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Guest Coach Newcomb

Left hander pick at 1st base

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Guest Coach Newcomb

Ok, 3-2 count, 2 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd.  Left hander on the mound.  1st baseman playing behind the runner, not at the 1st base bag.  Pitcher lifts his lead leg and throws to the 1st baseman, pivot foot still on the rubber, a typical LH pick off move.  

But he does not throw to the base, but rather the 1st baseman behind the runner, as the runner starts his secondary lead.  

Is this legal???

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As described, no. The rule requires that F1 "throw to a base," in this case 1B, not to a fielder (such as F3). (That F1 is a LHP is irrelevant, BTW.)

This provision is generally interpreted as requiring that the fielder be in a position to make a play on the runner, which AFAIK itself has no official interpretation. My own personal philosophy is that F3 is in a position to make a play when he can reach the runner (or base) without moving his feet (and I just showed an MLB clip of a balk called for this which is just that tight). Some folks might allow 1 step. Some probably don't care.

Technically, the violation is for feinting a throw to 1B, which can be a hard sell because many people think feinting = no throw. But because the requirement is not merely a throw but a throw to a base, it's possible to feint that by either not throwing or by throwing near-but-not-to a base. The latter is what happened in your play, and it's illegal at 1B.

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If a HS game under FED, it is legal if F3 is in the proximity of the base. Proximity is umpire judgement whether F3 is close enough to make a play on the runner. 

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I would add that in one of the codes (I think OBR, through MLBUM, but it might be NCAA), the interp is that F3 must be moving toward the runner before the throw.

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Had this in a game recently. R1/R3. Game is not real close, pitching on par with the score.

Pitcher steps to 1st, all good... proceeds to spike the ball (not so good) but the ball does make it all the way to F3. Coach in the 3rd base box wants a balk. Our answer was F3 moved to the ball which was closer to the base, so no balk in our opinion. I my head I was wondering why R3 was still standing on 3rd while the ball was rolling to 1st, but that is a mystery for another day.

 

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