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ilyazhito

Malicious Contact Ejection and Forfeit

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I had a crazy situation last night. I was working a 14U travel doubleheader solo. The games were played by NFHS rules with modifications (2018 pro visits to the mound, no headfirst slides at home, 1:50 no new inning time limits).

The 1st game was a good, competitive game between two teams wearing blue. The away team won 8-7 in 6 innings due to the time limit. There were no complaints or incidents in the 1st game.

The blue team that was the home team in the 1st game stayed for the second game, with the several other players joining them. A team in maroon jerseys came for the 2nd game. The blue team was away for this 2nd game. Both pitchers were throwing strikes, and neither team could score through 3 innings. I heard complaints about strike calls I made (he's calling a Little League strike zone, he's calling both low and high, we don't hit that, etc.) at different times in the 2nd and 3rd innings, but none were addressed to me, so I did not react. In the top of the 4th inning, with no score, 1 out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, a blue batter hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who made an errant throw to the catcher. He was able to recover the ball and set up in the baseline to block the plate. The runner, Blue #8, dove into the catcher and knocked him over, displacing the ball. I called "Time" to sort out the situation, and then decided that, because the catcher had legal position and possession of the ball, was contacted by the runner with an illegal slide, and that contact knocked him down and caused him to lose possession, that I would call malicious contact. 

When I announced the call, and declared that the runner is out and ejected for malicious contact, all hell broke loose. The coach went out to argue with me, asking me to change the call. I told him that the catcher had legal position, and that I cannot un-eject the runner. He then suggested that the other coach had influenced me into making the call. I told him to go back to the dugout. He went back to the dugout. I overheard him telling his assistant, "Sam, will you coach the team?". He re-emerged from the dugout, started yelling and waving his hands and hat. When he said, "The call is trash!", I told him that he was restricted to the dugout. He then replied, "You're trash!" I ejected him. I went back to the plate, but he continued yelling at me.

Meanwhile, the fans of the blue team were yelling abusive comments such as "You suck!", "You're horrible!", "The call is wrong", "We will complain about this". 

Seeing that the coach would not leave, I told him that he needed to leave the field. This was met by more angry outbursts from him and the fans. I was then afraid for my safety, and I decided to end the game. I announced "This game is over!", dropped the game balls, grabbed my bag, and left to take shelter in the nearby bathroom. 10 minutes later, I was able to get picked up and leave the park. 

Is there anything that I could have done to handle the situation better? I thought that I might have called the runner out on an illegal slide and issued a warning that the next such slide would result in an ejection. However, I believe that my call was the best way to resolve the situation, in the interests of player safety, though it might seem draconian. Would you have handled the coach differently? 

 

As an aside, I have Asperger Syndrome, so I might not always know the best way to act in stressful situations, especially in de-escalating conflicts. 

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It's difficult to assess the judgment call regarding MC (vs INT vs nothing) without video. So let's assume you're correct. I gather that your real question concerns the game management portions of the episode.

The problem with your question, "Would you have handled the coach differently?" is that the answer is almost certainly yes, and not just for me. Game management is so difficult to teach partly because what works for me will not necessarily work for you (and vice versa).

A very simple thing: answer questions, don't engage statements. Coach is entitled to his opinion, so don't try to change it. He can think that you're wrong (and say that), that you suck (but not say that), etc. To statements, just acknowledge. Let him go first, and answer the questions he asks. If he has a followup, answer that. Then we're done, play ball.

One thing that we do teach concerns body language, and that's an element that is particularly challenging for many folks on the spectrum, who (by definition) have difficulty reading and using body language. It's said to constitute something between 50–80% of our communication, and that could go higher in emotionally tense situations.

One strategy would be to try to get a hold of video of the episode, and consult with a mentor about your body language. If that's not available, just get video of yourself working a game and ask someone to look at it with an eye to body language. We can come across as confrontational, uninterested, mad, disengaged, etc. all without saying a word, and any of those threatens to worsen an already tense situation.

