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Dead Ball, First base awarded. Batter hops out of the path, then right back in.

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Guest LKSn

My husband is coaching a girls softball team, ages 9 to 12. My question is this. A few of the batters at the end of the other teams lineup were hopping/walking into, or failing to remove themselves from, the path of the pitched balls which essentially became grounders before they got to the home plate area. I will give the best description I can of the "hopping into" scenario. When a "grounder" pitch came in (not uncommon for this age group in our league), the batter hopped out of the way as she saw it coming, but then hopped back into the path as it rolled right alongside the home plate. The umpire called it a dead ball, and the batter was awarded first base. This happened four times ... two times, with each of the last two batters. It looks suspicious. Not all pitches are grounders like this. Many are strikes. The repeat occurrence with this happening at the end of their lineup, with the same batters, is suspicious to me. It looks like a maneuver to get the poor hitters onto base, one way or another.  I understand that the batter must at least try to avoid the pitch ... Is that ball considered a dead ball because the batter appears to have "technically" tried to avoid it? ... Because she then hops back into the path of the ball. How should this be treated? 

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10 minutes ago, Guest LKSn said:

My husband is coaching a girls softball team, ages 9 to 12. My question is this. A few of the batters at the end of the other teams lineup were hopping/walking into, or failing to remove themselves from, the path of the pitched balls which essentially became grounders before they got to the home plate area. I will give the best description I can of the "hopping into" scenario. When a "grounder" pitch came in (not uncommon for this age group in our league), the batter hopped out of the way as she saw it coming, but then hopped back into the path as it rolled right alongside the home plate. The umpire called it a dead ball, and the batter was awarded first base. This happened four times ... two times, with each of the last two batters. It looks suspicious. Not all pitches are grounders like this. Many are strikes. The repeat occurrence with this happening at the end of their lineup, with the same batters, is suspicious to me. It looks like a maneuver to get the poor hitters onto base, one way or another.  I understand that the batter must at least try to avoid the pitch ... Is that ball considered a dead ball because the batter appears to have "technically" tried to avoid it? ... Because she then hops back into the path of the ball. How should this be treated? 

Did the batters actually get hit by the pitch? 

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Guest LKSn

The ball hits their feet. It was already a "grounder" in these cases. The ball hits the ground well before it reaches the batter or the plate (it would definitely be a "ball" in these cases, and not a strike, because it is more or less a ball rolling on the ground). The ball rolls toward the batter in these cases. They hop out of the path of the ball ... I mean the path on the ground. Then they hop back into the path of the ball (again, the path on the ground), and it then hits their feet. It appears intentional. It would be the safest kind of ball from which to "take a hit for the team". But it's a little confusing, because when the girls actually hop out of the way first, then I suppose that they technically meet the standard of attempting to avoid the ball. But when they hop back in front of it to get hit on the feet by it, does that somehow void their previous action? Or is it just a sneaky way for someone to manipulate the rules to get their poorer runners on base ... Where it may stink, but is legal all the same.

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Guest LKSn

Sorry ... I should clarify. The pitcher in this case was throwing strikes too. She would throw some balls, and some strikes. It was only these "grounder" balls that the girls at the end of that other teams lineup would seem to jump on (no pun intended) for the "dead ball" call, which would then get them awarded an automatic first base.  It seemed suspicious. Same two batters. Twice each. I don't know if they always tried to get out of the way first. But I clearly remember observing the last incident being that way, and it was almost like a dance ... out of the way, and then back in.  So these batters could have been struck-out, or they could have been walked anyway, if there were to have been enough balls thrown. But it's frustrating, b/c it almost seemed like this was being done on purpose to avoid taking that chance. Make sense? 

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A pitch that hits a batter entitles the batter to 1B. Whether the pitch has touched the ground is irrelevant.

The exception occurs when the batter is intentionally hit (or "permits" the pitch to hit him, "fails to attempt" to move, or whatever verbiage your rules have). In that case, the ball is dead, the pitch is a ball, and the batter remains at the plate.

