Obstruction in Little League

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  • #171180

    aetaha
    Participant

    I have an obstruction question for Little League. A catcher sets up outside the basepath to receive a throw, but the throw is offline and to try to catch the throw the catcher unintentionally moves into the basepath, blocking home plate even though the ball hasn’t quite arrived yet. Is it obstruction if the runner makes contact with the catcher (or slows down/swerves to avoid contact) before the catcher has possession of the ball?
    My understanding was that it would not be obstruction if the catcher (or any other fielder) had to go into the basepath to try to catch the ball. However, Note 2 following Rule 7.06(b) says “If the defensive player blocks the base (plate) or base line clearly without possession of the ball, obstruction shall be called. The runner is safe and a delayed dead ball shall be called.” There doesn’t seem to be any exception for the fielder being in the act of fielding the ball (like there is in the major leagues). Also, there’s a YouTube video showing a Little League World Series play in which the catcher clearly moved into the baseline in the act of fielding a throw, but the throw hadn’t arrived quite yet, and the umpire called obstruction.

    My related question is, if blocking a base (or basepath) without possession of the ball is enough for obstruction, then should obstruction also be called on a first baseman who moves into the basepath (between home and first base) to try to catch an offline throw by an infielder, if the ball hasn’t arrived yet?

    Thanks

    #368399

    bfredrocks
    Participant

    In your first question, that is obstruction (OBS). In LL, a fielder may not block the base path (impede the runner) without possession of the ball, even when fielding an offline throw. The YouTube video you mentioned is a classic example of the impending play at the plate where the throw carries the catcher up the line and into the path of the runner. In that case, as in your OP, OBS is the call and the run scores. If there is contact, you also have to judge if the runner initiated it and it’s malicious. If so, the run still scores but you could have an EJ as well.

    As to the related question (throw offline to B1), this becomes more of a judgment call between OBS and incidental contact. What I have been told by LL and various UICs, is that if the throw to B1 (assuming a groundball to the infield) is slightly offline and just pulls F3 towards home, then any contact would be considered incidental.

    #368408

    typikon
    Participant

    These are good questions and my take on it is that both plays you mention are similar and are not obstruction in LL.

    See the contradictory remarks from the RIM (page 14 in the 2015 version):

    It is quite simple now for the umpires to rule on obstruction…if the defense does not have the ball and impedes the progress of any runner it shall be called obstruction. It makes no difference if the defense is fielding a thrown ball or waiting for the ball, if the defensive player does not have the ball in his/her possession it is obstruction if they impede the progress of any runner.

    “Train wrecks are still going to happen and are not to be considered as obstruction. Example: Throw from the shortstop to the 1st baseman in an attempt to get a batter-runner out pulls the 1st baseman down the line toward home plate and the 1st baseman and the batter-runner collide. This is a train wreck because the defensive player is doing what he/she should be doing (fielding the ball) and the batter-runner is doing what he/she should be
    doing (running the bases).

    I take the above to mean that there is a subtle difference between a play where a fielder trying to receive a ball has no choice but to enter the basepath to field a thrown ball, vs. a fielder who is setting up in the basepath when he doesn’t really need to be there to field the ball.

    #368423

    aetaha
    Participant

    Thank you both for your answers. Because the RIM contradicts itself, I’m feeling better about being confused.

    #368424

    Anonymous

    I agree the RIM appears contradictory. My take in LL is that a violent train wreck at 1st caused by F3 standing up onto the bag to field the throw (or moving toward home) is not obstruction, unless the runner was impeded, and most of the time he isn’t impeded, and that’s why it’s violent. He continued full velocity unimpeded and unhindered into the kaboom! A collision at 1st in LL is not obstruction. Hindering the runner without possession of the ball before he gets to 1st is obstruction (whether a collision occurs or not).

    Tough calls to make, because you’ve invariably got two kids laying in heaps, two mom’s screaming, two dads defending the moms and kids, a base coach who is outraged but who has no clue what happened, and a manager who’s walking over from 3rd demanding there be some retribution.

    Have fun.

    #368425

    Hoytmedic
    Participant

    If you think it’s confusing, check below the similar question forwarded two years ago to Southeastern Region and the official response.

    Question:

    The LL RIM explicitly states that “train wrecks” should not be construed to be obstruction, and gives the classic example of F3 moving to secure for an errant throw resulting in a collision with the BR.
    Others have argued that the rule book definition of obstruction does not accommodate “train wrecks”, i.e., there is no explicit “in the act of fielding” provision to protect fielders “doing what they are supposed to do.”
    What is the current LL interpretation of obstruction in a “train wreck” situation?
    Does it apply to HP and the other bases, i.e., is not limited to just the 1B “example” cited in the RIM?