One thing though: keep calling strikes! :beerbang

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Im agreeing with everything maven said. However, let me add a couple things. Once the coach is ejected do not continue to engage him. If you have the luxury of a partner he should be rodeo clowning him off the field. If you are alone in this case, I would go to the assistant and tell him that the HC has been ejected and needs to leave the visual proximity of the field. Secondly, you say in the above post "I was then afraid for my safety." If you are genuinely afraid for your safety and you are working without a partner in a game where there is no game administration present (I am assuming from your post that there was no one else there)  I would not hesitate to call law enforcement. Its better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa. 

Its a tough situation to be in but you can always take something away as a learning point from these types of situations. And as maven says keep calling strikes!!

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I would have dealt with the situation differently if there was a partner. He would have been the rodeo clown removing the coach from my face and the field (or at least he should have been), and perhaps the game would have continued.  

I carry a cell phone in my back pocket for emergency situations, so I could call 911 if another difficult situation arises. 

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12 hours ago, ilyazhito said:

no headfirst slides at home,

If that is in fact a Rules Mod, then there's your starting point. Any headfirst slide at home is penalized with an Out, regardless if there's physical contact or not. Armed with that Rule, I'd establish that as the reason why I called R3 Out was for violation of the Rule first. That way, it makes it very cut-and-dried, and takes the "umpire judgement" off the table. Then, eject R3 for Malicious Contact and emphasize that he hit him with enough force to knock the ball loose. If the coach berates or badgers you to change the call, you can disarm him with three points:

  1. That the Out is for the "no headfirst slide at home" Rule violation
  2. That the Runner is Ejected for Malicious Contact
  3. That we're (the collection of participants) have a game to get back to, and he is delaying or hindering the recommencement of the game

Now, many here will point out that a Collision involving a Malicious Contact is an automatic out... they'd be right. I'm only separating them here to give you a greater quantity of counterpoints in your argument. This coach views you as the single obstacle to getting his way – what I favor doing is dismantling his argument piece by succinct piece. Turn the tables on him. "He's out by Rule" (and it's not some Rulebook Citation... It's a plain-as-day Rule Mod for that league), "He (runner) left me/us no option but to Eject him. That kind of contact warrants the ejection. It's the same for anybody else." and by positioning yourself at the plate (body language is a big part of this), intending and attempting to restart the game, you're painting him as the obstacle to getting the game back underway.

I'm sorry to hear that you felt unsafe, but there's another entity here that you forgot about – the other team. It was rather unfair to them that you called the game a forfeit.

14 hours ago, ilyazhito said:

I thought that I might have called the runner out on an illegal slide and issued a warning that the next such slide would result in an ejection.

I favor your thought process, but a collision of that force and nature warrants an ejection, case closed.

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Ejections with no partner and a wild coach are a really difficult situation. You’re done with him, but he wants his money’s worth. So he’s in your grill. No one is there to get him away. Assistants likely aren’t doing it. So you either sit there until he’s done, you yell or go their dugout to tell assistants to get him, you threaten a forfeit, or you walk somewhere. All difficult calls. In my younger years solo I threatened forfeits and one time did it (similar I’m afraid for my safety here). I used to walk up a base line. They follow. Not sure it did much and made it look like I’m running away. Never asked dugout for help, don’t want to be near it. They hate me too. I started to figure out that if I walk towards the other teams dugout, and stand right by it, they are less likely to follow. You also have coaches over there. While it’s not their job, they will usually try to stand up for and protect a 20 something umpire and tell that coach he needs to leave. It’s also awkward for a coach to scream while you’re standing at the other dugout.  

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Like I said before, don't work solo games.

 

Hardly anything good comes from it.  Coaches feel like they can take cheap shots, you feel like you have zero help, because you don't, if you do dump someone, they get to get their "money's worth", because there is no one there to rodeo or intervene.  So what happens?  You either stand there and take whatever they want to give you or you bow your neck and give it right back to them.  No win situation.

