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Case play for pitcher's throw to unoccupied 3B on a steal?


agdz59

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Hi all,

Looking for some help. Summary - I'm looking for this exact case play: R2 with F1 in set position when R2 attempts a steal of 3rd.  F1 steps to third while still engaged and throws to F6 who tags R2 for the out.  This is legal and not a balk.

I've looked in my copy of the 2020 Case Book and its not there.  Searched through topics here and didn't see it in the first several results so am asking.

Here's why I want this case if it exists: Tonight I was PU at a JV game (NFHS).  First JV game (highest level I've umpired) and my base partner is a 12 year veteran.  Both coaches have known him a long time and a lot of good natured back and forth pre-game.

In the 3rd inning, we get the play above for the third out.  Neither me or my partner call a balk.  But someone in the crowd does and before the defense leaves the field, Offense head coach (in the 3rd base coach's box) says "But you called a balk!" to me.  I say "No I didn't".   He says "What? That was a balk!" and looks to my partner for help. I call time and proceed out to my partner, telling the coach we'll talk about it.

I get with my partner and he says "Yeah, I missed that.  He threw to an unoccupied base".  And I tell him "no, it was for the purpose of making a play.  You're good - that's not a balk."  He looks at me and says No, no - he has to step off to throw like that.  I tell him I'm pretty sure that's not right.  He says let's look it up later, tells the coach the out stands and he's sorry.

The coach comes out to us and, because they are so familiar with each other he asks my partner what's going on - he threw to an unoccupied base.  I tell him that it was for the purpose of making a play on the runner stealing so it was legal and, furthermore, neither of us called it so the out stands.

He looks at my partner and says he is ABSOLUTELY SURE that was a balk and has been as long as I've known you.  My partner again apologizes for kicking the call and it ends there.

He wants to talk to me about it between innings and I ask him to discuss it after the game.

When we DO discuss it he tells me the OTHER coach also agreed with him and the offensive coach that it was a balk because he didn't disengage first.

I look up the rule online and read it to him.  And he says no there's more to it than that, that's always been a balk.  I didn't challenge him further out of respect and the fact that he got backup on this understanding from both coaches.  I came away feeling like this is a local high school 'rule modification' that's gotten a life of it's own with both coaches and umpires.

I got to say after coming home and reassuring myself that indeed, a pitcher can make that throw without balking, I'd like to have the exact case play to take to our association meeting on Sunday.  I don't mean to disrespect my partner or any of the other members of the association who might have been calling this a balk since I don't know when, but I want them to understand the rule.

Has that ever been a balk?  Like maybe it changed several years ago?  I don't know my rules history enough to know.

Thanks all.

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Please give me his email so I can tell him he's a stubborn SH*# that makes everyone else's lives harder.

I don't do FED anymore and don't have access to case plays, but I know that exception is in the rule itself--it shouldn't need one. This has not been a balk as long as I have been alive.

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I took this from Stevetheump.com website. They publish NFHS Points of Emphasis and Rule Interpretations. This is SITUATION 20 from Year 2013:

SITUATION 20: With runners at first base and second base, the runner at second bluffs a steal of third by running hard to third before he stops and retreats back to second base. The pitcher, seeing the runner take off hard to third base, legally throws to the unoccupied third base. The third-base coach wants a balk called on the pitcher since the runner from second stopped. RULING: A pitcher may throw or feint a throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to put out or drive back a runner. As long as the umpire judges that it is reasonable for the pitcher to believe he had a play at third, even though the runner stopped, it is a legal move. (6-2-4b)

Here is the link:

NFHS Rule Revisions 2007-2020 (stevetheump.com)

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From the 2016 BRD (section 424, p. 283):

FED Official Interpretation:  Hopkins:  A pitcher may throw or feint a throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to put out or drive back a runner. As long as the umpire judges that it is reasonable for the pitcher to believe he had a play…, even though the runner stopped, it is a legal move.

2019 NFHS Case Book Play 6.2.4 Situation A:  With R3 on third and R1 on first, F1 stretches and comes set. He then swings his entire nonpivot foot behind the back edge of the pitcher’s plate, steps toward second and (a) throws the ball to second in an attempt to retire R1, who is advancing there or (b) feints throw to second to drive R1 back to first, who has neither attempted nor feinted an advance to second. RULING:  In (a), this is legal. In (b), it is a balk.

2013 NFHS Baseball Rules Interpretations

SITUATION 20: With runners at first base and second base, the runner at second bluffs a steal of third by running hard to third before he stops and retreats back to second base. The pitcher, seeing the runner take off hard to third base, legally throws to the unoccupied third base. The third-base coach wants a balk called on the pitcher since the runner from second stopped. RULING: A pitcher may throw or feint a throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to put out or drive back a runner. As long as the umpire judges that it is reasonable for the pitcher to believe he had a play at third, even though the runner stopped, it is a legal move. (6-2-4b)

SITUATION 19: The runner at first base takes off in an attempt to steal second base. The pitcher legally makes a spin move and throws to unoccupied second base to easily retire the stealing runner. The third-base coach argues, saying the pitcher cannot throw to an unoccupied base. RULING: A pitcher may throw or feint a throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to put out or drive back a runner. The out stands. (6-2-4b)

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Guys, I don’t mean to play devils advocate...please understand I know and agree this is not a balk.