The umpire judges intent. At instructional levels everyone on the field makes mistakes rather more often than at higher levels.

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Ok, as described, it appears the batters jumped out of the way to not get hit but then jumped back in the way and got hit.  If that is what happened, especially on a pitch rolling on the ground, I've got a dead ball "ball" and the batter is not awarded first.

Maybe that's just me but it sounds like the batter intentionally jumped back in to the path of the ball in order to get hit.

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Guest LKSn

Thankyou so much. I think you answered my question. I was explaining the circumstances of the "grounder" balls more or less to show the pattern, which would then help to show their intent (or somebody's). Because the girls are able to quickly get out of the way of the flying pitches that might otherwise hit them, but then stand in the way (or get back in the way) of the grounders, it looks suspicious to me. None of the girls were hit by flying pitches. Make sense? Yet they cannot seem to get themselves in order to get out of the way of rolling grounders. That it is why the explanation of them being "grounder" becomes relevant ... in a different sense than you're thinking though. My husband records all the deadballs, and I saw first hand, so we were able to see the pattern more clearly when we got home. Knowing that this age group is still learning, and making mistakes ... well, we've seen it before in the boys baseball. "Win at all Cost" by manipulating the rules on stealing bases and rules put in place ... to compensate for the lack of skills .... it sucks. But there always seems to be at least one coach who does that kind of stuff.  So the "grounder" part is relevant to the extent that it is showing the pattern. (I'm an accountant ... I compare it to "substance vs. form" in accounting, when you can show a pattern of an accounting misuse, which then shows how something is being substantively misused or distorted to give a different outcome, while following the "rules"). But thanks for the explanation. My husband can ask for the clarification before the next game. We know it is ultimately up to the discretion of the umpires. And my husband is more respecting of that than any other coach I've met. He is the most honest man and would never do this kind of thing (ie. he would never cheat ... b/c that's what I call it). So it absolutely infuriates me to see someone do that to him and his team.  Of course it does. :( But thank-you again. The clarification does help with going forward.

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Guest LKSn

Thankyou LouB. That helps. :) You summed it up in one or two sentences ... and I couldn't figure out how to put it down without writing a paragraph!! Thanks again.

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1 hour ago, Guest LKSn said:

So it absolutely infuriates me to see someone do that to him and his team. 

It's an instructional league. If you're furious, you might consider the purposes of the "games."

I always told my kids that youth ball has 2 goals: to learn something and have fun. And much of what we learn concerns sportsmanship: both in ourselves and in others.

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Guest LKSn

Thanks again LouB. My husband did seek some clarification on this, and you were spot-on! Thanks so much. :)  I guess those are usually dead-ball, no base awarded if it looks like an attempt to avoid was not made ... with interpretation of whether an attempt to avoid was sincerely made being up to the individual umpire. (It's Little League Softball, so the attempt to avoid would be the second question to look at). I was simply overanalyzing, and the same results in different games would be unlikely. Thank-you so much again in any case. :) 

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13 hours ago, Guest LKSn said:

Thanks again LouB. My husband did seek some clarification on this, and you were spot-on! Thanks so much. :)  I guess those are usually dead-ball, no base awarded if it looks like an attempt to avoid was not made ... with interpretation of whether an attempt to avoid was sincerely made being up to the individual umpire. (It's Little League Softball, so the attempt to avoid would be the second question to look at). I was simply overanalyzing, and the same results in different games would be unlikely. Thank-you so much again in any case. :) 

To simplify it further...any pitch that hits the batter is always a dead ball.

If it's in the strike zone it's a strike.

If it's not, it's up to the ump to determine if the batter could have avoided it, or worse, if they're getting hit on purpose.   Call a 'ball' or grant the base.  Whether it's a grounder isn't really relevant...you can have a "rolling" pitch coming in just as fast as a good pitch, and can be just as difficult to avoid being hit.

And if getting hit on purpose becomes really problematic, the umpire can start giving warnings and even ejections...though that would be extreme.