    Answer:

    It is important to read more than just a piece of the information provided. If you read the paragraph immediately preceding the statement about “train wrecks” in the RIM, it will provide you your answer.

    LL RIM – 2.0 Obstruction
    It is quite simple now for the umpires to rule on obstruction…if the defense does not have the ball and impedes the progress of any runner it shall be called obstruction. It makes no difference if the defense is fielding a thrown ball or waiting for the ball, if the defensive player does not have the ball in his/her possession it is obstruction if they impede the progress of any runner.

    “Train wrecks” are still going to happen and are not to be considered as obstruction. Example: Throw from the shortstop to the 1st baseman in an attempt to get a batter-runner out pulls the 1st baseman down the line toward home plate and the 1st baseman and the batter-runner collide. This is a train wreck because the defensive player is doing what he/she should be doing (fielding the ball) and the batter-runner is doing what he/she should be doing (running the bases).

    Most actions related to obstruction concern who has the right-of-way. The defense has the right to the baseline on a batted ball or when he/she already has the ball in his/her possession. The offense has the right to the baseline in all other occasions, including on a thrown ball.

    The confusion comes in with defining a “Train Wreck”. And while there is no true definition found in any rule book, it is typically considered to be when the ball, runner, and fielder all come together at the same time. In these situations; the umpire needs to apply good judgment using the information provided in our rule book to determine if this was “Obstruction” or “Nothing”.

    In either case, the umpire should immediately identify their decision. If it is obstruction in this scenario, it falls under 7.06(a) and is an immediate dead ball. The umpire should call “Time” and indicate, “That’s Obstruction”. If in the umpire’s judgment it is just a “Train Wreck”; then the umpire should indicate “That’s Nothing” using the safe signal and verbal declaration of “That’s Nothing”. Of course, if the first baseman makes the catch and a tag; it’s easy. We have an “Out”.

    LL Rule 2.0
    OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. A fake tag is considered obstruction. (NOTE: Obstruction shall be called on a defensive player who blocks off a base, base line or home plate from a base runner while not in possession of the ball.)

    LL Rule 7.06
    When the obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”
    (a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before touching first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base last legally touched by such runner, before the obstruction. Any preceding runners forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction shall advance without liability to be put out.

    #368428

    Anonymous

    After reading the SE Region statement, I think my understanding is essentially correct.

    Was the runner “impeded” in reaching 1st base by a fielder who did not have possession before he was put out or before reaching 1st (if he never gets there)?

    That’s the inquiry, not whether there was a violent collision, whose fault it was, or if anyone should be punished. We don’t punish collisions. We punish obstruction, interference, and unsportsmanlike conduct. A collision can certainly impede a runner. Deciding whether it did or not is how we earn our hotdog and ice cold Coke.

    #368430

    bfredrocks
    Participant

    @typikon 204017 wrote:

    These are good questions and my take on it is that both plays you mention are similar and are not obstruction in LL.

    While I agree that the RIM is contradictory, and I’ve had to get clarity from the Western Region Director, on the first sitch in the OP, I respectfully disagree. This is obstruction in LL. As I said, the classic example is shown here:

    https://youtu.be/_5nn58RD2sg

    #368440

    hdeguzman
    Participant

    @bfredrocks 204039 wrote:

    While I agree that the RIM is contradictory, and I’ve had to get clarity from the Western Region Director, on the first sitch in the OP, I respectfully disagree. This is obstruction in LL. As I said, the classic example is shown here:

    https://youtu.be/_5nn58RD2sg

    Great example bfredrocks and thanks for sharing. But in your first reply above, you also talk about “incidental” contact where you cite the example of, “if the throw to B1 (assuming a groundball to the infield) is slightly offline and just pulls F3 towards home, then any contact would be considered incidental.”

    Why would this call be considered “incidental”?

    I had a play last night in a Little League Juniors game where the first basemen went up the line on an errand throw had to jump up in the air to get the ball, the batter-runner was obviously impeded because he even freaked out and kind of stopped in his tracks, the first basemen came down and tagged the batter-runner and I called him out. No one complained except the offensive coach said that little Johnny should have kept running and not have stopped as he would have been safe if he went around the runner.

    I thought about this post last night and thought, “should I have called that obstruction?”

    Thanks!

