Ask the Umpire

” It ain’t nothin’ till I call it”. — Bill Klem, umpire

Why did that umpire make that call? & What is the LL Rule?

Those are two frequently asked questions we hear at the ballpark every season. This section of the website will try to answer those questions and others that you may have.

THIS WEEKS QUESTION:

Q: Hey Blue, what is an “appeal play” or how does a manager “appeal” a call by the ump?

A…. >>>>ANSWER NEXT WEEK>>>

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Q: Dear ATU, My son was at second base and ran all the way home on a base hit to score the winning run. or so we thought; the umpire called him out “because he slid head first”. Is that right? No head first sliding in baseball? What kind of baseball rule is that?

signed: Old School Dad.

Dear Old school, yes that is correct, no head first sliding into bases allowed.

That is a LL baseball rule implmented many years ago to prevent the many finger, hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, head and dental injuries that had been happening to Little Leaguers from sliding head first at full speed into bases.

Since the implementation of that rule and installation of break-away bases and safety bases; catastrophic injuries to players has greatly decreased.

An exception to that rule is on pick-offs or throw behind the runner situations, the runner is allowed to dive back to the bag.

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Q: Mr. Umpire Sir, my son asked me to buy him a new bat for this season. The guy at the store tried to push a $400 model on me, but I bought a nice composite for $325. My little leaguer has been practicing with it for two weeks and he is real happy with it. Now his team manager is telling me the bat is illegal and he can not use it during the games! What gives?

A. The manager may be correct. Little League will only allow bats that meet certain specifications. To be sure; go to the Little League Online site and click on the “Bat Resource” page.

All the information is there regarding your ballplayers bat and whether it is legal or not. If it is a legal LL APPROVED bat, then download/print a copy from this LL site and keep it in the bat bag with the bat. If there is ever a question at any game just show your copy to the coach or umpire.

Have a good season and thanks for asking the Ump.

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Q. Hey blue, I saw a batter swing and miss at strike three and then he ran to first base and the umpire called him safe. Us parents were yelling at the umpire and then at the coach to do something but, they all ignored us and kept on playing like nothing happened. What’s going on?

Signed….. Dad In The Stands

A. Dear D I T S, …”what’s going on?” Well I believe they are playing LL baseball as it is described in the LL Rulebook and trying to have fun and learn the game while being yelled at by a few self admitted “dits”.

However if you are referring to the batter running on a “dropped third strike” then please be advised of a new LL rule implemented last year which allows the batter who has struck out; to attempt to reach first base safely on a dropped third strike as long as first is unoccupied or if there are two outs. This rule has been used in the Jr/Sr LL for many years and LL International has decided it will make the Major LL’s more fun and exciting too.

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Last week’s question:

Q: Mr. Umpire, when is a runner out for being “out of the base line”? Several times this year I’ve seen runners 4 or 5 feet from the white foul line and some umpires have called them safe. That can’t be the right call, can it?

Signed: Frustrated.

A. Dear Frustrated, Rule 7.08 (a) (1) states: “A runner is out when running more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged, unless such action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runners baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base which he/she is attempting to reach.” Notice the rule describes “his baseline” and “runners baseline” and not the actual white foul lines you see on the field.

The rule clearly states when the baseline is established;…”when the tag attempt occurs”…. So, from that moment the baseline now becomes a straight line from where that runner is to the base that he is attempting to reach.

So, as you can see by the rule, there is a lot of the umpires judgement that comes into play here. For instance; think about the runners who are caught in a rundown or “pickle” play.

Here’s a quote from the LL Umpires instruction manual: “Depending on the circumstances, his baseline frequently may change as the play develops.”

I hope that explaination reduces some of your frustration and thanks for asking the ump!

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Q: Hi Blue. I saw this play last Saturday; Runners at 1st and 2nd base with two outs. The batter hits a ball to the shortstop who “can’t find the handle” on it and the ball bounces a foot or two in front of the shortstop who attempts to pick it up. The runner going from 2nd to 3rd base makes contact with the ball and knocks it away as he’s running. The Blue called “dead ball, runner is out” and the inning ended.

I thought if the defensive player touched it first; it was still a live ball when next touched by the runner and the play should be allowed to go on with no penalty to the runner. I’ve seen this called that way before and I looked it up under LL Rule 7.09 (k). Did the umpire blow this call? Thanks.

Signed: Proud Grandpa

A: From your description of “the ball bounces a foot or two in front of the shortstop…” This would fall under the rule you quoted, and; which also involves the “umpires judgement” on that type of play.

As you may know, many LL rules involving judgement are seldom black & white. In the instance of a misplayed ball or bad hop which stays in front of the fielder; Little League trained umpires are taught to allow the fielder “a step and a reach” on these kind of mishandled balls.

After the ball bounced off the shortstop, was it within a step and a reach? I am guessing that in the “umpires judgement” the ball was within “a step and a reach” of the shortstop when it was touched by the runner and that was why the blue called runners interference.

Thanks for your question Grandpa, and have a nice day.

