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Relief Pitchers

Relief Pitchers

When baseball began, there were no relievers. One player usually pitched the entire game and most teams didn’t have more than two pitchers. In 1876, George Bradley of the St Louis Brown Stockings, started all 64 of his team’s games and completed 63 of them; he sat out four innings all year. Granted, the pitchers of the 19th century bore little resemblance to what is "pitching" today. At one time, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet, hitters could call for a "high" or "low" pitch, pitchers could throw the ball from a running start, and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal. The game changed over time and it became impossible for a team to rely on a single pitcher. Full-time relief pitchers did not emerge until after 1950 and from there the rules regarding...
A Swing or a Bunt?

A Swing or a Bunt?

Each season we seem to get questions on many of the same topics but also we always have some new topics. This year one of those new topics has been difference between a bunt and a slap hit. The difference is really only important when there is a foul batted ball with two strikes but this situation does occur quite often. Under Rule 7-4-9 a batter is out on strikes when she has two strikes and bunts the ball foul with the ball being not caught. If the ball is swung at (not bunted) the ball is foul and the time at bat continues. This rule is the same in baseball however the “slap hit” is not at all prevalent in that game. Softball umpires must therefore be able to identify the difference between the bunt and the “slap”. In order to understand almost any rule in any sport it is important to first...
No Right of Way

No Right of Way

There are times in the game of baseball when the fielder has the right of way and it’s the responsibility of the runner to avoid the fielder such as when a fielder is in the act of fielding a ground ball or a fly ball. Then there are times when the runner has the right of way and it’s the responsibility of the fielder to relinquish space to the runner such as when a runner is approaching a base and the fielder is not in possession of the ball or in the act of receiving a throw. And there are times when both the fielder and the runner have the right of way which is the primary focus of this column. When a batted or bunted ball is front of the plate and the runner is attempting to go to first while the fielder is attempting to make the play, both have the right of way and there should be no...
It's All in the Name

It's All in the Name

Last month we covered the USA Softball Mechanics Points of Emphasis for 2017.  Keep in mind that we all need to get used to the USA Softball name – it’s the new and rebranded name of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) effective with the 2017 season.  This change has been in the works for some years and not only reflects the organization’s position as the National Governing Body of the sport but the return of both softball and baseball to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games program.   There are over forty NGBs in the United States and I’m told that softball was the only one that did not have the name formatted as it now is.  For umpires there are no changes other than a new name and of course a new uniform which will be phased in over the next four years and offer more options – especially for...
Pinch Hitters

Pinch Hitters

Pinch hitting was almost unknown in the early days of the game. Rosters were limited, and every player was expected to take his regular turn at bat. Substitutes were usually only allowed for injuries. Pinch hitters started to be used more often early in the 20th Century. Pinch hitters are used principally in two situations: to replace a weak hitter (pitcher or a light-hitting defensive specialist), or to gain a platoon advantage i.e., left-handed batter against a right-handed pitcher or vice versa. In some instances, a coach will send a pinch hitter to execute a specific play, such as a sacrifice bunt. As with other substitution rules, the substitute must stay in the game and the player they replace may not come back in unless the re-entry rule applies in NFHS play. A pinch hitter may be...
Trickery

Trickery

Trickery is defined as “the practice of crafty underhanded ingenuity to deceive or cheat.” In the game of baseball, however, there is a fine line between an act that is legally crafty and one that is outright illegal. There is no one section in the rule book that outlines what is permissible and what is not when it comes to trickery and cheating. It’s obvious and in the rules that it’s illegal to doctor the baseball or cork a bat etc. But there are many gray areas. It’s importance for umpires, players and coaches to ascertain a misdemeanor from a felony when it comes to baseball law. In some situations, it might depend which umpire is sitting on the bench. Let’s start with a couple of plays from last season. The pièce de résistance of all infield stunts is the hidden ball trick. On...
Softball Rebranding - Fick's Fast Pitch

Softball Rebranding - Fick's Fast Pitch

As we mentioned a couple of months ago USA Softball is the new and rebranded name of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) effective with the 2017 season. This change has been in the works for some years and reflects the organization’s position as the National Governing Body of the sport and the return of both softball and baseball to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games program. For umpires (and others) there are no changes other than a new name and of course a new uniform which will be phased in over the next four years and offer more options – especially for shirt colors. Right now, we all need to work on saying USA Softball rather than ASA. For me, that could take years to get used to. USA Softball has adopted some Mechanics Points of Emphasis for this season and also made some updates to its...
2017 Annual Rules Quiz

2017 Annual Rules Quiz

It’s time for my annual rules quiz. Below are 10 True or False questions based on the Pro rules. Where there is a distinction between the Pro, NCAA and NFHS rule, I have noted it in my answer section. Therefore, if you would rather take the test under NFHS or NCAA rules, you can do so. If you get all 10 correct, consider yourself a “rules guru;” A score of 8-9 correct answers places you in the category of a rules expert; If you get 6-7 right answers, you are living in the average lane; A score of 4 or 5 places you in the category of “rules challenged.” Any score less than 4 correct puts you in rules crisis. And you should deny that you ever took this quiz. OK-number your papers from 1-10 and simply write “True” or “False” for each question. The answers are found at the end of the quiz. Good...