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Suspend for darkness - criteria


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Hi.  Due to mountain ridges in our area, the sun drops from the horizon early, but we still have a long time of ambient light afterwards.  In fact, after the sun drops is actually safer than the half hour before, due to the low sun directly in players' eyes.  However, as a result of this, true darkness sort of creeps up on us later.

Recently a game came up where the coaches were pushing to keep playing even though it was clearly unsafe.  I was looking for some specific criteria to use, to better argue for ending the game.  So instead of just saying "it's too dang dark," I can point to more concrete examples.

I am a coach, not an ump, but this was a scrimmage and there was no ump in official charge.

Concrete reasons:

1. Players are complaining that they cannot pick up the ball.

2. Ask coach to watch from first base or behind home and see if I can pick up the ball.

3. Fielders are getting sloppy.

4. See if I can read the batter's jersey number from second base.

5. Cars have their headlights on. (definitely already too late)

6. Homes have their interior lights on.

Any other creative ideas for how to "prove" this, so it is harder to argue with?  I wonder if there is some sort of concrete test that will kill the conversation: some version of "how many fingers am I holding up"

One of the specific problems was the remaining ambient light behind the batter made it even worse for the fielders, since the batter/catcher were in comparative darkness and backlit by the alpenglow.  However, the dugouts had their backs to the glow, and so the coaches' vision was (marginally) better.

I am actually pretty ashamed I didn't speak up.  But I was in the minority, and this was the last game of a very short (non-)season, and folks were eager to finish.  I was coaching first and terrified of myself taking a ball to the face, and I actually started to creep back away towards the fence.  I asked a couple kids if they could pick up the ball and they said they wanted to play, but in hindsight I think they were over-eager.  Eventually a couple fielders complained and (true story) their coach (other team) barked at them to keep playing or get their butts in the dugout.  There was two outs at that point, but I vowed this was the last batter no matter what, and fortunately he struck out without incident.

In hindsight I believe that if I had merely brought it up out loud, the majoroty would have agreed.  So, I am promised to myself to do better next time.  And I generally find that concrete examples usually work better than vague broad opinions

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I’m in Utah so the mountains eat into our time as well. But we just say that once the sun is behind the horizon that it is too dark. It is the only standard that is objective. People don’t like it and they fight it but it’s the most objective way to handle it. 

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30 minutes ago, The Short Umpire said:

I’m in Utah so the mountains eat into our time as well. But we just say that once the sun is behind the horizon that it is too dark. It is the only standard that is objective. People don’t like it and they fight it but it’s the most objective way to handle it. 

Thanks, that does make it simple.  For policy in an official league that would probably take it out of everyone's judgment.  But there honestly is a substantial period of safe time after that.

Perhaps we start no new innings after the sun has dropped?

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I understand what you’re saying there. But what happens when you start an inning and the top goes 15 or 20 mins and now it’s really too dark? The coach of the home team who is losing is gonna be really upset when they don’t get their at bat and is gonna argue that they can still see. I just like to take as much judgement and liability as possible out of it. 

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59 minutes ago, The Short Umpire said:

I understand what you’re saying there. But what happens when you start an inning and the top goes 15 or 20 mins and now it’s really too dark? The coach of the home team who is losing is gonna be really upset when they don’t get their at bat and is gonna argue that they can still see. I just like to take as much judgement and liability as possible out of it. 

Totally sensible. Thanks.

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3 hours ago, McMike said:

In hindsight I believe that if I had merely brought it up out loud, the majoroty would have agreed.  

There's your answer.

There isn't any solid measure for whether it's too dark--it's dark when it is. 

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It's not exactly an answer to the OP, but don't start an inning that you probably can't finish. That is, exercise your judgment and discretion in the circumstances. Let's say the home team is ahead by three, the visitors are coming to bat, and daylight is fading. If the visitors score four (or more), it would likely to be too dark to play the bottom of the inning, and the score would revert back. So why start the inning in the first place?

Like so many things we umpires do, someone will be unhappy, whatever we decide.

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2 minutes ago, LRZ said:

It's not exactly an answer to the OP, but don't start an inning that you probably can't finish. That is, exercise your judgment and discretion in the circumstances. Let's say the home team is ahead by three, the visitors are coming to bat, and daylight is fading. If the visitors score four (or more), it would likely to be too dark to play the bottom of the inning, and the score would revert back. So why start the inning in the first place?

Like so many things we umpires do, someone will be unhappy, whatever we decide.

I used to think this...

The problem is that there's no reason to call it until there is. If the trailing team throws in the towel, that's one thing, but it's hard to defend a decision when the criteria aren't there yet. We aren't there to make it easy--often the right decision does require dealing with the consequences. 