As a coach, I'd be asking the league officials to observe a couple of the other coach's games - a coach that is teaching development level kids to do this isn't doing the kids, or the league, any favors - he's not teaching them good sportsmanship, and he's not teaching them hitting fundamentals.   The bigger problem is, lots of times the parents are supporting this because they're winning...and the kids don't care because they all get cupcakes after the game.   If the parents aren't stepping in and telling coach to smarten up, they're part of the problem (and, of course, they won't, because they're afraid they'll end up having to coach).

 

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Lots of baseball answers to a literal softball question ... hopefully the OP is still reading ...

It is CRITICAL to know what rule set you are playing under when applying a hit by pitch in softball.

Some rule sets still require the batter to make an attempt to get out of the way (USA Softball).  Note, an attempt to get out of the way does not have to be a good attempt.  If the better successfully got out of the way, we wouldn’t have a hit-by-pitch.

Here is the USA Softball rule:

56F1710C-1063-4B48-86BB-A855D47C902D.thumb.jpeg.dfba9b05b250b9329e49e460120a18d1.jpeg

Most rules sets do NOT ... simply put, the only thing that matters is where it hits the batter (a batter should not be over the plate, a pitcher should not be pitching into the batter’s box).
Here is the NFHS rule:

76346578-0559-4CDE-873A-3EC0121EBAA0.thumb.jpeg.cf1c212b1defb249cbb0913452895dee.jpeg
 

Deliberately getting in the way of the ball is excluded (by different verbiage) in each case.

No rule set (that I am aware of) disqualifies a pitch that hits the ground first.  I do know lots of recreational and house leagues that will pass this as a local rule though (due to lack of quality pitching).

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1 hour ago, The Man in Blue said:

Some rule sets still require the batter to make an attempt to get out of the way (USA Softball).  

 

2 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

Lots of baseball answers to a literal softball question ... hopefully the OP is still reading ...

It is CRITICAL to know what rule set you are playing under when applying a hit by pitch in softball.

With the exception of the recent NCAA baseball rule change there is really fundamentally very little difference in any of the rule sets, baseball or softball, so for the most part it doesn't matter.  Don't exaggerate this.  There is a fundamental approach that is true across all rule sets in the two bat sports for HBP...and a very minor difference in some cases around how a batter does, or does not, move into a pitch, which only matters if the batter literally doesn't move at all (and that may only matter in a couple of rule sets - NCAA baseball/softball and FED softball are the only ones I know of).  If the batter moves, at all, and gets hits by a pitch, as far as I know, NCAA baseball aside, the ruling is universal.  NCAA baseball calls it a strike no matter where the pitch is if the batter moves into it on purpose.

Even those that literally say "must attempt to get out of the way" (USA, International/Olympic, Softball Canada) have provisions/interpretations/rulings that allow for a complete lack of movement which may be a result of fear, not knowing which way to go, or simply not having enough time to react....ie. not being able to move=an attempt - batter gets the base - same goes for flinching...or instinctively putting your hand out to protect yourself.  If you are not allowing those batters to take first base you are ignoring the spirit of the rule...you would literally be the first umpire I ever ran across that managed the rule in that manner....I have coached in all those rule sets, and have never seen an umpire disallow the walk to first on a pitch where the batter "could" not make an attempt, as opposed to "would" not make an attempt...even though, if you followed the letter...they did not attempt to get out of the way.

No rule set allows a batter to purposefully move into a pitch...even a pitch entirely in the box...which is what is described in the OP (it would be an umpire's discretion to whether it was an intent to get hit, or just a really bad attempt to get out of the way).

And as my most recent coaching experience is softball (Softball Canada, NSA, ASA, USSSA) I was using those sets for my basis....FED is the one softball rule set I've never coached or even watched.

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@beerguy55 Since the OP is asking about her husband coaching 10u softball, let’s not confuse the lady with useless (in this case) baseball rules.
 

You may call them minor differences, but they are pretty darn important differences in my book.  The USA Softball coaches always find it to be an important difference when we don’t let their batter trot on down to first base.  
 

