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Taking Signs off Rubber


Guest Billy
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Question

So I've seen umpires call a balk on taking signs off the rubber and Ive seen others not call it. What is the correct ruling for NCAA, OBR, and FED?? Additionally if two runners are on the same base who is out if you tag the trail runner, the lead runner, or the base? Thanks for your responses.

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Great Question Billy,

This comes up frequently even among umpires.

While the rules state the pitcher must take his signs from the rubber; No rule codes enforce a penalty for it.

The reason for the rule is to prevent quick pitches. Which by them selves are a balk with runners on base.

I generally ignore it. If it is causing an issue I will tell the pitcher to stop, after that I would have only 1 remedy - to eject the pitcher for not following instruction given by an umpire. But Lord knows I don't want to go there.

Thanks again for the question.

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OBR -

Rule 8.01 Pitchers shall take signs from the catcher while in contact with the pitcher’s plate.

Rule 8.01 Comment: Pitchers may disengage the rubber after taking their signs but may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch. This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire. When the pitcher disengages the rubber, he must drop his hands to his sides. Pitchers will not be allowed to disengage the rubber after taking each sign.

FED -

6-1-1 (the pitcher) shall take his sign from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitchers plate

In both OBR and FED there is no penalty for this infraction. Generally, tell the catcher to go out to his pitcher and at least simulate taking a sign from the rubber. The point of this (as clarified in OBR comment) is to prevent the pitcher from taking the sign off the rubber, and then stepping to the rubber and immediately pitching, thus catching the runner(s) and/or batters off guard. IF a balk is called, it should ONLY be for the quick pitch.

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As for the runners.....

Tagging a base occupied by 2 runners is nothing.

If there's a force play, the lead runner loses rights to the bag, so if he's tagged he's out.

No force, the trail runner is out if tagged.

Taking signs......

My personal interp is that if he takes a sign from F2, he has to be in contact with the rubber. I presume what you're asking is if it is legal for F1 to take signs from the bench. Yes, he can. The bench, the beach, the moon, or a UFO. it matters not WHO or WHERE he gets the signs. The only reason for this rule is to prevent quick pitch.

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OBR -

Rule 8.01 Pitchers shall take signs from the catcher while in contact with the pitcher’s plate.

Rule 8.01 Comment: Pitchers may disengage the rubber after taking their signs but may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch. This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire. When the pitcher disengages the rubber, he must drop his hands to his sides. Pitchers will not be allowed to disengage the rubber after taking each sign.

FED -

6-1-1 (the pitcher) shall take his sign from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitchers plate

In both OBR and FED there is no penalty for this infraction. Generally, tell the catcher to go out to his pitcher and at least simulate taking a sign from the rubber. The point of this (as clarified in OBR comment) is to prevent the pitcher from taking the sign off the rubber, and then stepping to the rubber and immediately pitching, thus catching the runner(s) and/or batters off guard. IF a balk is called, it should ONLY be for the quick pitch.

Unfortunately, many umpires apply this penalty, "PENALTY (Art. 1, 2, 3): The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded the batter. If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk. In both situations, the umpire signals dead ball., to a pitcher that stands astride the rubber and looks at the catcher in FED.

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Unfortunately, many umpires apply this penalty, "PENALTY (Art. 1, 2, 3): The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded the batter. If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk. In both situations, the umpire signals dead ball., to a pitcher that stands astride the rubber and looks at the catcher in FED.

But, I would argue at least, that standing astride the rubber (or off the mound, or anywhere else) is NOT an illegal pitch. It's not a pitch at all...

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OBR -

Rule 8.01 Pitchers shall take signs from the catcher while in contact with the pitcher’s plate.

Rule 8.01 Comment: Pitchers may disengage the rubber after taking their signs but may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch. This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire. When the pitcher disengages the rubber, he must drop his hands to his sides. Pitchers will not be allowed to disengage the rubber after taking each sign.

This rule feels like a convoluted way to prevent some subset of quick pitches. Why not just disallow quick pitches and be done?

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Sometimes I see pitchers throw over to first, get the ball back from the 1B and step on the rubber, take a quick sign, come set (albeit quickly), and deliver home. Sometimes the runner who dove back to first is barely back on his feet by the time the pitch is released. Is this a quick pitch?

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Sometimes I see pitchers throw over to first, get the ball back from the 1B and step on the rubber, take a quick sign, come set (albeit quickly), and deliver home. Sometimes the runner who dove back to first is barely back on his feet by the time the pitch is released. Is this a quick pitch?

If you are saying the he came set and the batter is ready then No

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As for the runners.....

Tagging a base occupied by 2 runners is nothing.

If there's a force play, the lead runner loses rights to the bag, so if he's tagged he's out.

No force, the trail runner is out if tagged.

Taking signs......

My personal interp is that if he takes a sign from F2, he has to be in contact with the rubber. I presume what you're asking is if it is legal for F1 to take signs from the bench. Yes, he can. The bench, the beach, the moon, or a UFO. it matters not WHO or WHERE he gets the signs. The only reason for this rule is to prevent quick pitch.

I thought i read something in the MLB rule book that the pitcher may only get his signs from the catcher.

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As for the runners.....

Tagging a base occupied by 2 runners is nothing.

If there's a force play, the lead runner loses rights to the bag, so if he's tagged he's out.

No force, the trail runner is out if tagged.

Taking signs......

My personal interp is that if he takes a sign from F2, he has to be in contact with the rubber. I presume what you're asking is if it is legal for F1 to take signs from the bench. Yes, he can. The bench, the beach, the moon, or a UFO. it matters not WHO or WHERE he gets the signs. The only reason for this rule is to prevent quick pitch.

