This past weekend, I was acting as onsite UIC, and as I was rolling the cooler full of ice, water, and towels from one field to another, replenishing the guys between innings, one of my crews had a situation happen right in front of me which I was very proud of how they handled it... without botching it or consulting me or the TD.
R1, R2, 2 outs, X-2 count (balls not relevant). Swinging strike, pitch makes contact with the bat, and ends up... in the F2's armpit, trapped there. F2 gets up, flips the ball towards the mound, and starts trotting towards his dugout while the DT fans applaud his outstanding catch...
... but was it a catch?
The 3BC (OTHC) starts bellowing, "That's not a catch! That's not a catch! Get the rule right!" while the PU steps back, and instead of making an Out mechanic, motions and calls, "Time!". I refrained from saying anything, as much as my younger umpire-self would have liked to, instead leaving it to this crew to determine. The PU motioned in the BU, and they met just in front of the mound. At this point, both the OTHC and the DTHC are on the field, and the PU has to signal to both of them to back off and return to their dugout areas, before he resumes discussing with the BU. Of course, the DT parents are, to a person, clamoring, "But it didn't hit the ground! He caught it!" I'm standing right next to the Field Marshal (FM, an employee of the TD), telling him, "It has to be the glove first for a foul tip. If it hits anywhere else on the catcher's body, like his mask or CP, it's a foul ball."
At that moment, the PU disengages from the BU, heads back towards the plate, and announces, "Foul ball." DTHC approaches PU while his players resume their positions, and PU gives him a brief explanation, ending with, "My UIC is standing right there (points at me), he'll tell you the same thing."
"Play!" Next pitch is a line-out to F5. Oh well. Nicely handled, Blue!
By Umpire in Chief
Preface from the Manual (2010 Version)... This manual was designed to supplement the Official Baseball Rules, and the interpretations and common application included provide a clear and concise understanding of rules as they were most closely intended to be read. The Official Baseball Rules is one of the oldest codes in professional sports that have never been completely overhauled. As situations arose throughout the years which were not specifically covered in the rules, it fell upon the Rules Committees to come up with new rules that would fill these gaps. For fear of making drastic rules replacements, the code was only added to, never rewritten. After the 1976 season, the Rules Committee also agreed to include the casebook comments found in both the National and American League umpire notices and directives of interpretations. These additions to the rules have often caused for contradiction and confusion regarding how the rules are to be enforced. This supplemental material was intended to solve some of that confusion and misunderstanding. This manual was compiled together by the staff of the Wendelstedt Umpire School, through many years of instruction and rules re-organization. This staff is composed of several full time Major League umpires, numerous Minor League umpires, and formerly consisted of five current Major League umpire supervisors. This manual is designed and assembled using several criteria including the common and clarified organization of the rules, the ordinary order in which most rulings will be made throughout a game, and the methods and teaching timeline used during the Wendelstedt Umpire School 5-Week Professional Course. Whenever possible, the interpretations mentioned are officially recognized by the umpires and supervisors of both the Minor and Major Leagues. However, in cases where “official” interpretation are not directly available, we have provided suggestions as to how the plays and situations should be ruled on using the practical and common applications of professional umpires today. The Rules and Interpretations Manual provides a summary of areas of the rulebook that are complicated, offers OBR rulebook cross-references, adds historical contexts and useful hints in applying rules on the field to aid in the reasoning for such rulings, and is designed to comprehensively rewrite and reorganize the rules in an orderly an understandable fashion. It will include crossreferences with the relevant amateur rules in NFHS, NCAA, and NAIA playing codes. Each area is clearly identified. It also provides a variety of reference plays and situations to greater clarify specific rulings.
Fellow umpires, I need to present a situation to you. Personal and professional relationships are affected by it (along with financial, as in who owes who a beer... or two).
This situation was presented to me (us - a group of friends and colleagues):
"I put a pitcher in play standing on rubber taking signs. 2nd baseman had ball trying to trick runner. I called a balk. Right or wrong?"
