Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are you sure you want me to call every balk?

As youth umpires, we have all been there. Stuck doing a game where the skill level isn't very good. Sure, it's still better than sitting at a desk but there are times it isn't very fun. Now, I take every game I do very seriously. I try to be the best umpire I can be every single time I step on the field. But, let's be honest, we all let certain things go in these games. We might expand the strike off the plate a little bit. We might give the fielder the benefit of the doubt on some bang bang calls and we might not call every single balk we see.

Two summers ago, I was doing a Boys 13 game and it was not a very good game. Both teams were very weak and not very skilled. I was in the field and in the top of the first, the pitcher stepped on the rubber, took the ball out of his glove and then looked in to take the sign. The visiting team coach started screaming for a balk. I ignored him and thought it was over. Well after the inning, he pulls me aside and asks me why I didn't call it. I was completely honest and told him that if I called every balk I saw, it was going to be a long game. I have used that line before and it worked fine but not today. He demanded that I call every balk. I asked him if he was sure and he told me that he was.

Well, the first pitch his pitcher threw, he was about two feet off the rubber when he threw the ball. So, I called an illegel pitch. Now, I can't lie, I was looking for something but the pitcher did make it easy for me. The coach went absolietely nuts. He asked me why I would call that. I told him that he asked me too. He didn't llike that and went off and was ejoected about ten seconds later.

To prove my point, I told him he could go down the first baseline and watch the game. In that game, I called 45 balks and let about 20 go. And I called them on both teams (The home team manager wanted them all called to but wasn't quite as big of a jerk about it)

After the game, the coach I ejected walked up and told me he was sorry. I told him it was forgotten but I only did what he asked me to do. He said that he knew and maybe he needed to work with his pitchers a little bit.

Long story short....coaches when you ask for something, be prepared to get it. Umpires do not like to be showed up at any level. And for you coaches who are coaching teams who really aren't that good, it might be a good idea to spend some more time coaching instead of insulting the umpires.

The season is over but that doesn't mean that I'm flying south for the winter. I will continue to add stories, tips and rules questions as I think of them.

Here is the trivia question for the day:

Pitcher steps on the rubber. As he is coming set, he drops the ball which hits his foot and rolls past the third baseline into foul territroy. Whats the call?


  1. The correct call is a BALL. Once it crosses the foul line, it becomes a legal pitch.

  2. I'm not 100% sure of that.
    If the ball crosses the foul line, it is a pitch, and therefore a ball. If it does not, it is a balk. I agree so far.
    BUT, does the fact that it hit his foot change that? If not, couldn't a pitcher who accidentally drops a ball, just kick it towards the catcher to only be charged with a ball and not a balk then? I would think that since it hit his foot, it becomes a balk then, no?

  3. From what I have been taught, in the situation I am talking about where the ball falls and just hits his foot, I believe it to be a balk. I do agree that if the pitcher makes a deliberate effort to kick the ball so the balk isn't called, then yes it would be a ball.

  4. In this situation, the pitcher's foot is considered part of the natural playing field, as is the rubber on which he stands. It doesn't matter if the dropped ball lands on his foot, the rubber, or the dirt; once he steps on the rubber, assumes his pitching position, and drops the ball, if it passes the foul line before the third base bag, it's a pitch and a ball, and if it doesn't cross the foul line, it's a balk. The rule book (8.05k) makes no distinction between a dropped ball that hits the pitcher's foot and one that hits the rubber and caroms off into foul territory.

    Obviously, if a pitcher kicks a ball after he drops it mid-pitch, this would be a balk with runners on base, and an illegal pitch (a ball) with no one on. I'd also warn the pitcher that if he does it again, he's gone; kicking a baseball, especially when young kids are involved, is dangerous!