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[Admin]
wk2
Saturday 18th January, 2003


Strong Finish To Week Two 22:30 EST by ike

We're moving now, baby, yeah...

The highlight Thursday was an early dismissal from lecture to go out on the hotel pool deck and watch the lauching of the space shuttle Columbia. We couldn't really see the shuttle itself because of our distance from the launch site and some intense glare, but the orange glow of the rockets and the smoke trail were clearly visible -- pretty cool....

Yesterday we got our first glimpse of live games, where students (will be local high school teams starting next week) fielded a defensive squad and took turns hitting (live pitching), while other umpires formed two-man crews to call the games. (Crew 1 does the top of the 1st, and Crew 2 does the bottom half. Then plate man Crew 1 goes to bases and vice versa, and they do the top of the 2nd. The switched Crew 2 does the bottom of the 2nd. Then two new crews do innings three and four, and so on. After a crew's entire rotation, the two umpires each get an evaluation from instructors that supervise from a podium behind the field.) Only second-year students worked yesterday, but today everyone started taking turns, and I got to work bottom of the 1st and 2nd with this dude John, a nice guy and a pretty decent umpire. After working, I got my critique -- my 'Foul Ball' mechanic was a little narrow, I failed to glance over my shoulder working in the middle of the diamond to check if a runner from 2nd was stealing, and I was slightly out of position on a play at 3rd base. Things to work on for next time...

What was especially nice though was my turn in the 'control game' this morning. (Control games are similar to live games in that students field a defense and two-man crews umpire, except, instead of live pitching and hitting, one instructor pitches the ball and another hits the ball out of his hand to 'control' the action and students just run to create desirable situations for the umpires.) After a couple of umpire crews had already performed unspectacularly, I took the bases while Dan (a guy I'm getting to know a little bit since he sits next to me in lecture -- from Chicago, above-average umpire) worked the plate. The two of us put some solid plays together, handling a balk, a catcher's interference, and a Pause/Read/React among other things. As I was jogging off the field, the instructor on the mound complimented me on my effort -- yay!

After dinner tonight I had the chance to hang out with two of the Puerto Rican students, Rafael (26) and Axel (31), who are both a lot of fun. (The third, Idel, is 35, and very friendly in his own right.) Axel is especially good at impressions of people in the class, and even though his English is a little shaky, his imitations are uncannily accurate. I hope to kick it with the three of them more these last couple weeks...

Regarding the quiz, I didn't get many responses this last time around, so either I stumped you or you're all sick of the questions. (If you want access to a rulebook for a future quiz question, check out mlb.com.) In any case, the situation was:

With first and third and no one out, a slow-running batter swings and dribbles the ball up the first base line in fair territory. Realizing the catcher will pounce on the ball and fire to second to start a sure double play, the batter begins running to first, and then intentionally kicks the ball foul. What's the ruling?

Congrats to Giz and Barbara B/Ken B, who correctly ruled that the batter runner is out for interference, and, because his act was clearly for the purpose of breaking up a double play, the *runner at third* is also out. Section 7.09(h) states: 'If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.' Kirk logically ruled the batter runner and the runner from first out, since that runner would have been retired in the foiled double play, but the penalty is actually more severe. Good effort nonetheless...

It's getting late here, so I'm going to sign off soon, but first some final thoughts. We're at the halfway point of the course, and instructors are starting to keep score. During free time I find myself trying to visualize different types of plays to prepare, and I'm anxious to get out on the field and react to the situations correctly. At the same time, I'm realizing more and more that it will be super tough to earn a trip to the evaluation camp (only an average of 7-8 guys out of 40+ from each of the three fields). But not to worry -- you do what you can do...


Wednesday 15th January, 2003



Balks Quiz Answer, Obstruction/Interference, In The Cage With Wendelstedt 17:45 EST by ike

We're cruising through the second week, and the pieces are fitting together. Tomorrow we're covering Appeals (which, from what I imagine, can present some interesting problems), and by the end of this week/the beginning of next week, we're going to start umpiring some actual games -- yeehaw!

