the development of tournament teams. House leagues, which mostly everyone who grew up prior to this era participated in, are not important, except as cash cows for the athletic organizations that offer them and often end the same week as school.

This means, for 90 percent of the ball-playing youths, America's pastime, which is synonymous with summer, is over before the solstice even arrives. That's a shame. But, in defense of the house league organizers, it's somewhat understandable. Parents are more interested in going to the shore or enrolling their children in summer camps than they are with continuing baseball as an activity into the summer. With rosters being smaller in number (to assure every kid playing time), the gamble of forfeiting games because of other activities are too great to risk keeping these leagues running very long past the final school bell. But what of the 30 or so kids in each age group that really want to keep playing? There has to be something for them, right? Well, that's where tournament ball comes into play. And that's fine. There are now tournaments for kids as young as 8 and as old as 18. The premise of these tournaments is to allow the kids who want to continue playing the chance to do so, which is definitely a positive.

So, each athletic association, whether it's the Brandywine Youth Club, or the Ridley Athletic Association, or Drexel Hill Little League, or whoever, creates a team of kids to play tourney ball, usually through some sort of tryout. If there are enough kids left over, a second squad, or "B" team is formed. There are plenty of tournaments for all to participate in, including the kids in the "B" program. While this all sounds hunky-dory, it's really not. That's because when it gets to this point, for the most part, the organizers, or coaches, or both, and yes most of them are parents of kids on these teams, suddenly take it too far. It becomes more about winning for community pride, and making themselves look good - as if they are going to be hired by a major league team at summer's end - than it is about teaching the kids to play the game the right way.

At a recent "B" tournament, I was talking to an opposing coach during warmups. He said that his organization held tryouts every year for the tournament team for four years running, and every year, the same 12 kids were chosen to be on the team, no matter how many kids tried out. "It's so political in our town," the coach said. "As a parent, you're either part of the in-crowd or you're not. It has nothing to do with your kid, it's all about who the parents are, who they know, and what part they're willing to play." At the same aforementioned tournament, while speaking to another coach, it was divulged that one of the 10 participating coaches loaded his roster with 20 names, which is a lot for one team.
After nearly losing to a team he felt he should have obliterated, the coach called on kids who played for that organization's "A squad." He was handing out jerseys to these kids minutes before the next game. Suffice it to say, they dominated. In my team's final game, while coaching first base, two of the coaches from the opposing team were talking to my left. One pointed out a kid sitting in the stands who played for their squad a season earlier. One coach walked over to the kid and said, "What are you doing this weekend?" "Nothing, why," the youth replied. "I could really use you for our semifinals and finals," said the coach. "But, I'm too old, and I'm not on your roster," said the dumbfounded child. "Don't worry," said the coach with a snicker. "I'll take care of that." Unfortunately, this shouldn't surprise, because it happens far too often. And not just in baseball, but in other sports too.

It's all about their shallow and fleeting individual glory, and not about the kids themselves who are participating, and supposedly growing within the game. As watchdogs, we in the media are quick to point out character flaws and things like drug abuse and steroid use by players as a way of both reporting news, but also sending a message to those impressionable in society that this behavior is wrong.
But, what good is it when children are learning from their parents and coaches that cheating is acceptable? Yet, nothing can be done. As long as the competition remains more about the adults involved in youth sports than the ones actually playing the games, it will remain this despicable, if not worse.

 


Schiele's Slant: The umpire strikes back

You're blind as a bat! You stink! Get a clue!

Welcome to the world of being a Little League baseball umpire. It is a thankless job. One where, while kids are having fun on the field, adults in the stands sometimes are the ones acting like children. We've all seen it. Or heard it. The loudmouth with the booming voice expressing his displeasure over a call. The mom shrieking after her son got called out looking at strike three. Heckling an umpire dates back to shortly after Abner Doubleday penned the rules of the game. In most cases, the catcalls and cackles are harmless banter.

Just a chance to poke fun at the men in blue. But after chatting with various local Little League umpires, all agree there are times when parents go over the line. Not often, mind you, but when the line is crossed, things sometimes can turn ugly. "It doesn't happen a lot," said umpire Frank Giunta, a veteran of seven-plus years behind the plate. "I'd say it's less than one percent. Most of the time the parents act like they're supposed to. After the game they thank you and appreciate what you do." The umpires admit they've missed some call over the years. And they don't mind dealing with coaches and managers over such matters.

