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mepperson

Stealing First Base

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A few years ago I was working the Field on a JV game at a public school not known for more than its basketball. As the game went on, it was about as expected - the home team was keeping in the game despite extremely lackluster play.

The home team's coach finally got his team in position to try and make a run at a lead - runners on 1st & 3rd with only 1 out. So, as with the batter standing with his right foot in the box and looking down the 3rd base line, the coach gave the signals and looked for the confirmation from the 3 offensive players.

As the pitcher completed his stretch and started the motion toward the plate for his 0-1 pitch (no balls, 1 strike), the runner on 1st took off toward 2nd Base. The pitch came in low; but, the catcher quickly recovered and came up throwing. Being in "C" position, I slowly spun to my left and moved in toward 2nd behind the ball, looking for the play. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the batter running, not just trotting, toward 1st Base.

To this day, I don't know if the runner from 1st was there ahead of the throw and tag or not - I thought that the Texas sun has caused me to lose 3 pitches somewhere; and I wasn't going to call the runner out only to find out that the batter had just walked. I called the runner safe, and luckily did not get argument from the defense, then followed him to 3rd as the throw went back to Home Plate to try to get the second half of the delayed-double-steal.

After the play was over, I looked at my partner quizzingly, wondering where I had missed the 3 pitches. I noticed that he was looking at me with the same look.

About to call for Time so that my partner and I could straighten things out, I heard the home team coach yell across the field, "Leroy, what are you doing on 1st Base?!?"

Looking back at his coach, the player exhibited why the school is not known for their baseball when he replied, "You gave the steal sign, Coach!"

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the half inning facing the centerfield wall to keep from embarrassing the kid further by showing how hard I was laughing.

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I love situations like this. It can be a welcome relief. I haven't seen anything like this at the JV level but I have in Rec ball. I had a 11 y/o kid (Pony game) hit an easy single, possibly a double into the gap who stayed in the box while the whole world was telling him to run. Well he ran back to the dug out. My partner correctly declared him out when he got there. Just to make sure the pitcher stepped off had F3 touch the base just the same.

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About twenty plus years ago, I started umpiring baseball. I started with t-ball. I was fun then. This league was aggresive but not mean like others. They played baseball but there was no attempted blood shed. It was a good league. Now, in t-ball, I will not put umpires on a t-ball field. I tell the league not to count runs. It is just instructional.

Anyhow, I was calling a game, Steve Bartkowski's son (Steve was a QB for the Atlanta Falcons and LA Rams in the 80s) Pete was playing for the first time. He got a hit, he ran to first base. The ball was thrown somewhere and got away and the first base coach told Pete to run. He did. Richt down the fair/foul line toward right field. The next batter came up to bat. He hit the ball and the coach again told Pete to run. He went to the same place a before. It was funny.

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