I got some good responses to the trivia question regarding balks. I asked:

With a runner on first and a 1-1 count on the hitter, the pitcher tries to keep the runner close by coming a quick set. The runner breaks for second anyway. The pitcher however fails to stop before delivering the ball, and the umpire points and calls 'That's a balk!' The pitch ends up wild, and the runner races to third safely. Where should the umpires place the runner? What's the count on the batter?

The majority of people that answered fell into two camps. Spinner, Eunnok and Gass believed the play was dead as soon as the balk was called, so the runner should return to second base while the count remains 1-1. As Eunnok explained, 'A balk immediately stops the game, which is why you usually see the plate umpire jump from his crouch and wave his/her arms open. Common sense would say that at that point the plate umpire has no angle to judge the subsequent pitch, which means the pitch doesn't count, so the count remains 1-1. The runner gets 2nd base only.' On the other hand, Duggan, Kirk, Giz and the Ken B./Barbara B. tag-team thought the runner was allowed to stay at third. Duggan commented, 'I would say that the runner gets third, and the count is 2-1. I am basing that answer on some old A's game I remember watching (but may remember incorrectly) when a dude (probably Canseco) swung when there was a balk and grounded out and didn't run, and the commentators super dissed, saying that he gave up his free ball by swinging.' Then there was Dean, of Teach for America fame, who gave the most creative answer, saying, 'As any teacher would tell you, the umpire needs to put the runner in his place. And as for the batter, well, he better not be swinging that thing anywhere near authority figures, or that bat is going straight to the June Box (June Box contents will be returned on the last day of school--in June).' Nicely done...

As it turns out, the runner does get to stay at third, and the batter returns to bat with his original 1-1 count -- one of the Approved Rulings in section 8.05 gives the reason: 'APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.' In our quiz example, when the balk is called, the runner is entitled to second, but may attempt to advance further at his own peril. If he makes it safely, he can stay. But if he gets thrown out, too bad -- he doesn't get to go back to second because of the balk.

In general, the penalty when the pitcher commits a balk is to advance all runners one base (a pitcher cannot balk with no runners on). From an umpire's point of view, the proper technique is to call 'That's a balk!', and if possible, call 'Time' right away to kill the play and enforce the penalty. Usually there's no problem stopping the play, since most players freeze when they hear an umpire call a balk. However, if the pitcher doesn't stop and instead takes some action by either delivering a pitch or making a pickoff attempt, the umpire should let the play continue. If the throw is wild, the runner's may advance beyond their awarded bases at their own risk, as it reads in the Approved Ruling above, or there may be additional bases to award if the throw ends up in the stands. In cases where the pitcher delivers a pitch and the batter puts it in play, and all runners (including the batter-runner) advance at least one base, then the game continues without reference to the balk penalty (even if a runner gets thrown out beyond his award). But, if the ball is in play, and the defense is about to record an out on any runner before he's advanced one base, then instead of calling the runner out, the umpire calls 'Time' and enforces the balk penalty, awarding all runners one base from the bases they occupied at the time of the balk. In cases where the batter ends up still at bat (ie, he didn't put a pitch in play and get to stay somewhere on the bases as a result), he does so with the count he had before the balk.

(If my explanation is confusing, or if you have a question about the balk rules, please email me and I'll try to clarify. Ex: Is it a balk if a pitcher makes a pickoff attempt from the windup position without first disengaging the rubber? A: No, as long as he steps toward the base to which he's throwing. I didn't know that rule until a couple days ago...)

Enough about balks. We've spent a lot of time the last few days discussing obstruction (defensive player impedes offensive player) and interference (usually offensive player impedes defensive player, but could be defensive impedes offensive, umpire impedes defensive, or fan impedes defensive). Some of you may recall the play from the World Series this past year where Troy Glaus of the Angels obstructed Benito Santiago as Santiago was rounding third base. Since no play was being made on the runner, the umpire correctly pointed to the infraction, saying, 'That's obstruction', and let the play continue until it was over. The umpire then ruled in such a way as to nullify the obstruction, which, in his judgement, was to place the runner at third, thinking he wouldn't have scored anyway. If there had been a play being made on Santiago (eg, he was caught in a rundown between third and home) and he got obstructed, then he would have gotten one base beyond the one he last legally touched, and would have scored.

