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Field Measurements

by Dave
Sunday, October 08, 2006

I had an interesting encounter with an ASA umpire this morning.   This fellow was rather arrogant though not a "bad" ump.   I've seen plenty better and many of his calls were strange.   He required baserunners to slide which is certainly not the rule under ASA or any other sanctioning bodies' rules but be that as it may, I understand where he was coming from and we can live with that rule.   Also, many of his hoky calls benefitted us so I won't complain.   On balance I'd have to say we got more stupid calls than we lost and none of them affected the outcome of the game.   And my interesting encounter occurred before the games even got going.

Right before we started, there was some concern that the pitching plate was short of the 40 feet regulation distance our level plays.   We asked around and found somebody who had brought a tape measure.   I held the plate end of the tape and was instructed by the umpire to measure from "the front of homeplate."   I replied "the front?!?"   The ump said confidently, "yes the front.   Trust me on that one."   I said, "I'll measure it from there for you because you asked but I certainly will not 'trust you on it.'   I've read the rules and you are quite wrong."   Then I let the issue drop and hours later I'm wondering how the heck the plate was left where it was.   There's no way this plate was 40 feet from the front.   It is cemented in and I've measured it numerous times.   It isn't our home field but we used to play rec ball here.   And we're playing a fall ball league where the object is to reinforce our girls love of the game - not to win or take care of our pitchers' egoes.   But the measurement couldn't have gone on as planned.

You see, it matters not whether you are playing ASA, NSA, FAST, Pony, or Little League.   Actually, it doesn't matter if we're talking about slow or fastpitch softball, baseball or any derivation of these sports.   It doesn't matter if you're talking MLB rules or any other organization on the face of the Earth.   The measurement of pitching distance is ALWAYS TAKEN FROM THE BACK OF HOMEPLATE.   There's actually no question about it.

Another interesting exchange he and I had involved a play at first.   A batter beat out an infield hit.   After passing first base, she turned in towards the field rather than out towards foul territory.   Then she took one step towards second base.   Our fielder alertly tagged her out.   The arrogant umpire said, "No, no, no.   You don't need to turn toward foul territory.   She's safe.   This isn't baseball.   This is softball.   You need to turn that way for baseball not softball."   There is no question that merely turning toward the field in a softball game does not convert the runner who has safely past first into a runner who must return to base with liability of being put out.   That's as true for baseball as it is for softball.   But once a runner who has past first makes a full step towards second, she is liable to be put out.   The umpire should have called this runner out.   And he was wrong about the baseball rules to boot.

So, the lesson I learned today is you really can never trust an umpire with the rules.   You really need to have a rulebook with you at all competitions and to the extent you question a rule, you ought to voice your concerns if it has potential to alter the outcome of a game.   Those in youth softball often speak of leaving the game to the kids - don't let parents take the game out of the kids' hands.   The same is true of umpires.   Don't let an umpire slip by using fictitious rules just because he is arrogant.   Be prepared to call the bluff of umpires who make rules up based on their own set of myths.   The fellow today seemed to have his act together but obviously, he spends very little time actually understanding the rules of the game he officiates.   I should have been prepared for that.

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