06-26-2008, 02:43 AM
Is the Gorilla Arm issue only an issue in FED?
Here is a post I placed on the HS forum ... but I'm wondering if OBR typically has a problem with this.
What happened to the language in the FED book about the Gorilla Arm being illegal?
You can infer from FED 6.1.3 that you cannot stand in the set position and swing the ball back and forth in your pitching hand ... but I am certain there used to be specific language about the illegality of the Gorilla Arm.
If anyone has it in an old FED rulebook or casebook, please help.
06-26-2008, 04:59 PM
This was written by Tim Stevens is the Washington State Rules Interpreter for the WIAA
It's funny, sometimes, this rule interpretation business. You can't always pick the points that are going to give you the problems. So it is with the "Gorilla Arm" pitching position: I have had more inquiries and confusion on that one this year than I can remember on any in the past. And, I am embarrassed to say, I have been my own worst enemy in the process of misinformation.
When the "shoulder turn" balk was eliminated there was some concern on the behalf of the high school rules makers that it would now be possible for a pitcher to be able to take advantage of the more lenient rule. The deception, they opined, was based on the fact that it would now be possible for a pitcher to have the ball in his (closed) glove, his free hand in front of him and be able to "drive back" the runner with the shoulder turn, the runner not realizing that he was in no danger of getting picked because the pitcher was not in possession of the ball in his throwing hand. (Note: we are, of course, only referring to a right handed pitcher and a runner at first here, but we all know you can't write rules for only one hand or another, so the rules must be enforced evenly). With this in mind the Rules Committee demanded stricter enforcement of the "gorilla arm" position, which is one in which the pitching hand is in front of, and not to the side or behind the pitcher's back.
The problem, of course, lies in the term "enforcement." Before I get into this I need a brief digression into the history of the high school baseball rules. Throughout the '80s and '90s the sport of high school baseball was overseen by Brad Rumble, who had some very specific thoughts as to the nature of the game. For those who have been around for many years it was Brad who was responsible for such high school departures as the umpire-initiated appeal, the pitcher's glove COMPLETELY below the chin, and other such oddities. To his credit Brad was also responsible for numerous of the rules that make the high school game safer. One of Brad's philosophies was that the pitching rules should not only be such that they prevent deception, but also such that pitching should follow a rigorous "procedure." To umpire a pitcher in high school ball during the previous two decades was as much a matter of enforcing procedure as it was intent to prevent advantage.
Rumble's successor, Elliot Hopkins, came into the office with no such pre-conceived notions. Many of the more "gratuitous" variances in the high school game that were put into effect under Rumble have been slowly, yet gradually, eliminated under Hopkins. But for those who worked under both administrations some of the lingering mindsets issued by Rumble were tough to shake under Hopkins. And it is here that the Gorilla Arm confusion comes into play. (For those who want to know the time and think they are being told how to build a clock be patient...I am getting there).
So we get to the concept of pitching enforcement. Hopkins wants the rule enforced . To those who existed under the Rumble administration that means we have a procedural violation which results in a balk. So the word goes out that this position must be balked. I said it...I don't deny it. But I said it in passing while reveling in the demise of the shoulder turn. For those of you who swear you heard me say "balk it" you are not crazy.
Oddly enough, 2005 came and passed with hardly a word on the position. Now, as we get into 2006 it suddenly has been coming from all corners of the state. This prompted me to do some more thorough investigating and now brings a more common sense approach to light.
Much of the discussion centers around the fact that 6-1-3 states that the pitcher's "pitching hand shall be down at his side or behind his back." The penalty also states that "The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs...If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk." Seems pretty clear there, eh? The only nagging point, however, is that rule 6-1-3 also addresses a number of other issues that can be used to constitute the balk issue as well. To get to the heart of the matter, we also need to address rule 6-2-4. Many of the aspects of 6-1-3 are addressed there, and some aren't. Rule 6-2-4c specifically states that it is a balk for "making an illegal pitch from any position" and addresses rule 6-1 as a reference. Again, pretty clear.
Still, the previous ruling does bring yet another nagging question. The penalty is for "making" an illegal pitch. Is improper position actually "making" a pitch? To answer that we have to go back to 2-18, which defines illegal pitch as "an illegal act committed by the pitcher..." (The rest of the sentence isn't important. Honest.) Now our question becomes even more nagging. Is improper position an act? The answer is an emphatic "NO" and that brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.
So where does that leave us, then? The answer is surprisingly simple. The first three sentences of 6-1-3 give standards as to how the pitcher should position himself on the rubber for the set position, but because there is no action involved these positions can be corrected provided that they are done so legally. The gorilla arm should be treated every bit the same as a pitcher whose pivot foot is not fully in contact with the rubber: if it is obvious, bothersome or advantageous, make the pitcher make correction before he is allowed any further action. If the pitcher ignores you and makes any action from this position, he has now performed an illegal act which should be met with a balk penalty.
Since consistency among the association tends to be a point of contention among coaches and players, here is how I recommend that this rule be enforced as a group. When a pitcher goes into the gorilla arm, notify him that he needs to make correction. Don't make a big issue out of it but do let the coach know what the pitcher has been told. Let the coach decide how he wants to proceed - you can either refuse to allow the pitcher to pitch when in that position or allow restricted action from that position. If the coach wants to correct the pitcher then you as an umpire will need to prevent the pitcher from even being allowed to proceed any further until such time as he establishes a proper position. A little tedious, yes, but better than fighting over a myriad of balks. The "restricted action" option is a little more freeing - if the pitcher established the gorilla arm position then he is limited to ONLY coming into the set position from that position. If he does any other action...a pick-off, a shoulder turn, or anything else short of coming off the rubber...then he will be balked for illegal action. Granted, this is not specifically provided for in the rule book but it does allow for us to be able to grab the clean end of the stick while enforcing the spirit of the rule.
I hope that this lengthy essay has given you a little clearer picture on this perplexing rule. Again, for those who have been enforcing it rigidly don't despair...you were following what you know you heard. For those who shook your heads over having seen this called by a partner (or on someone you know) take heart in knowing that the common sense approach ultimately did prevail.
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