 

Don't work solo games.

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Agreed. I now work very few solo games. It’s a full varsity schedule and summer is all 14-18 2 man. Harsh, unfair reality is a lot of 18-25 year olds get their start and have to do a ton of one man travel etc. It’s lonely out there and they disrespect you even more since you’re young. And we wonder why guys don’t last more than a year or two. 

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On 4/12/2019 at 8:45 AM, BRUMP said:

If you are genuinely afraid for your safety and you are working without a partner in a game where there is no game administration present (I am assuming from your post that there was no one else there)  I would not hesitate to call law enforcement. Its better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa. 

 

Newbie question: 911 or always have the local dispatch in speed-dial?

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14 minutes ago, agdz59 said:

Newbie question: 911 or always have the local dispatch in speed-dial?

That'll depend on how threatened you feel.   If urgent, 9-1-1 and ask for an officer to respond quickly.  If an irritation and you're concerned that it could lead to something more, then ask dispatch to send an officer your direction.

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Great info here, as always. The one thing I'll say is, how long did it take to before you took any action? The way I read it, you called time, and just sat there for a couple seconds to try to come up 2ith the right call (which it sounds like you did!), but this is something you should probably anticipate with the catcher set up and the runner barreling down the line. That's a hard one though.

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I immediately called time when the catcher was knocked down, then spent a few seconds processing the situation, and finally made my ruling of malicious contact against Blue 8. I was in the wedge to rule on the tag play that was developing at home, so I could see what happened. After I called time, I stepped back, processed the information, and came up with the decision. 

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Try to totally skip youth leagues, other than possibly LL.

Work through the middle school on up program of NF right from the get go.

You have much more protection from Fed and NCAA than the travel ball as they have cameras at games and most coaches (although not all) are educators and it makes things more difficult for them amongst their peers in the classroom and their school and the district and principles and superintendant. If they go down the wrong path, it makes it look on camera like the district/school condones that type of behavior.

Just follow that Jackwagon in Haywood Tennessee that has brought embarrassment to his school even if the locals are trying to let him weasel out of it, since he sits on a local school committee somewhere. It has brought bad publicity to the school and even the principle and now superintendent, for their wimpy response and lack of intestinal fortitude/backbone/moral turpitude, which forced the State of Tennessee Athletic Association (yes I said Te double ne double s double e Tennessee) to step in and do their job for them.

And even more unfortunate, he has a State baseball playoff under his belt as an umpire. Guess he feels like this (being a playoff umpire) entitles him to this type of conduct and deportment and unsportsmanlike conduct no matter what, in any area of disagreement. 

Still, you have more protection/civility in organized school (educational institution) baseball and all other sports under the educational umbrella.

Good luck.

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It sounds like you made the right call and the ejection was valid. 

How was there no TD, GM or UIC there? 

If you ever feel threatened on a field call ball game walk off the field and find a safe place to go.

Either way absolutely ridiculous that you had to deal with that and this is why we are losing umps. 

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I have never seen any game administration personnel at the field, except for specific tournaments (e.g. the Cougar Clash, a tournament for 13 and 14 year olds in Vienna, VA every May) and for high school games, so no TD is apparently the norm for travel games in my area. 

Fortunately, most games do not have that level of idiotic and unsportsmanlike behavior by the participants. However, it would help if there were game administration personnel at travel baseball games to keep order, especially when only 1 umpire can be present. 

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That is crazy to me their is no one in charge there, I would not work somewhere like that. I work as a UIC, every ump has my number and call or text me when they need balls, water, coach has been ejected or fans are getting out of hand. It has worked really good and 9 times out of 10 the fan apologizes the other one finds the parking lot. Glad you are sticking with it and feel bad you had to experience that. I would suggest buying some pepper spray. It should never come to that but people are crazy. 

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