My favorite “argument” ... I will always let the coach plead his case, and the say “You are absolutely correct coach ... (I love the loss of words and shocked look on their faces at that point) ... IF we were playing NFHS.  But we aren’t, and USA still requires her to try to get out of the way.”

I posted the USA rule above ... there is no “unless the batter is so stricken by terror that she is paralyzed and unable to move” clause (aka, The Medusa Clause).  I have never seen that in any book.

Of the major softball codes (LL withstanding from my statement because I still haven’t checked out the link provided last time) ... USA, USSSA, PGF, NFHS, and NCAA ... ONLY USA still requires a batter to attempt to move out of the way.

All codes have provisions about deliberately moving into a pitch.  Not moving is not moving into a pitch.  It is not moving.  Depending in the wording of the code, it could be “allowing”.

 

 

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12 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

Of the major softball codes (LL withstanding from my statement because I still haven’t checked out the link provided last time) ... USA, USSSA, PGF, NFHS, and NCAA ... ONLY USA still requires a batter to attempt to move out of the way.

The "most" major softball code - the International Official Rules of Softball (you know, the OBR of softball) - also requires it:

8-1-f - EXCEPTION: If no attempt is made to avoid being hit, the umpire shall call a ball and not award a base.

The NCAA rule is the exact same as the FED rule...if the pitch is in the box the batter has no requirement to try to avoid it, if it's not in the box, they do.

NSA has no specific language about needing to try to avoid the pitch...neither does it have any specific language about moving into the pitch (unlike most/all of the others)...would you truly argue that NSA must then allow a batter to get hit on purpose???   Letter of rule vs spirit of rule.

 

12 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

there is no “unless the batter is so stricken by terror that she is paralyzed and unable to move” clause (aka, The Medusa Clause).  I have never seen that in any book.

NCAA softball rulebook has this tidbit  "Note: The benefit of any doubt must go to the batter and could include a batter freezing and unable to move due to the unusual movement or speed of the pitch."

And, in coaching dozens of games under the International code, as well as hundreds more under Softball Canada which is a virtual copy of ORS,  though it is not specifically written in either rule book, I have never seen an umpire deny a batter first base because they froze, or simply didn't have time to react.   Because they have INTERPRETED the spirit of the rule the same way NCAA decided to print.

Likewise, when we went to tourneys under ASA (which is now USA Softball) they made the same interpretation, in dozens of games we played in Montana and Idaho (though the umpires could be from anywhere - met one from California, another from Florida) - I NEVER saw an ump deny first base to a batter who froze on a HBP.   

OBR also requires a batter to attempt to avoid getting hit...and OBR also does not penalize a batter who freezes, or simply does not have time to try to avoid getting hit, though nothing in OBR says that.  That's what case plays, and rulings, and common sense, are for.

In all those scenarios, despite it not being specifically written in black and white, the batter is given the benefit of the doubt, and the burden on the batter is very low.   Congratulations, you are the first umpire I've ever met that takes such a fundamentalist approach to this rule.

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@beerguy55 thank you for pointing that out in the NCAA code ... I should have done a little more reading on that one!  If USA (what used to be ASA) umpires were applying that standard ALL of the time (you say you have never seen one deny first base), then they were both using an interpretation from another code and using it incorrectly.  This has been a point of emphasis with UICs at many of the USA state tournaments I have worked.

My wife were watching a NCAA re-play a few weeks ago (I wish I could remember what game) where the PU did deny the batter first base because she just stood there and the ball was not entirely in the batters box.

It is true that different codes tend to have greater or lesser presence regionally.  That is why I list the codes that I am specifically referring to.  NSA used to have a large presence here ... one of the umpires I work with on a regular basis is in their Hall of Fame even ... but their presence has been reduced to “none” in my area.

I do not consider the international rules to be “THE most major” or even a major because I am not aware of any use of these rules beyond a few games your average American girl might watch on TV once or twice in her life during an Olympic year.  That is very culture-centric and may be a bias or blind spot for me.  Nor do I believe they are “the OBR of softball” because the other codes were not derived from them and there is no professional league putting them onTV every day.  (The professional softball league in its various iterations does not use them.)

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