But when the parents get involved, that's a different story. "I understand people are competitive and they want their kids to do well," umpire Brian Nardelli, a 10-year veteran, said. "That's why I try and ignore that stuff and don't pay attention. To me, it's not about the parents. It's about the kids and I try to keep it there. "Unfortunately, there's always one that causes a stir now and then, it's rare, but it happens. I've seen fans get thrown out. I even saw one get so mad he threw his lawn chair." Hey ump, we know you're blind, we've seen your wife. You couldn't call a cab. LensCrafters called, your glasses will be ready in 10 minutes.

Umpire Tim Sugalski, who has been calling games for about four years, understands the heat-of-the-moment times when parents go off. But, he said, they have to learn to let it go. "The crazy things is when they harp on one close call," Sugalski said. "They never let it go the entire game, and after it. "They think you are being unfair, but you're out here doing the best you can. It's not like I'm being paid more by one team or the other. It's not like I have a team I want to see win. I'm here to call the game and see the kids have fun." Pat Allman, who has been umpiring games for 22 seasons, has tossed out his fair share of fans over the years. He even gave the thumb to a mascot once. Yes, a mascot. More on that later.

"When it comes to language, there is no warning," Allman said. "You hook them right away. You know the words I mean. There's no place for that at all, especially around kids. "If they are loud (but not cursing) and far away I'll warn them. If they are close, like behind the backstop and act like a commentator, commenting on everything, I'll usually wait to between innings, get a drink of water and quietly tell them they can watch the game from here or from the parking lot. The results are usually pretty good." Hey ump, this cell phone must be yours. It has three missed calls. Wake up ump, you're missing a great game. I've seen potatoes with better eyes. Giunta finds it amazing that some of the biggest umpire baiters are people that have no clue about the game. "It's mostly a lack of knowledge by parents who don't know what they are talking out, he said. "They don't know the rules and they voice their opinions without an education. "You would think parents would set an example for the kids. The kids, sometimes you call them out, they maybe make a face or something, then walk away. The parents, they just continue to go on and on about it. It's funny, the parents sometimes act like a child more than the kids do themselves." Allman said in most cases, the parents that go over the edge are not one-time offenders.

"Usually, when a person is a troublemaker at a game, they don't save it for just baseball. It's every sport, every year. The parents know who the bad apples are. "There have been times I've warned people, or hooked people, and when the game was over, a parent from that same team will come up to me and will tell me they were glad I did that. That he's been doing it all year." Hey Blue, did your glass eye fog up? Can I pet your seeing-eye dog after the game? I thought only horses slept standing up. As for worst-case scenarios, thankfully none of the umpires had physical altercations. One talked about having his cellphone in hand, 9-1-1 dialed in and ready to hit send after his car was surrounded by angry parents that eventually walked away. Another told a story of an angry parent being physically restrained by other bystanders as the ump sprinted to his car. The best of the bunch was about an incensed parent, after a call at home to end the game, jumping over the outfield fence and running to confront the ump at the plate. How did it end? "He was arrested for public intoxication," the umpire said with a laugh. As for the mascot ejection story, Allman explained it this way. He was living in the state of Washington, calling a district playoff game where fans, parents and mascots were not allowed to coach the kids during tournament games.

"The guy had been drinking," Allman said. "The mascot was a guy in a gorilla suit. Hey, I drink, and I can tell he had been drinking, even if he's wearing a gorilla suit. He kept coaching the kids, even after I told him to stop several times. I told him, mascots are supposed to cheer, not coach. "He doesn't stop, so finally I hook him. I ran the mascot. And by rule, he had to leave the field. Next thing I know, I see him, still in his gorilla suit, head and all, driving off down the road in an open Jeep. Meanwhile, I'm thinking to myself, I just ran a gorilla." Back on a serious note, Allman has advice for parents. Having seen thousands of games, he speaks from experience. "The parents are supposed to be here to cheer," he said. "That's what I tell them, it's your job to cheer, my job to umpire, the coach's job to coach and for the kids, it's their job to play and have fun. It's as simple as that."


T.RICOUNTY U.MPIRE G.ROUP

has adopted a NO TOLERANCE POLICY regarding abuse of umpires.

