Here are a couple of plays that have recently occurred in the first few games
Iʼve umpired this 2016 season.
Situation 1 Iʼve touched on this topic before. It addresses the issue of the ʻjuggled-ball actʼ.
Infield hit, fielded by player and thrown to first base. First-base-man makes
the catch — sort of — before the batter/runner reaches first base, but the ball
bounces in his glove and begins to pop out. The first-base-man tries to keep
hold of the ball, grasping with his throwing hand as well (“use two hands!”)
and eventually does so, also keeping his foot on the bag. Whew!
Umpires calls and signals, “Safe”. “What!!!!”, but “I didnʼt drop the ball. I
caught it”, pleads our first-base-man.
Well, the reason I called the batter/runner safe is because while the first-baseman
was trying to control his grip on the ball the runner hit first base with his
foot — quite a clear and distinctive sound — and I also saw it — before the
first-base-man gained full control. This is not a catch in time. The runner is
safe. This judgment applies to any such force-out play.
Situation 2 This is especially for new pitchers.
When youʼre on the mound, anytime you move your pitching hand anywhere
near your face, wipe it on your baseball pants! Donʼt ʻtemptʼ the umpire.
I saw the pitcher, on the mound astride of the pitcherʼs plate, awaiting his
catcherʼs signals. I saw him raise his throwing hand to his face, nod to his
catcher, place his foot to the plate and draw his hand and glove together to
start his wind up.
I called and signaled, “Time”, came out from my position behind home plate
and instructed the pitcher to, “throw that ball in, please, to the catcher”, then
gave the pitcher a new ball.
He asked me why, as did his team manager. I said that heʼd raised his
pitching hand to his lips on the mound but did not wipe his baseball pants
afterward before beginning his pitching routine. That is a balk (and there was
a runner on first base at the time).
Now, I donʼt want to get unduly graphic here, but the pitcher ʻexplainedʼ that
he “hadnʼt touched my mouth, but was wiping my nose”. Ahem! Letʼs just say
that snot is probably even more likely to affect the physics of baseball
throwing than saliva!
[As Iʼd explained to the managers at the plate conference, I said I would watch
for balks, and call them if necessary. But that at this level — AA games — Iʼd
be explanatory and somewhat lenient to begin with and give pitcherʼs a
ʻwarningʼ. The point is not to be ruthless on the balk judgments, as we all
know how technical they are; that the object is for us all to learn more.]
Continue to be good sportsmen and women and enjoy your baseball!