The responses started to roll in of "Right on" and "Right" and "100%". I picked up on the "put a pitcher in play..." component, meaning that the ball was Dead, thus, the following HBT could not work. I countered, and said, "Not a balk. Reset. The ball cannot be put in "Play" because the components for doing so were not correct." I went further to say (while others are still saying "Balk" and "That's deception!"), "Nope. Ball cannot be made live (with Plate Umpire saying "Play!") until the pitcher has the ball on the mound on the rubber, ready to pitch (or take signs). If the ball was still Live all along, then yes, that's a balk. But you cannot have a HBT work out of a Dead Ball situation. Cannot. Impossible."
I was then embroiled in a cascade of belittling declaratives and arguing, mostly centering around how I'm "obtuse" and how what F1 & F4 did was "deception" and should be called a "balk". I then said, "In order for the umpire to call "Play" and make the ball Live, the pitcher must have the ball and be on the rubber, ready to pitch (or take signs). Otherwise, his standing anywhere else means nothing, because the umpire cannot make the ball live until those criteria are met. Even if you (the umpire) mistakenly call "Play!", the only recourse is to reset it back to the conditions when Dead. R2, F1 with ball (finally), ready to pitch, "Nice try next time!", and Play!"
Further declaratives were presented, such as "It is deception because the pitcher cannot be on the rubber without the ball." and "It's a balk." The original questioner then stated "I had Time (called) because (the) base came up (off its moorings).", further reinforcing that it was, in fact, a Dead Ball situation, and that the PU had to make the ball Live again... which means that Rule 5.11 (2014) has to be followed. I was then subjected to a severe text-lashing, with one such statement presented - "Max, I can call anything I want to at any time 'cause I'm the ump".
Then, Rule 6.02a (Comment... it must be 2015 re-numbering quoted) was presented several times: "If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk when: Straddling the pitcher's rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk." I responded, each time, "When the ball is Live, (that's) absolutely (correct)." Next, was a truly wonderful statement: "You're just FULL OF CRAP Max!!" I then quoted Rule 5.11 again, this time verbatim. The words "Idiot" and "Hard headed" were then applied to me. To his credit, the OP then asked, "What about deception though... No penalty?" I replied with, "Ball was never Live."
I have since talked with a couple of the discussion participants individually, and while civil and friendly, there is a sentiment that, for this "deception", the defense must be penalized with a Balk call. My fundamental point is that it can't be – it cannot be a Balk, it cannot be an Out, it cannot be anything – because the ball wasn't Live to begin with. Because the Umpire(s) lost track of where the ball is, and the PU said "Play!" in error does not make that ball Live, because according to the Rules, that ball has to be in the possession of the pitcher in order to be (made) Live; the ball residing in the F4's glove is Dead, and cannot be made Live by any declaration of (any/the) umpire.
In essence, in order for Rule 6.02 (which I guess in the 2015 renumbering was 8.02?) to be valid and applied (a Live ball), then 5.11 has to be valid and followed.
I am rather upset by this discussion. In no way am I trying to one-up anyone, nor am I trying to get anyone to say, "Wow Max, you are right, and we're nothing in your brilliance!". I'm just trying to point out the simple fundamental fact. I have no criticism of the OP, who called "Play!" without recognizing the ball not in the possession of the pitcher – these sort of things happen to any/everyone one us. There's plenty of us who have not even put a ball back into "Play!" after a foul ball! And I don't have a criticism of him calling a Balk... He didn't seem to get any kick-back at the time about it. He approached our group with this question, because it was bugging him. I don't even have a qualm with most of my colleagues who feel that a Balk should be called (Again, I think I'm right that Balk isn't warranted, by Rule), because, of course, I may be wrong. I'm confident that I'm not, but I could be. The answer lies in the Rules, and the official interpretation and application of them... and this here "obtuse idiot" wants to know what needs to be interpreted and applied for this situation.
Thank you for your attention and insights... Let 'em rip.