SPECTATORS: The umpires should not speak to abusive spectators - the umpire will notify the manager and the policy will be enforced as follows:
1: The first warning will be given to the offending team's manager.
2: The second warning will be given to the offending team's manager.
3: If a third warning must be issued, the offending team will forfeit the game.

NOTE: The following rule applies to Little League Only!

9.01 (f) Umpires may order both teams into their dugouts and suspend play until such time as League Officials deal with unruly spectators. Failure of League Officials to adequately handle an unruly spectator can result in the game remaining suspended until a later date.

ON-FIELD PERSONNEL: The above policy does not imply that players, coaches and managers must be warned before ejection from a game. The following offenses may result in immediate ejection from the game:
1: Profanity or obscene language.
2: Physical or verbal assault on an umpire.
3: Throwing hats or other equipment on the field.
4: Arguing balls and strikes or other judgment calls.
The umpire will handle individual situations with on-field personnel, as he feels necessary. He may warn a coach or manager or send him to the bench as alternatives to ejection from the game. These decisions are like all other judgment calls - they cannot be protested and will not be changed.
If a player, coach or manager is ejected from the game, he will be required to leave the area immediately.
Managers and Coaches: Please keep your players and spectators under control. Be respectful of the umpires - they are human, just like everyone else on the field. If you have a question about a ruling, ask the umpire for time and then discuss the situation. Remember that judgment calls cannot be protested and will not be changed.
Remember that our goals are to teach our players sportsmanship and control of their emotions on the field. Teaching by example is the best method to instill these qualities in our players.

 

Please contact the UMPIRE-IN-CHIEF if you think that an umpire has made an incorrect ruling or is doing a poor job on the field.


 

Poise - A Life's Lesson


As a member of the board of directors of our town's youth baseball program I am often asked for advice by new coaches and managers when they enter our league. One of the most common questions is "There is so much to teach…what skills are the most important? What should I teach first?" Without hesitation my response to that query is one word: "poise."
Expecting to hear something more like base-running, bunting, or sliding, I often will get a surprised look and then the follow up question, "What do you mean poise?" This is what I mean:
Poise means composure, the ability to maintain a good attitude and not let the disappointments of the game drive one's behavior. Keeping your cool. In a game where even the best players are unsuccessful two out three trips to the plate, keeping one's poise can get you through the day.


Since many managers see their players' failures as their own, the manager must make poise his number one behavior trait as well. Poise is the example you have to set for your players to emulate. Sometimes the disappointments of the game are connected to the rulings of the umpire. So let's go there for minute.


If you've ever thought, "That umpire cost us the game." You're fooling yourself. What about your players that got put out during the game? At least 18 batters or runners had to make an out during every game! Perhaps some of those outs could have been hits that might have scored more runs? Maybe some of those outs cost your team the game. If an umpire's call was, in your judgment, incorrect and it benefited the other side, chances are good that the same umpire made other incorrect calls during the game or the season that benefited your side too. If you're going to complain about bad calls that go against your team, are you prepared to go out and propose that a bad call that helps your team be reversed as well? I don't think so. So, in effect, complaining about a call you don't agree with is hypocritical. If you're going to silently accept the benefits of an incorrect call that favors your side, you have to accept the questionable calls that hurt your team with as much calm composure and nary a protest.


What you have to recognize is that any amateur umpire is very much like yourself. He's out there because he loves the game and wants to do his part to help kids have fun playing it. Fairly and by the rules. Like you, he's not an expert and he's not a professional. He doing his best and he has no desire to favor either side. He only wants to make the best ruling he can at the time he sees the play. His decisions are final. So why argue them?


Why would one deliberately to be rude and disrespectful to the one person one the field your team really needs support from? The umpire is a human being just like you and the more abuse that is directed at him, the more distracted he will become. You know it's hard to think clearly when you're the target of harangues from players, coaches or spectators. Allowing this situation will unfortunately cause the distracted umpire to become even more likely miss another play or mistake another ruling.
Your objective as coach is simply to win the game, which usually includes some playing and mental errors. But you can still win despite those errors. Remember, the umpire's objective is to go out there and get every play right. No errors! When an umpire makes a bad call he usually knows it and feels just as bad about it as you do. If you lose your poise and blast the umpire for a call you don't like, think: are you making the umpire the scapegoat for your strategy failures, or your team's failures? If that's the case, you fail as a coach and you're making it harder for the umpire to do his job well. Help your players to learn to play better instead making excuses for their poor play by blaming the umpire.