    H

    #368441

    typikon
    Participant

    @bfredrocks 204039 wrote:

    While I agree that the RIM is contradictory, and I’ve had to get clarity from the Western Region Director, on the first sitch in the OP, I respectfully disagree. This is obstruction in LL. As I said, the classic example is shown here:

    https://youtu.be/_5nn58RD2sg

    I agree with you. In this clip the catcher did not need to go where he did to field the ball. He only needed to move down the line toward third base. He could have easily stayed to the first base side of the base line and caught the ball and then tried a swipe tag.

    This is subtly different than a throw from left field in which a ball traveling right down the baseline simply cannot be caught without moving into the baseline.

    #368442

    typikon
    Participant

    By the way, the idea that “both players are doing what they’re supposed to be doing” is an example of a logical error called “begging the question.”

    In other words, in the clip shown in the previous few posts, we’re asking whether the catcher committed Obstruction. It makes no sense to ask “is he doing what he’s supposed to be doing?” because it depends on whether he is committing obstruction. If the catcher in that video clip is guilty of Obstruction then “he should not have doing what he was doing.”

    #368445

    Anonymous

    @hdeguzman 204050 wrote:

    I had a play last night in a Little League Juniors game where the first basemen went up the line on an errand throw had to jump up in the air to get the ball, the batter-runner was obviously impeded because he even freaked out and kind of stopped in his tracks

    The batter-runner was obviously impeded (by a fielder without possession of the ball). I’ve got obstruction on that play, and BR is protected to 1st base.

    If there’s a collision after the obstruction, then it’s still obstruction. If there’s no collision, it’s still obstruction.

    The usual Little League trainwreck collision at 1st happens when the BR is going full bore, the fielder rises up onto the bag to field a throw, and either the throw beats the runner or the runner beats the throw, and there’s a nearly instantaneous collision that results in one or more players writhing on the ground. Both managers demand a ruling, because that has to be something. It is something. It’s baseball.

    #368447

    typikon
    Participant

    @msmith 204055 wrote:

    The batter-runner was obviously impeded (by a fielder without possession of the ball). I’ve got obstruction on that play, and BR is protected to 1st base.

    If there’s a collision after the obstruction, then it’s still obstruction. If there’s no collision, it’s still obstruction.

    The usual Little League trainwreck collision at 1st happens when the BR is going full bore, the fielder rises up onto the bag to field a throw, and either the throw beats the runner or the runner beats the throw, and there’s a nearly instantaneous collision that results in one or more players writhing on the ground. Both managers demand a ruling, because that has to be something. It is something. It’s baseball.

    Does it matter in these situations whether F3 catches the ball?

    #368449

    Anonymous

    Actually, I must correct myself. I would have the batter protected to first base on the obstruction, and then when the tag is made, I’d have a play being made on an obstructed runner, and an immediate dead ball. Personally, I wouldn’t call the fielding of the throw to necessarily be making a play on the runner, because F-3 is not in contact with the bag, and in the event his leaping in the air is unsuccessful and the ball goes to the fence (or even ob), I’m not going to call Type 1 or A obstruction and terminate the runner’s ability to achieve 2nd by killing the ball before it flies over F-3’s head or goes ob, which would give him 2nd on the ob. If I killed it on the attempted catch, and considered that a play being made on an obstructed runner, he’d have to be happy at 1st, because the ball would be dead on the obstruction.

    I realize an umpire could call it Type 1/A obstruction at the time of the attempted catch, and I couldn’t say you’d be black and white wrong.

    #368450

    Anonymous

    FWIW as an aside, it took me a couple (a few?) years to finally figure out why we’ve got to kill the ball when a play is made on an obstructed runner (Type 1 or Type A obstruction).

    hdeguzman‘s junior’s play is the reason. R-1 and R-3, 2 outs. BR is obstructed (hindered and impeded) on his way to 1st by F3 who does not have possession of the ball, and umpire decides he’s protected to 1st base and marks/calls the obstruction. F3 then gains possession of the ball, and tags BR before he gets to 1st. Now what do we do? R-2 rounds 3rd and is heading home while R-1 is heading to 3rd. F3 just tagged BR before he got to 1st. F-3 and everyone else is staring at the umpire waiting for a call on the tag as another runner is about to score. “TIME!”

    This play is also the reason why I think FED’s obstruction rule is not as good as the OBR/LL/NCAA rule. In FED, what is the umpire supposed to do after F-3 tags the obstructed BR with 2 outs? Just stare at him or look away? Say, “He was obstructed, so I’m going to award him 1st at the end of the play, so you might want to throw it home to get R-2”? It’s a delayed dead ball till all playing action has ended. Around here (right or wrong–probably wrong) most of the more experienced umpires who also work college ball are going to kill it in a high school game as soon as the obstructed runner is tagged before reaching to next base or the base to which he was entitled.

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