Let darkness take away the chance for a team to win, not a decision as to when darkness will probably occur.

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1 hour ago, flyingron said:

If the field isn't lit, I just pick an arbitrary time based on the local sunset and say "We're not starting any new innings after 5PM" or whatever.

 

Sunny days are light longer than overcast days. Can't just use a clock.

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There is no single, simple, right answer. Reasonable folks can disagree, Matt, as we do here.

In any scenario, there is potential risk. I'm talking about situations where darkness is imminent--like obscenity, we know that moment when we see it, right? Eg, HT up by 1, with VT coming to bat; VT scores 2; will there be enough daylight for HT to come to bat and score 3 runs? If you have to stop the inning before HT scores 2, the VT will be unhappy. If the game continues and it really gets dangerous to play because of the dark, and the HTS scores because of VT miscues, the VT will be unhappy that they couldn't see well enough. How about if VT scores 6 times, and you know, without a doubt, that there is not enough time for HT to score 7 runs, then what?

To me, there is no easy solution. It's situational, essentially a combination of issues like how big is the lead, when is sunset, how well the remaining light illuminates the field, and the age of the players (safety).

 

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As an umpire, if darkness will be a concern, I make sure I know when sunset is and sharing this with both managers at the plate meeting. Then I add a part about safety being our mandate. If the umpiring crew determines it is unsafe to play we will end/suspend the game. The crew will announce when the last batter comes to the plate, rather than just killing the game and walking off the field. (This is problematic too as a batter might foul off so many pitches and send us into darkness. Or an injury to the pitcher requiring a substitution...or a million other delays.) And finally, anything the two managers can do to hustle players on and off the field will help us all make the best use of our time. Like any other call, when it gets too dark, be confident in your decision. None of this, "I dunno, coaches...doncha' think it's getting a bit dark out here?" It's the crew's field and game, be responsible and act accordingly.

~Dog

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Was at a complex in Georgia that didn't have lights.  On the fence post in centerfield on each field they mounted "dusk to dawn" yard lights.  When it got dark enough for light to come on, game over.

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6 hours ago, Lou B said:

Was at a complex in Georgia that didn't have lights.  On the fence post in centerfield on each field they mounted "dusk to dawn" yard lights.  When it got dark enough for light to come on, game over.

Occam's Razor...still the sharpest proverbial knife in the drawer.

~Dog

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On 11/8/2020 at 5:48 PM, LRZ said:

There is no single, simple, right answer. Reasonable folks can disagree, Matt, as we do here.

In any scenario, there is potential risk. I'm talking about situations where darkness is imminent--like obscenity, we know that moment when we see it, right? Eg, HT up by 1, with VT coming to bat; VT scores 2; will there be enough daylight for HT to come to bat and score 3 runs? If you have to stop the inning before HT scores 2, the VT will be unhappy. If the game continues and it really gets dangerous to play because of the dark, and the HTS scores because of VT miscues, the VT will be unhappy that they couldn't see well enough. How about if VT scores 6 times, and you know, without a doubt, that there is not enough time for HT to score 7 runs, then what?

To me, there is no easy solution. It's situational, essentially a combination of issues like how big is the lead, when is sunset, how well the remaining light illuminates the field, and the age of the players (safety).

 

I'll just go back to "I don't care." Or, to answer the disadvantaged coach's argument, "TS."

It is far better to go that route than explaining why you ended a game before it's over (and please note my caveat about the trailing team.) 

I guess the question I have is why are you so concerned about ending it at a half-inning? This isn't a situation where we have to balance the effects.

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I'm not concerned about half-innings, but about a score reverting back, where, for example, the visitors go ahead in the top of an inning, then see their lead erased because the home team can't complete their at-bats.

"Far better" is a matter of opinion. I'm not discrediting your approach, but  I've never had any problem with mine. A classic YMMV: do what works for you.

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When I was at that complex in Georgia I talked to one of the umps after the game.  He told me they put the lights in two years ago.  He said there are six fields at the complex and prior to the lights being installed different umps on different fields were calling the games at different times which caused a lot of complaints.  Now, the lights go on pretty much all at the same time so all the games are terminated within a minute or so of each other.  Seems to work well for them.

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Thanks for all the feedback.  Sounds like the best strategy is to set a curfew before the game and then not have to argue about how dark it is later.

Obviously in my case I needed to speak up a little sooner.  But it was a new situation for me - and one important takeaway I learned is how quickly the visibility conditions deteriorated from merely sketchy to undeniably bad.

PS, this seemed timely

111th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game called for darkness

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