No doubt a bad call will cost you an occasional run, or hand your team an undeserved out. However, one of the most important lessons you can teach your player's is that you'll never agree with every call the umpire makes. Baseball is officiated by humans who are not perfect. It has always been like that and it always will be. Learning to live with an occasional bad call is as much a part of learning to play this game as learning to hit the ball. The sooner your players accept that, the more successful players they'll be. Have you ever seen a player or manager just completely lose control and end up getting ejected over what was a bad call? It happens. Part of being successful is the ability to keep your poise and stay in the game, literally!


I have seen innings where a defense had given away five or six outs to the other team by their poor play: dropping balls, making wild throws and committing mental errors. Then when a close "banger" at first base doesn't go his team's way, the coach hollers, "Get in the game, Blue!"
I continually notice that the most successful players never react to an umpire's decision that goes against them. They always maintain their poise. No matter how incorrect an umpire's decision seems at the time, they calmly dust themselves off and get back in the game without comment or complaint. These successful players know that this time it didn't go their way. However, next time it might, and sooner or later it will. They know the law of averages will keep it fair and things will eventually even out. Successful players know that as long as they keep their poise they're going to continue to enjoy the game.


We often hear that participation in youth sports is a valuable experience that helps prepare children for the competitions and conflicts of life. As a coach participating in this valuable experience what could be a more important life's lesson than teaching poise? Probably none of your players will ever advance to become a professional baseball player. As a working adult, it's been a long time since I was told to get my mitt and go in to cover first base, or to get a bat and try to bunt the runners up a base.

However, as adults we all deal with adverse and difficult decisions made by others that effect us every day. From the assignments that our bosses hand us to the traffic ticket the policeman hands us. Learning how to handle those disappointments in a mature and dignified manner is the same lesson you as a baseball coach can teach right now! Keep your poise


 

About House Rules ....

 

Dear Coach,
This past season I had exactly six times on the diamond when the game threatened to get out of hand. In each case an argument developed between a manager, coach or fan that drew me in and required me to enforce "house rules."

Worse, every report of game problems I received from a young umpire involved a disruption over "house rules".... rules: not taught at any umpire clinic, not developed at a meeting with the umpires present, never posted or handed to an umpire, just yelled at them by parents and coaches during a game.

Coach, I spend literally hundreds of hours each year reading and studying the rules. I attend workshops, clinics and subscribe to three publications designed to make me a better official. No where had I encountered these "rules" that suddenly I was to ensure were not violated.

Let's look at the situations:


Pitcher Rules
Rule One: The pitcher hit two batters in an inning and must be replaced. This turned one of my most enjoyable games into a nightmare. This rule is not in the book anywhere. It served to emphasize this simple point, a point that will be reinforced throughout this letter ... If the coach wishes to do this, they may. If the league wishes to make this a policy guideline for its coaches, they may do that. Is it a rule to be enforced, during a game, by the umpire? No!
Rule Two: The maximum innings a pitcher can pitch is two in the early season, three later in the season. Again, this is coaching policy, an agreement that the coach has with the league, and should not be an enforceable rule by the umpires. Our rule book has well defined pitching restrictions that do not need adjustment. I would like a dollar for every time, after the first batter of the third inning had struck out, a coach came up to me and said "That pitcher can't pitch this inning." Now the game is delayed and it is coach against coach, and this then becomes parents against the umpires. The umpires will call the rule book, everything else is a simple agreement and not binding on the umpires.

In this specific situation what happened was a prime example of how these rules affect the game: Coach1: "It's two innings." Coach2: "It's three innings." Coach1: "It's two ...." Round and round, while the umpire watches and the fans yell.

If the coach feels that one of the league's guidelines has been broken he can phone the league administrators after the game, and they can investigate and impose sanctions as deemed necessary. Coaching guidelines and policy, outside the scope of the rule book, should not occupy the umpire's or player's time on the diamond.

Rule Three: Balks will not be called till mid-season If you are an umpire then you would appreciate the results of this one. The intent is instruction: the results anything but. The pitcher are literally given carte blanche to go for anything early in the season. If the pick off a runner you have a coach or parent yelling that you missed a balk. Since there is no penalty you often have balk after balk, delay after delay, argument after argument. Why? Simply, because pitchers have not been coached properly on pitching technique right from the early leagues. Because there are few, if any, pre-season practices to do this in, the game becomes the practice, the time for learning skills instead of applying skills. So, the umpire becomes the instructor and does the coach's work at the expense of getting the game underway.

