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Advice on balks at lower levels


TopHat64

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I know this is a topic you could probably write a novel on, but does anyone have some good advice on where to draw the line for balks at lower levels (10U-13U)? Obviously you don't want to call a balk on every other pitch, but you don't want to let everything go (not coming set, clear attempts to deceive). But you also want to stay consistent, right? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Check with your association leadership and or assignors...and make sure you review this at your plate meetings.

Where I work, early in the season for 13U and under, we usually agree on one warning and then we call a balk. Then by the 3rd or 4th week of the season, we take away the warning and call balks from the jump.

In all cases, whether a warning or balk is being called, consider asking the pitcher, "Do you know what you did?". If they say yes, get the game going. If they say no, give the absolute briefest explanation of why you called a warning/balk...and get the game going. We are not coaches.

~Dawg

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2 hours ago, TopHat64 said:

I know this is a topic you could probably write a novel on, but does anyone have some good advice on where to draw the line for balks at lower levels (10U-13U)? Obviously you don't want to call a balk on every other pitch, but you don't want to let everything go (not coming set, clear attempts to deceive). But you also want to stay consistent, right? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Take the bolded out of your vocabulary.

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve done that young, but generally my philosophy was that as long as no one was being disadvantaged, I wasn’t calling it, and I’d share a quick word between innings with pitcher or coach.

I told coaches “I won’t let your kid get picked off by a balk, but I’m not calling every little flinch, turn, etc”.

At 10/11, a lot of kids can’t even come set without wobbling or “drifting” their body

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15 hours ago, TopHat64 said:

I know this is a topic you could probably write a novel on, but does anyone have some good advice on where to draw the line for balks at lower levels (10U-13U)? Obviously you don't want to call a balk on every other pitch, but you don't want to let everything go (not coming set, clear attempts to deceive). But you also want to stay consistent, right? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Are they leading off at this level?

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I do a lot of 9-13 USSSA games.   For weekday games, I ask what the coaches want to do about balks.   If I don't ask, I'm asked about so I want to make sure everyone's on the same page.
Early in the season they want to do 1 warning per pitcher.

Typically the older age groups and the upper levels of USSSA ( AAA, MAJORS) want it called straight up more often than not...by the end of the season there's no warnings for anyone.

For the lower levels and younger ages where they want warnings I let minor stuff go like twitching or turning their shoulder when looking at first. 
But they get warnings for not coming to a stop/pause in set position.   Not throwing to the base after stepping to the base. 
I typically don't warn when the start at the mound in windup and the coaches are all yelling to switch to set.    This doesn't happen that often but for these groups I bet only 10% actually do it correctly.
Some coaches want me to explain why I called a balk so the pitcher knows.   I tell the coaches I'll let him know what he did, but it's up to you to teach them what to do OR not do.

Our USSSA tournaments are NO warnings.

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I love this video for learning and how to call it.

My 2 cents you need to know what your league wants.

If they want a warning 1st then do it and then call them. If there is no warning then call it and call it as you would any other situation and game.  If you don't call ticky tack balks than dont subject them to unreal close scrutinization of it. If you see something you would clearly call than call it.

Its not your job to coach them its your job to umpire them

 

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Frankly, you're better off just going to the highest standard.

I'm just giving my perspective of being a player and a coach.   The reality is, the game you're umping will have teams of many different levels (even if you stick with one age group all year) - you'll have rec teams and club teams, teams of varying calibers and experience in both categories, and teams with very different schedules/plans through the year - tournaments...trying for state?  Further?  And those teams will go onto other games with many other umps of varying calibers and experience.

The most frustrating thing is just humming along as a team/pitcher and suddenly running into an umpire that is calling balks no other umpire has called to that point in the season  (it's much worse when it's the very end of the season)...the ump is enforcing the rule book correctly...so "we've been doing this all year" falls on deaf ears...it's relevant and irrelevant at the same time.   (and it's unique...it's not like you can claim "we've been playing with four strikes all year long")

At this point you have a perception issue about the rules, and the selective enforcement of those rules.  (you see the same frustration at airports, where TSA seems to have different rules about what has to be taken off or taken out of bags at every airport)

The savvy teams/coaches/pitchers will do what they can get away with, and settle into a behavior that never/rarely gets penalized...the inexperienced teams/coaches/pitchers will just keep operating as they are because they don't know any better.  No one ever said this was a balk, so never knew I had to change anything.  In either scenario, after throwing for 30-80 games, suddenly learning that what you're doing is actually a balk (or is actually going to be enforced now), in the final tournament weekend of the year, is unsettling, at best.

So, nail them to the wall right away...call balks the same way in April that that you do in August.  And stop waiting for an evaluator to show up to call balks.  If you want to give warnings at the younger ages, that's fine...but even that I'd keep to the first week or two of the season...after that, assume teams have been taught.   But point out the balks, to a higher standard, early in the year.   And keep doing it.   The more of your colleagues do that, the better for everyone.

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On 8/31/2021 at 2:51 PM, beerguy55 said:

At this point you have a perception issue about the rules, and the selective enforcement of those rules.  (you see the same frustration at airports, where TSA seems to have different rules about what has to be taken off or taken out of bags at every airport)

For the uneducated...this is a deliberate strategy done to increase the likelihood of catching bad guys. If we wanted passenger friendly TSA, we would have frictionless boarding of commercial aircraft. TSA gets a terrible rap. They do an incredible job given the parameters they are working under. That being said El Al sets the gold standard but, that standard would never be tolerated in the US.

~Dawg

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