I thought i read something in the MLB rule book that the pitcher may only get his signs from the catcher.

nope. It's a somewhat common misconception by many coaches/fans.
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My asst used to call pitches to my son, as the catcher, instead of straight to the pitcher. I asked why he did that, "Because the catcher needs to know what is coming." :smachhead: I said I felt reasonably sure they both could see the sign at the same time, making it quicker. He seemed horrified at the thought. :meditation: I told him to do it however it works.

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I wish more coaches actually understood the rule. Would make the games go quicker, and cut down on a lot of confusion. Last weekend I had a HC whose signs were so complex they used colors, numbers, and hand signals. Every other pitch he'd ask F2, "what did you call?" Catch would tell him and he'd say, "why?" ?????? Seriously? Because they're 14 and your pitcher can't possibly have that many pitches in his arsenal. He'd give a sign, F2 asks to repeat, batter asks time, give the sign, batter ready, give the sign to F1, HC says wipe it off, F1 steps off, batter asks time....... 18 seconds was average between pitches. I was pulling my hair out.

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Sometimes I see pitchers throw over to first, get the ball back from the 1B and step on the rubber, take a quick sign, come set (albeit quickly), and deliver home. Sometimes the runner who dove back to first is barely back on his feet by the time the pitch is released. Is this a quick pitch?

No its not a quick pitch but the umpires shouldnt allow it either. Wait until the runner is ready too.

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Sometimes I see pitchers throw over to first, get the ball back from the 1B and step on the rubber, take a quick sign, come set (albeit quickly), and deliver home. Sometimes the runner who dove back to first is barely back on his feet by the time the pitch is released. Is this a quick pitch?

No its not a quick pitch but the umpires shouldnt allow it either. Wait until the runner is ready too.

The BATTER shouldn't allow it. As they get older, the boys learn how to manage the game, too. Until they do, the umpires should control this situation.

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Sometimes I see pitchers throw over to first, get the ball back from the 1B and step on the rubber, take a quick sign, come set (albeit quickly), and deliver home. Sometimes the runner who dove back to first is barely back on his feet by the time the pitch is released. Is this a quick pitch?

that should be the batters job in stepping out of the box for his runner to get ready again?

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Since the language in the Fed rule book is, IMO, confusing, I decided to ask Ken Allan about taking signs off the rubber. For those that don't know Ken, here is his bio:

Ken Allan is the NFHS Officials Association representative on the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee. A longtime high school and college umpire, Allan also is the California state baseball rules interpreter. He is the instructional chairman for the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section, which includes approximately 1,500 high school umpires. During his career, he umpired numerous high school championship games at Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium. Allan recently retired as a civilian sports broadcaster with the American Forces Radio Network. He also has retired after 30 years as a Division I college umpire, where he worked in four conferences and was a crew chief in the Big West Conference. He umpired in four Division II College World Series, and is an observer for the Big West Conference.

Here is what he said: (posted on this forum with his permission)

Under high school rules, this is covered by rule 6-1-1 "....He shall take his signs from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate. "

PEN: The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded the batter. If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk. If both situations, the umpire signals dead ball.

Although the penalty part of the rule says a violation of 6-1-1 shall be "an illegal pitch", the intent is that a balk or ball, as the case may be, be called if the pitcher does not take his sign from the rubber.

There is no penalty under OBR for taking the sign off the rubber. This is considered a "do not do that" situation. In other words, tell the pitcher not to do that. If he does it again, after being warned, he is subject to ejection.

I hope this helps. Good point about a casebook play. I'll make a note of that.

The last part about the casebook play was in response to my suggestion that NFHS includes a play in the casebook specific to taking signs off the rubber. I think it would help clear up any confusion about what is expected to be called when this happens. Anyway, that's about as official as you can get with respect to a Fed rules interpretation.

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Since the language in the Fed rule book is, IMO, confusing, I decided to ask Ken Allan about taking signs off the rubber. For those that don't know Ken, here is his bio:

Ken Allan is the NFHS Officials Association representative on the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee. A longtime high school and college umpire, Allan also is the California state baseball rules interpreter. He is the instructional chairman for the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section, which includes approximately 1,500 high school umpires. During his career, he umpired numerous high school championship games at Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium. Allan recently retired as a civilian sports broadcaster with the American Forces Radio Network. He also has retired after 30 years as a Division I college umpire, where he worked in four conferences and was a crew chief in the Big West Conference. He umpired in four Division II College World Series, and is an observer for the Big West Conference.

Here is what he said: (posted on this forum with his permission)

Under high school rules, this is covered by rule 6-1-1 "....He shall take his signs from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate. "

PEN: The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded the batter. If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk. If both situations, the umpire signals dead ball.

Although the penalty part of the rule says a violation of 6-1-1 shall be "an illegal pitch", the intent is that a balk or ball, as the case may be, be called if the pitcher does not take his sign from the rubber.

There is no penalty under OBR for taking the sign off the rubber. This is considered a "do not do that" situation. In other words, tell the pitcher not to do that. If he does it again, after being warned, he is subject to ejection.

I hope this helps. Good point about a casebook play. I'll make a note of that.

The last part about the casebook play was in response to my suggestion that NFHS includes a play in the casebook specific to taking signs off the rubber. I think it would help clear up any confusion about what is expected to be called when this happens. Anyway, that's about as official as you can get with respect to a Fed rules interpretation.

Just note that theres a difference between the rule "shall take his signs from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher's plate" and what he says later "the pitcher does not take his sign from the rubber". For example what do you do if the pitcher straddles the rubber, looks in to the catcher in his crouch, the catcher flashes some fingers (ignore how you can know this) and the pither them moves his pivot foot on the rubber and repeats. and around and around we go. The point is hopefully to get whoever writes the case play to be sure its clear about what is required and when and when the penalty should become effective.

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