In this case let the rule stand on its own. The pitcher who does not pause will have the balk called and the runner will advance. Will he fail to pause again? Not likely. Do your coaching and instruction in practices and the corrections required during the game will be minimal.

Policy or a rule? A guideline for players and coaches or something that bears equal status with balls, strikes, safe and outs?


The "Must-Slide" Rule
The intent of this "rule," hidden behind safety concerns, is really that kids are not sliding into bases when a play is happening. What this has done however is cause untold arguments over "she didn't slide, she's out!" The fact that players do not slide, or do not slide properly, is a coaching issue, to be corrected at practice, not a rules issue to be enforced by an umpire.
It has created a far worse scenario: With a runner on first, the batter hits a clean double but because the fielder is at second the runner slides in. What do you call here? The player has been taught that they must slide into a base anytime a fielder is present. The umpire would now have to call obstruction, and that will lead to bigger arguments.

Does the league not have a comprehensive, well written rule in place already? Why complicate it? Let the umpire interpret and enforce the existing rule. If it is a policy of the league that the players should slide at every base, that is policy, leave the interpretation of the book rule to the training the umpire receives.


No Infield Fly
It had to happen though: Bases loaded, the ball goes up and lands next to second base uncaught. The fielder tags your runner and then steps on the bag, double play, the third out. Who got yelled at?
Your fastest runners on first and second, the ball goes up and hits your runner who is standing on the bag. What is the call? The runner was out for interference is all the umpire has left. The protest that followed: "The runner is protected during the infield fly, so they should be protected even though the rule is not called."

The reason given for the rule modification: "the fielders might not catch the ball" and "that is the farthest some of the players would ever hit" may be true, but the rule remains the rule. The real reason for the house rule, in my personal opinion, is to avoid a game and coaching situation that has not been taught to the players.


The Helmet and Chin-Strap Rule
Three times this year I was demanded to call a runner out because their chin strap was unbuckled at some point around the diamond. Three times I refused and simply asked the player to refasten the strap. In all three cases there was not even a play taking place. Coming down the baseline after hitting a homerun and unclipping a helmet strap is not a reason to call the runner out.
The rules of baseball concerning helmets and what happens when a helmet is removed accidentally or intentionally are specific. "House rules" which focus an umpire on details such as a chin strap, instead of the play at the base, are putting the emphasis away from the game and on to technicalities. They serve to breed contempt and arguments such as the one that happened above.

In my personal opinion, if the league cites as precedent rules that say "all runners must be wearing a helmet" as the basis for their local "automatic out" safety rule, then the same rule book wording also applies to the wearing of the catcher's helmet, found in the rule right above that one. If the catcher removes the helmet and face mask which they must wear, then the runner must be equally "automatically safe" on any play at the plate.

The argument becomes circular and quite heated. It is fueled by the well meant intentions of a house rule that becomes applied at times it was never meant to.


The No-Bat Rule
Even though several levels of the league have eliminated the on-deck circle, there is no "automatic out" for a player holding a bat in his hand in the dugout. The situation was a classic: Coach: "Time ... (time) ... the batter is out because a player in the dugout has a bat in his hands." Umpire: "Where did you find that rule." Coach: "That's the way the game is played, Blue." Umpire: "Wrong game, Coach."
Now the umpire is expected to control the players in the dugouts! If you go behind the plate and put my mask on, you discover you cannot see the dugouts unless you turn your head away from the ball, away from the pitcher, away from the play. One umpire, eighty or more feet away is expected to have control over a situation three coaches, less than six feet away, miss.

Swinging a bat in the dugout is dangerous and I will ask the players not to do this. In every case they have complied. Holding a bat in the dugout? This is a house rule that, although perhaps well intended, took the responsibility away from the coach and placed it on the umpire. Calling the "rule" will lead to ill feelings around the ball park.

By the way, the conversation quoted above took place, not on a Tuesday evening, but on a Saturday morning in tournament play. Here we have the biggest side effect of house rules: a local policy coming into competitive levels of the game.


The Five-Run-Per-Inning Mercy Rule
Here is a rule that, in principle, I can support, except that it has been complicated by several issues. Let's look at the results:
First, the interpretation of the "five" runs varies. Some believe that you can actually score eight runs if the batter hit a home run with the bases loaded. The result has been a "fifth run" situation is which the coaches are running everybody home until a third out is made. The results are simply a travesty and moments when the diamond goes out of control. So, five runs is five runs, no more.