But if adgz takes these posts to his partner, nothing will change, because the case plays don’t say anything about disengaging or not. They say “legally throw”

I gathered from OP that his partner is saying it’s okay to throw to an unoccupied base to drive back a runner as long as they disengage first.

His partner is not going to read those and say “oh yeah, he doesn’t have to disengage”

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3 minutes ago, ShaunH said:

Guys, I don’t mean to play devils advocate...please understand I know and agree this is not a balk.

But if adgz takes these posts to his partner, nothing will change, because the case plays don’t say anything about disengaging or not. They say “legally throw”

I gathered from OP that his partner is saying it’s okay to throw to an unoccupied base to drive back a runner as long as they disengage first.

His partner is not going to read those and say “oh yeah, he doesn’t have to disengage”

Close reading of a couple of the interps would show the pitcher not disengaging. 

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The "not disengaged" is certainly implied in the cases cited: "makes a spin move" and "comes set . . then swings his entire nonpivot foot . . . steps." If he had to disengage first, but did not, these would be balks. But, as ShaunH suggests, agdz59's partners may refuse to acknowledge the implications.

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You could just show your partner the rule ..." when it is not an attempt to put our or drive back a runner."

 

That seems to describe the OP pretty well.

 

Given the dynamic (you're new to this level, he has 12 years' experience one year of experience 12 times), the answer might better come from someone else more senior in your association.

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2 hours ago, noumpere said:

Given the dynamic (you're new to this level, he has 12 years' experience one year of experience 12 times), the answer might better come from someone else more senior in your association.

Good point.  I'll have to think about that...

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3 hours ago, agdz59 said:

Good point.  I'll have to think about that...

I would also caution you against trying to prove you're right at the meeting. We know you're right and you know you're right. A lot of guys don't care to change or study up on the rules, so they won't accept the idea that they were wrong. No point wasting your breath and energy on someone who won't listen. 

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2 hours ago, Stk004 said:

trying to prove you're right at the meeting

On the other hand, there might be some umpires there who misconstrue the rule yet are open-minded. You might not want to "die on the hill," but you might bring a topographic map to the meeting. 

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I've really been enjoying the association meetings.  They have an hour up front for the newbies like me then the rest of the vets show up and they have a "any interesting plays since we last met?" with everyone.  I'll bring this up there. Just show them what the pitcher did and ask what they've got.  Then after the different opinions, I'll tell them how we handled it and maybe the conversation will turn the right way without me even climbing the hill. 

Thanks!

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  • 2 months later...

I know that this is an old discussion but I just read it now. Let's add another twist to the situation which I believe confirms the rule of 6-2-4b in your described situation. What if the runner was at 3rd and attempts to steal home. When the pitcher throws home and he decides to go back to third this is not a balk but then the question is whether or not this is a pitch, ball or strike.  Hmmmm... any thoughts on this? 

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38 minutes ago, mkrieger said:

I know that this is an old discussion but I just read it now. Let's add another twist to the situation which I believe confirms the rule of 6-2-4b in your described situation. What if the runner was at 3rd and attempts to steal home. When the pitcher throws home and he decides to go back to third this is not a balk but then the question is whether or not this is a pitch, ball or strike.  Hmmmm... any thoughts on this? 

It’s a pitch 

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If he is engaged with the rubber, it is a pitch.  He better deliver it with a legal motion.

If he disengages it is not a pitch.

 

Just an aside … these little interjections from the site make me chuckle!  Is this a new feature?

 

A7B919F7-C59F-4414-91FA-78A6DE01BA70.jpeg

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I did bring this situation up at the next meeting.  My partner was not there and I described the situation without bringing up his agreement with the coach.  Everyone confirmed I got the call right.

I did see the coach a couple of weeks later.  He didn't mention it and neither did I.

Thanks again everyone.

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3 hours ago, agdz59 said:

Everyone confirmed I got the call right.

Let's see: your partner was backed up by two coaches, and you were backed up by a room full of umpires. Hmm, what a difficult position to be in.

Validation is always welcome. 

I will give your partner credit for one thing: not "overruling" you and belatedly calling a balk.

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3 hours ago, mkrieger said:

When the pitcher throws home and he decides to go back to third this is not a balk but then the question is whether or not this is a pitch, ball or strike.  Hmmmm... any thoughts on this? 

Depends on whether F1 stepped off. If he's engaged and throws to the plate, it's a pitch. If not, it's a throw.

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