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maybe a stupid question(s) re: (FED) written warning


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I'm getting back into umpiring after about 12 years away from the game. I'll do mostly high school ball. As I am relearning the rules, I've come across something new (to me): the written warning/restriction to the bench for the manager.

Question 1: Am I actually handing the manager a written warning? Does that mean I need to carry something to have available in case I need it (and is it an official form/document/something?) That seems impractical. Or, and I'm guessing this is it, is the "written" part just on my game card - a record for me - and I verbally tell the manager it's a "written" warning?

Question 2: If manager is restricted to the bench and has a legitimate question for me, what's he to do? Do I stand outside the dugout and talk (seems like something I don't want to do)? Can he leave the dugout to come talk with my permission? Does he lose the right to ask (even legitimate) questions if he's restricted? Does an assistant coach take over his role as the one who can talk to me?


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2016 NFHS Baseball Rules Interpretations

SITUATION 7: What is a head coach who is restricted to the bench allowed to do? RULING: Even though the head coach is restricted to the bench and may not occupy a coaching box, he is still the head coach. He still represents the team in communications with umpires and may address and coach base runners, the batter, defensive players and other coaches. He may hold team conferences at the dugout or bench area. He may leave the bench/dugout area to attend to a player who becomes ill or injured and may request to talk to an umpire concerning a rule or rule enforcement. However, he shall be ejected for any further misconduct. (3-2-1, 3-3-1f Penalty)

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Regarding question 1, your guess is correct. Record the (half) inning, outs, and situation on your game card and notify the coach that he's received his written warning and that he's restricted to the dugout for the remainder of the game.

The rule evolved to include this step in order to differentiate between a verbal warning that has no penalty, and a more serious warning that requires restriction to the dugout. 

Too often, umpires give verbal warning after verbal warning before (arbitrarily, as it seemed to many coaches) ejecting the coach. The written warning allows coaches to recognize that they've received their last warning.

Note that the written warning is NOT a step in a required progression. Coaches who commit an ejectable offense should be ejected immediately, not warned. IIRC, the list of ejectable offenses can be found in rule 3–3–1, toward the end. And my instruction has always been for our umpires to give at most one verbal warning.

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I am not sure how much evolving took place with this rule. It entered the rule book in 2016. And issuing a warning has always been a part of the options an umpire had in his quiver. The penalty of restricting the coach to the dugout has been around since circa 1990. When the NFHS added the rule to the book in 2016 they also made the rule a Point of Emphasis in which they never said anything about coaches recognizing that they have received their final warning. Here is the Point of Emphasis that appeared in the 2016 rule book--


The basic premise for education-based athletics is education. The adult coach and game official work collaboratively to teach, train, oversee, model positive behavior and arbitrate the students under their charge. As part of these “teachable moments” the game official is responsible to maintain order and control the contest so both teams have a fair opportunity to do their best and perform to their highest level.      

That responsibility is detailed in NFHS Rule 3, Section 3, Article 1, Bench and Field Conduct and Rule 10, Umpiring. We all should promote preventative officiating. While not listed in the NFHS Rules Book, preventative officiating is practiced by the more successful and experienced umpires. Verbal and non-verbal tactics are practiced to let a coach know that you are aware and understand his concern, acknowledge that you are doing your best to officiate the game and that his behavior if negative, is not helpful, in fact it is contributing to the detriment of all that are involved. These are a few key factors in de-escalating a possible contentious exchange.      

Under NFHS Rule 3-3-1 and Rule 10, we are provided tools to issue a written warning, then restriction to the bench/dugout and ultimately ejection from the game. Unless the situation calls for such a drastic response, ejections should not be an official’s first option (emphasis added). The lessons best learned by a young person in this environment are by his coach(es). It does not benefit the student if the coach has done something that warrants his removal from the field. Ejections may be avoided by listening to the coach and attempting to understand his perspective prior to responding. A restricted coach may continue to teach, guide and control his team while an ejected coach places this same responsibility upon someone who may not be as prepared for it. Developing preventative officiating skills and using the penalty structure that is in place should make for a healthy and safe environment for all the participants.


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