Next, when the league says "open final inning" I interpret that to mean the last inning of a regulation game, in this case, the sixth. That is not how it is being interpreted by the coaches however. Our younger games are played with strict time limits: no inning may start at one hour and forty minutes, no game continue beyond two hours. We are completing the third inning nearly eighty minutes into the game. Despite what common sense and my watch are telling me, the next inning is not the "open" inning. Here is why: if I declare it the open inning then it is also the final inning. If you get three up, three down then the game is over, and we have not reached the time limits.

Randomly declaring an inning as "open" has resulted in terrible games in which the visiting team has stayed at bat for over 40 minutes while the home team tries to make one out. It has also led to more bad feelings and arguments amongst coaches and parents about which inning should be open, or whether this is the open inning. etc. etc.

Finally, when we do reach the two hour time limit (which happens in the top of the fourth inning that has been declared open) having the umpire declare "Last Batter" has also had mixed results. Now we have all the runners in motion as we attempt to squeeze every run over the plate that is possible. This is then followed by "words" among the coaches, parents and ultimately the umpire who gets dragged into the conversations.

The solution to this one is simple, the umpire simply declares: "That's the game" after a batter has completed a time at bat. Game over.

In summary: if we wish a five-run-mercy-rule then it is exactly that. Five runs maximum per inning, no open innings, no declarations of last batter.

Open Substitution and Everyone Bats
In house leagues I have long felt this to be a good equalizer, getting everyone on the field and to the plate. I understood how it was intended to expand the participation and remove some of the competitiveness. In our youngest divisions it has succeeded well, but this rule has had a darker side when we move into what are our competitive teams and ages.
What we regularly witness is a computer printout of whose turn it is to play second base this inning, to pitch in the third inning etc. etc. The printout often has the positions for the next month included and is followed regardless of the game situation. If the coach can't make a game, the players simply follow the sheet while any parent sits in the dugout. The role of the coach, and the development of position players, seems to be minimized. An "everyone does everything" mentality has led to no one done anything particularly well. Games drag on, pitch after pitch, passed ball after passed ball, error after error.

It has lead to one new complaint made to both the umpires, the coaches and the conveners: "It's my turn!" This is now heard from parents and players. In one case an umpire was told he could not start the last inning of a game because a player had only played in the outfield that game. It was the player's "turn" to be on the infield, it was the player's turn to catch, to pitch, to play first base. Bringing resolution to this is not a simple process.

There is also a downfall to this rule when the tournament team is selected and starts playing. Many, many coaches have no idea on how to manage substitutions and re-entry, or how to work through their lineups. Most players lack the unique skills needed to be a "position player"

Personally, my observation is that this rule has weakened the local level of play since it was put in place. As umpires we no longer see players who have quality skills at several positions around the diamond. We see a different catcher each inning, many who cannot handle the position. Have you ever stood behind a young catcher, who has put the equipment on for the first time, ever? You realize this just about the time you take the second shot off your collarbone on a high uncaught pitch. The desire to expand participation, remove some of the competitive edge, and simplify the coach's job has, at the higher levels, had the effect of deteriorating the level of play.


In Conclusion
If you wish to have "house rules" then they must thoroughly address rules that are in the rule book and not be a league policy statement for its coaches. The reason for the rule change should stated the rule that is being replaced and the intent for the replacement.
The results of house rules, from the umpire's perspective, are often detrimental to the game. They result in arguments with coaches and parents that are not really part of baseball, but part of the trappings that surround a skewed interpretation of the game.

Next season, as the leagues form, I encourage you to revisit your "house rules," include an umpire in the discussions of these rules and the impact they will have on the game. Separate your "rules" from your "policy" and monitor policy at the league level, not during the game. Finally, if you have any real rules left, I encourage you to have copies of these rules distributed to the umpires and posted on the bulletin boards for all to see.

Let the umpires study and learn the rules of baseball as it is to be applied at this level. That is difficult enough without having artificial situations flare up as they have so often on our diamonds these past few seasons. The results have not been really fair to anyone let alone those who volunteer their time to officiate games for young players.

Still calling them as I see them,

THE UMPIRE


... written August 9, 1999