Nomenclature: F1-9=normal fielding positions. R1-3=Runners' positions at ToP (time of pitch). B1=the batter or batter-runner. 1B-3B=the actual sacks. Get it?
Interference/Obstruction. Yikes! [7.06, 7.09]
Yes, I've seen it too many times to recount. Once, I saw R2 head into 3B, standing up. F5 was standing on top of the sack as R2 (now R3, I guess) tried to round the base. I pointed at F5 and simply said, "That's obstruction." The runner waddled home while the defense did nothing.
The defensive skipper got his Jockeys in a gordian knot. I heard the commonplace, "WHAT WAS THAT?" Oh, bother.
"That was obstruction on your third baseman, coach. He can't be on the base there; he's not making a play," I said calmly.
"Then why did the runner get home?"
"He didn't get anything. He stole home. There was no award." I left out the part, "... and your team just stood around while he scored." Umpires aren't supposed to say stuff like that.
- Obstruction (OBS) is when the defense impedes a runner
- Interference (INT) is when the offense messes with a fielder--or the ball
In essence, runners have the right of way. BUT (and it's a big but), fielders have the right of way on a batted ball. OBS occurs ten times more often in LL than INT. Please don't ask why. Once a batted ball has been touched by a fielder, the defense loses its "right of way."
90% of OBS calls are Type B, or delayed obstruction. This means that no one is trying to put the runner out while he is being impeded. This is not a dead ball sitch (see my earlier example). Umpires will let the play continue, and, at its end, place runners where they belong. There is no mandatory base award here.
A perfect example is last year's World Series, when Will Middlebrooks of the Sawx obstructed Allen Craig of the Cards. Craig was headed for third when Middlebrooks, lunging for a bad throw, impeded him. Jim Joyce called delayed obstruction. Because Craig jetted home and was tagged before the dish, the umpires ruled that he was protected to home due to the OBS of the "d."
Note that Middlebrooks did nothing intentionally. It was unfortunate fielder placement, if you will. Of course, the brain-addled TV crew kept saying "interference" and "no intent." (Just watch the idiots in this video.) No announcer in media history knows the rules. Period. Especially that-guy-whom-all-umpires-detest, Tim McCarver.
In Type A OBS, a play is being made on the runner. If R3 gets into a pickle between 3B and home and runs into F5, who does not have the ball, time is called AND R3 gets a mandatory award of home--even if he is headed back to third.
Yes, when a runner is hit by a batted ball before a fielder has a shot at it, said runner is out, the ball is dead, no other runners can advance AND the batter gets first base (with credit for a single). Please don't ask me why.
No, a runner cannot intentionally interfere with a thrown ball. I have never seen this in LL. Think Reggie Jackson in the '78 World Series. See it here.
Most INTs I have seen involve a runner who has been thrown out. S/he must slide or avoid subsequent play by the defense. No intent is needed here. It is too common in LL for R1 to head into 2B standing up on a possible ground-ball DP. And yes, I will wear a black hat and say that LL umpires do not call this enough. The penalty on such a play is that B1 is also called out.
Tips for Coaches--Alternatives for Hair Loss
- Teach your fielders to give runners a path if there is no play being made on said runner(s).
- Since the ball is alive in delayed OBS, you can still try to throw out any runners.
- If someone gets in a runner's way, some (yes, non-malicious) contact helps umpires see the OBS.
- It is your call to coach runners to advance after delayed OBS. Remember the ball is not dead.
- Runners must not interfere with the defense in the process of fielding a batted ball.
- Runners who have been thrown out must slide or "peel off" subsequent play.
Yes bring on your questions.
The Dreaded Appeal Play--[7.10]
I am starting my screed with this awful truth in Little League: Grown-ups still do not know how to orchestrate a proper appeal. Have I seen (in 30+ years of umpiring) this happen? Countless times. Have I seen it make or break a game? On too many occasions to mention.
SITCH A: Let's start with a stumper from the Ace files. Gnats batting, one out, R2. B1 flies out to F8. R2 tags up (legally? we'll see) and makes it in plenty of time to 3B. I astutely call "SAFE." Then I hear the ominous word from Knuckles McGinty, the coach of the Weevils, who are in the field. "APPEAL!" bellows McGinty, who is looking forward to his Barcalounger and a cold beverage. After much fumbling, F1 finally lobs the sphere to F6, who tags second base. I call "safe" again.
Now, both coaches messed up here. How? Read on, folks.
Now, both coaches messed up here. How? Read on, folks.
Basic notes on the appeal play
- The defensive team may appeal only: a) a missed base by a runner while the ball is alive and b) a runner who leaves his base early on a tag-up attempt. There is no appeal on a runner who leaves base early on the pitch.
- The ball must be live in order to appeal. And it stays that way during the appeal.
- If two runners have touched—or missed—the base being appealed, the runner must be named.
- If the runner(s) being appealed are still on base, said runners may be tagged in a proper appeal, while naming the base in question.
Ace Tip for Brain-Addled Coaches: If the umps know an appeal is coming, they will be less likely to call "time" (say, for dusting off the plate), thus enabling quicker, crisper appeals. You don't want to tip off the other team, but you may want to discreetly warn the arbiters.
If the ball has been made dead, it's gotta be livened up before any appeal can occur. This means F2 is where he should be and F1 is on the rubber, with the rock, making no motion associated with a pitch. The ump will then put the ball into play. Now, F1 can step off the rubber (preferably backward) and the defense can do its thing. Mind you, the ball is now alive and runners may advance—as the Williamsport Manifesto says in dire tones—at their own peril.
Warning-Danger-Look Out!: After a play is over and (before you appeal) any pitch, pitching violation or other play occurs, the appeal you wanted to make is null and void. Forever. An appeal is not considered a play (so you can question multiple runners). BUT—throwing the ball into Aunt Hazel's lap during an appeal is a no-no.
Can an appeal be a force play as well? You betcha. If a runner misses a base to which she is forced—and appealed properly—it's a force out. Does this make a diff? Yessir! In my checkered, winless postseason coaching career, we were in a state game. R2, two outs. B1 hits, much to my chagrin, a gapper. R2 scores, B1 ends up at 2B. I yell to our F1, "GET THE BALL. STEP ON FIRST. SAY 'THE BATTER MISSED!'" The blessed, saintly base ump says, "OUT!" I am happy. Why? Not only are there three outs, but R2's run is deleted. Seem hinky? Tell me of any play in baseball where B1 is retired before reaching first with two outs and a run scores on the play. Ain't never happened.
ADDENDUM: Umpires are not on duty to help either team during an appeal. As the preacher said in Blazing Saddles, "Son, you're on your own."
By now, there's a slight chance you'll have learned why both teams erred on my initial sitch. The Weevils should have just tagged R2 (who is now R3). The way the pitcher dallied around, R3 could have strolled home with a cart full of Kibble 'b Bits from Stop & Slop. So, the Gnats lose a potential run. The Gnats, by the by, lost the game by one.
Questions? Email the author here. Especially if you're a book publisher looking toward that retirement hacienda in Cabo. Keep checking back for more to come, such as:
- The fourth out. Yes, it does exist.
- How to civilly disagree with umpires.
- How to take advantage of the obstruction rule.
- The immensely confusing "circle rule" in softball.
- The time your narrator was attacked by an angry, kielbasa-wielding mother.
Back to top. ©Timothy Holleran, 2014.