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Q: Hey ump, aren’t you guys supposed to be perfect? My dad said he sees mistakes all the time from where he sits and that the umpires cost us the game. My coach was saying it too, and some guys on my team were crying in the dugout during the game and our pitcher was crying on the mound between pitches. Our team is playing good but it’s not fun because we think about the umpires mistakes alot. My dad talks about these things after the game on the way home and now I’m worried about getting good umpires for our next game. Thanx.

Signed: LLRick99

A: Of course the umpires are not perfect Rick. They are doing the best that they can just like the manager and coaches and even the players. Quite often in baseball as in life; we make errors or mistakes and attempt to blame our misfortune on something or somebody else instead of taking responsibility for our own actions that caused some of our downfall.

Keep in mind Rick that in Little League baseball not all of the umpires will have the exact same strike zone and your pitchers will have to adjust to that particular umpire. All the Major league umpires at Turlock National have had LL Umpire Training and are quite capable of handling any major league game. They are human though and will make an error just like a ball player or coach does from time to time.

My advice to you and the other ballplayers is to try not to think about the errors you or your teammates make on the field. Or, of any mistakes the coaches or umpire may have made. Just play the game with your friends and have fun. Laugh off the errors and try to keep playing hard without listening to all the distractions in the dugout or on the way home.

All the umpires in the National League are umpiring your game because they want to be there and are not being paid for there service. These volunteers are trying there absolute best to call a fair and accurate game. Everyone of them take their responsibility seriously and take pride in seeing that the rules of Little League are followed.

Thank you for your question and good luck the rest of the season. —————————————————————-

Q. Mr. Umpire, I’m an assistant coach with our LL team and last week I saw something I had never seen before; The batter squared around and held the bat out over the plate like he was going to bunt and the umpire called “ball”. How can that be? Thanks,

Signed: Coach Rod W.

A. Yes Coach Rod, it is possible for a batter to square to bunt and hold the bat over the plate and have a ball called; if, in the umpires “judgment”, the ball was out of the strike zone and the batter did not make an attempt to intentionally meet the ball.

This explanation can be found in the LL Rulebook on page 55 which describes what a bunt is and what it is not. It says in part: “…The mere holding of the bat in the strike zone is not an attempted bunt….”

Another explanation can also be found in the LL Umpires publication entitled , Make The Right Call. The MTRC handbook explains the LL Rule best on page 5 by stating: “If no attempt is made to make contact with a ball outside the strike zone while in the bunting stance, it should be called a ball. An effort must be made to intentionally meet the ball with the bat.”

So there you have it Coach, thank you for that question and good luck the rest of the season.

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Q: “Yo umpire dude, what’s with the “uniform police” at the LL games now? Me and my friends from the other teams like to individualize our uni’s and show some style in the way we dress. Last night the umpire said my pants can’t be around my heel. The night before the ump got in another coaches grill about some of his players hats. On Saturday, the ump told my friend to tuck in his shirt when he came to bat and later in that same game he told some of our guys to put their pocket back in. What’s up with that?”

Signed: “Stylin’ at shortstop”

A: I know it can be confusing sometimes about what to wear to your Little League game. We all like to imitate our favorite pro player or the cool guy on the High School team. But just to be safe, always wear your League issued uniform that your Little League gave to each team. Why? Because on page 53 of the LL Rulebook there are actual rules regarding uniforms.

Rule # 1.11 (a) (1) states: “All players on a team shall wear numbered uniforms identical in color, trim and style.” And, part (b) states: “A League must provide each team with distinctive uniforms. Uniforms are the property of the League….” And part (g) states that: “No player shall attach anything to the heel or toe of the shoe…”

If you are wearing your uniform pant around the bottom of your heel than you are clearly violating the LL Rule # 1.11 (g).

If you are wearing a pro-style hat that wasn’t issued by your league then you are most assuredly violating LL Rule # 1.11 (a) and (b).

If you are wearing your uniform with the shirt untucked or the pocket pulled inside out, then you may be showing your disrespect for the game, your teammates, the League and to the other players, or you may just be a sloppy dresser. In any case; when an umpire asks you to tuck it in, just do it and try to concentrate on a getting a hit instead of how stylin’ you are. Isn’t that how we play the game…by following the Rules?

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Q: ” Hey ump, my name is Tim and I’m the catcher on my little league team. Last night the umpire let the runner at first steal second base after a foul ball. I know it was foul because I heard it tip off the bat, saw it tip off the bat and then it went straight into my glove and I caught it! The runner took off and made it to second base because I didn’t throw the ball. I thought it was foul or a dead ball. What’s the deal?”

A: From the way you described the situation Tim, I believe the umpire judged it a “foul tip” and the ball is “live” in that instance. The Little League Rulebook on page 57 describes a Foul Tip as “a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catchers hands and is legally caught…..any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play.”

Umpires are taught to signal a foul tip make a “skipping” or “brushing” motion with their right hand across the back of their left hand and then bring the right arm up at a 90 degree angle (elbow bent) with a fist “knocking on the door” to signal a foul tip strike.

Catching a foul tip as you did takes a great deal of skill and concentration. Perhaps you were not aware of the umpire signaling the foul tip strike behind you. In any event, I’m sure you will be more aware of “ball is in play” part of the rule and be ready to throw that next base-stealer out, and thank you for your question.

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ASK THE UMP: umpireinchief@tnllbaseball.com