Most of the rules regarding interference are pretty straightforward (like: if a dude gets hit by a fair ball, or runs into a fielder as he's fielding the ball, he's out), but there's one that's slightly unusual, so I think it's prime for a quiz question:

With first and third and no one out, a slow-running batter swings and dribbles the ball up the first base line in fair territory. Realizing the catcher will pounce on the ball and fire to second to start a sure double play, the batter begins running to first, and then intentionally kicks the ball foul. What's the ruling?

Finally, I want to report that I had a round of plate work in the batting cage with Wendelstedt. No, not Harry, but his son Hunter, who's also a Major League Umpire. (Harry and Hunter were the first father/son combo to work a Major League game together.) When I first saw Hunter, I thought he looked mean, stomping around the field with his hat low and these menacing sunglasses. Actually, he's super chill and quite friendly. Yay!


Sunday 12th January, 2003



Quiz Answer, Pause/Read/React, Balks 20:20 EST by ike

Day off #2 is nearing its end, cold and windy, as my laundry tumbles downstairs and the IHOP breakfast does battle with the nausea after the Niners' game. At least the Raiders did something respectable...

I received several answers to the quiz question, which asked to which base a runner, originally at first but around second at the time a line drive is caught, is entitled if the fielder's attempted throw to double him off ends up in the dugout? Must he retouch any bases?

The rules that govern this situation fall in section 7.05(g) and 7.05(i)'s additional comments: a runner shall be awarded two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench [whether or not the ball rebounds into the field], or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made; If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.

In other words, as Eunnok explains: 'The runner should be awarded 2 bases and stop on 3rd b/c he still has to tag up, which technically means he's heading toward 2nd on the errant throw by the right fielder (not Gary Sheffield, that guy is money cash. . .I could see some chump like Vander Wal or Juan Rivera chuck the ball in there.) The runner should touch first, I think, in order to get the bases. . . If he's already around 2nd when the ball reaches the dugout, he should retouch 2nd, then first, then headto 2nd, then 3rd. Then he should retouch himself for good measure.'

Excellent answer. Giz, Gass and Ken B. also submitted correct responses -- nice job all.

Yesterday we worked hard on balls hit to right field with no runners on base. In this situation, the base umpire must 'Pause, Read and React': before making any move, he should wait and read the FIELDER (not the ball -- it's tricky at first to keep yourself from staring at the ball, but the fielder actually tells you where the it's going), then decide what to do. If the umpire turns and sees over his shoulder the right fielder either taking three hard steps in any direction, or moving steadily toward the line, or if two fielders converge, he should read the play as possible 'trouble', tell his partner 'I'm going out', and then turn his back and head to the outfield (straddling the line if a fair/foul call could become necessary). Right before the fielder makes the play or as the ball is about to land, the umpire sets himself, makes his fair/foul call (if necessary), makes his catch/no catch call (if it's not obvious), and then bounces back to the infield in foul ground when the action is under control and the fielder throws the ball to the cutoff man. The plate umpire follows the batter-runner. If the base umpire initially reads the ball as routine, again based on the *fielder's* actions, he moves into the infield and pivots, following the progress of the batter-runner, and the plate umpire makes the catch/no catch call. In all cases, it's the base umpire that decides where he's going first, and the plate umpire gets whatever responsibilities are left over. If the the base man makes a bad read and pivots on what becomes a trouble ball, too bad -- he just 'owes the plate guy a beer after the game.'

We also discussed the rules governing the pitcher (section 8.00), especially those infractions by said pticher that constitute a balk. In fact, here's another quiz for you:

With a runner on first and a 1-1 count on the hitter, the pitcher tries to keep the runner close by coming a quick set. The runner breaks for second anyway. The pitcher however fails to stop before delivering the ball, and the umpire points and calls 'That's a balk!' The pitch ends up wild, and the runner races to third safely. Where should the umpires place the runner? What's the count on the batter?

Take a shot at it and send in your answer...



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