Often, the plays in baseball and softball that confuse an umpire are the ones he or she least expects. They include all sorts of gimmicks the manager employ to get an advantage. The reason they are so difficult to anticipate is the very reason they are done in the first place, which is to surprise the other team. However, in most instances, the umpire is surprised as well. What hope can an umpire possibly have in situations like these? The answer is found in experience, but not just as an umpire. The best way to deal with these situations is to become a student of the game. This way an umpire will develop a feel for the various situations that arise when he/she is on the field or behind the plate. Running through them in your head will help develop a course of action before a difficult situation occurs. This means an umpire must have his head in the game. Alertness in recognizing situations and knowledge of what could happen in those situations are some of what an umpire must have to avoid looking incompetent. You must understand the game and those who take part in it. In general, the best tool an umpire can have is a thorough understanding of the game, its concepts, its strategy, and most importantly, its rules.
As a reminder, all Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball games must be played in accordance with the Official Baseball Rules and the Official Babe Ruth Softball rules, respectively. The only exceptions for baseball are those listed in the 2015 Babe Ruth Rules and Regulations. There are no exceptions for softball. Be certain to use the Official Baseball Rules and the Official Babe Ruth Softball Rules, and not those of the National Federation of High School Athletic associations, or any other group, as there are major differences between the sets of rules.
Listed below is a recap of Babe Ruth League rules for members of the National Umpires Association to review.
2015 BABE RUTH LEAGUE RULE CHANGES
Babe Ruth Baseball 16-18 Division –The Designated Hitter has been replaced with an Extra Player “EP” for local league and Babe Ruth tournament competition, which includes District, State and Regional competition, as well as the 16-18 World Series. Prior to the beginning of each tournament game, the manager may elect to add a tenth hitter to the batting order. The player will be indicted in the line-up as the “EP”. The “EP” cannot be added to the line-up once the game begins. The “EP” will be treated as any other starter, and cannot be eliminated during the course of the game. If a team starts with 10 players, the team must finish with 10 players. Penalty shall be a forfeit.
Rulebook – Rule 0.01 – REQUIREMENTS FOR CHARTER (paragraph 5) (All Divisions of Babe Ruth League, Inc.) State Commissioners shall approve geographical boundaries established by each league in conjunction with the District Commissioner in whose district that league exists and operates. Appropriate written descriptions, maps or specifications of boundary limitations, must be certified by and filed with the State Commissioner and submitted to Babe Ruth League, Inc. for final approval. A player must play within the league’s geographical boundaries in which the player resides. This is determined according to the legal residence of the player’s parents or legal guardian. Waivers permitting a player to play outside of his geographical boundaries are not permitted in Babe Ruth League. League geographical boundaries shall be subject to review and adjustment by the State or Regional Commissioner and Babe Ruth League, Inc. whenever it is deemed advisable. Geographical boundaries are established to eliminate competition of an undesirable nature, but shall not be established to prevent healthy expansion of teams and leagues within any given area. The only exceptions to the above rule are as follows:
- If a player rostered on a Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball or Babe Ruth Softball team moved outside of that league’s geographical boundaries. In this case, the player may finish his/her playing career in the respective division of that league.
- NEW – If the physical location of the school where a player attends classes during the traditional academic year is within the boundaries of an established league, the player is permitted to participate in the established league. (Note: This excludes home schools, cyber schools, sports-related schools, sports academies, or after school where a student participates outside of the primary school in which the player is enrolled.) Once a player selects to participate in a league where the player is eligible, the player must finish the current season in the same league under the school boundary rule.
Players and their parents/guardians are advised that a false statement of residence or school attendance may lead to ineligibility to participate in Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball or Babe Ruth Softball. Any league who fails to comply with the “Geographical Boundaries and School Attendance Player Eligibility Requirements” may result in the disqualification of a player, team from regular season and/or tournament play.
Babe Ruth Baseball and Cal Ripken Baseball (All Divisions) – Contact Rule – If a runner attempting to reach home plate or another base intentionally and maliciously runs into a defensive player in the area of home plate or a base, he will be called out and ejected from the game.
Babe Ruth Baseball and Cal Ripken Baseball (All Divisions) – Anyone warming up a pitcher at any location shall wear a mask. A throat protector is considered part of the catcher’s mask.
Babe Ruth League, Inc. – All Divisions – If any bat in Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball or Babe Ruth Softball cannot be clearly identified for its make and model to determine the barrel composition, then the bat should be removed from the game.
Babe Ruth Softball (14U, 16U and 18U Divisions) Rule 2.00 – Definition of Shoes – Metal cleats are permitted in the 14U, 16U and 18U divisions. In the 10U and 12U divisions, only rubber cleats will be permitted.
An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive, nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations themselves in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare "Infield Fly" for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare, "Infield Fly, if Fair." The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allow to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05(1). The infield fly rule takes precedence. If interference is called during an infield fly, the ball remains alive until it is determined whether the ball is fair or foul. If fair, both the runner is out and the batter returns to bat.
Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. No one is allowed to obstruct a base runner by getting in his/her way or by tripping or otherwise blocking him/her, unless the fielder involved is in the act of making a play. Unless he/she is in the base runner's path to make a play, the fielder must at all times be out of the runner's way.
- Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. (In the event the batter-runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the last base occupied at the time of the pitch; provided, however, if during an intervening play at the plate with less than two outs a runner scores, and then the batter-runner is called out for interference outside the three-foot lane, the runner is safe and the run shall count.)
- Defensive interference is an act by a fielder which hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch.
- Umpire's interference occurs (1) when a plate umpire hinders, impedes or prevents a catcher's throw attempting to prevent a stolen base, or (2) when a fair ball touches an umpire on fair territory before passing a fielder.
- Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball.
There is one aspect of the game which still confuses the biggest fans of the game - the balk rule. Just the mention of the word "balk" can cause fear for pitchers, managers and umpires.
A balk is an illegal pitch with a runner or runners on base, entitling all runners to advance one base. A pitcher can commit a number of illegal motions or actions that constitute a balk. Official Rule 8.05 discusses 13 instances (a-m) involving an illegal pitch. Please study those instances.
Most of these violations involve a pitcher pretending to pitch when he/she has no intention of doing so. And umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpires mind, the intent of the pitcher should govern.
So before you make the call, ask yourself: Did you see a balk? What was the intent of the pitcher? Did the runner react? Was the runner deliberately deceived? Was there an unfair advantage gained by the pitcher with this action?
There is a lot to consider before calling a balk. Spend some time studying the balk rule. The more you study, the more comfortable you will be.
In games played under the Official Baseball Rules, a balk results in a dead ball, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
Exception: In the Cal Major/60 and Minor Divisions, the penalty shall be: The ball is dead, the umpire shall warn the pitcher of the infraction and if the infraction is repeatedly violated, has the authority to remove the pitcher from the game as a pitcher only.
The Cal Ripken Major/70 Division enforces the balk penalty.
When the ball is hit, calling it fair or foul is the first priority. Always judge fair and foul by the position of the ball, not the player. If a player stands in fair territory and touches a ball in foul territory, the ball is foul. When a ball is foul, throw both of your hands up and out and call "Foul Ball!" If the ball is fair, say nothing because anything you say may be misinterpreted by a player. Just point to fair territory.
A Fair Ball is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first, or between home and third base, or that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base, or that touches first, second or third base, or that first falls on fair territory on or beyond the first base or third base, or that, while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or play, or that, while over fair territory, passes out of the playing field in flight.
A Foul Ball is a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first and third base, or that, while on or over foul territory touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.
When calling fair or foul, proper positioning and good mechanics come into play.
BABE RUTH LEAGUE SPECIAL RULES AND REGULATIONS
Re-Entry Rule (All Divisions)
Any of the nine starting players may withdraw and re-enter once provided such player occupies the same batting position whenever he or she is in the line-up. A substitute who is withdrawn may not re-enter. All pitchers are governed by the provisions of Official Baseball Rule 3.05, and Babe Ruth Softball Rule 3.05 If withdrawn while on the mound pitching. The pitcher withdrawn while a batter or base runner may re-enter the game immediately. If the pitcher is removed from the game because of a second trip in the same inning, he/she may re-enter the game in any position with the exception of pitcher.
Re-Entry of Used Player – Babe Ruth League, Inc. will allow re-entry of already used players in both baseball and softball if all substitutes have been used and an injury occurs or a player is ejected. Selection of this substitute must be made by the opposing manager. This type of re-entry can only take place when an injury prevents a player from continuing in the game or a player is ejected. The injured or ejected player, once removed from the game, cannot re-enter.
NOTE: If a player re-enters illegally as a pitcher, fielder or runner, there is no penalty except he/she must be removed from the game immediately when discovered. If he/she re-enters illegally as a batter, such illegal re-entry is penalized according to Official Baseball Rule or Babe Ruth Softball Rule 6.07, Batting Out of Turn
Please note the following interpretations of this rule.
- This rule applies to both local league and tournament play.
- Each of the nine starting players may be withdrawn from the game and re-entered once.
- When re-entered, the player must occupy the same batting position as he/she occupied when starting the game, i.e., a starting player and his or her substitute cannot be in the game at the same time.
- A pitcher withdrawn from the game may re-enter immediately if withdrawn while a batter or base runner, if he/she was one of the nine starting players. If withdrawn while he/she is on the mound pitching, his/her substitute must fulfill Official Baseball Rule or Babe Ruth Softball Rule 3.05(b) before he/she is permitted to re-enter the game.
- All other starting players may be withdrawn and re-entered immediately.
- A substitute withdrawn from the game can never re-enter the game. Except when all subs have been used and an injury or ejection occurs.
- A substitute may replace a substitute and the starting player may still re-enter for the substitute, i.e., starting player Jones is replaced by substitute Smith; substitute Smith is replaced by substitute Clark. Starter Jones is eligible to replace Clark.
- A starting player withdrawn from the game more than once cannot re-enter.
- Withdrawal and re-entry takes place only when a player has been removed from the game.
- If the pitcher is removed from the game because of a second trip to the mound in the same inning, he/she may re-enter the game in any position, other than pitcher, if he/she was one of the nine starting players.
Trips to the Mound (All Divisions)
Per Official Baseball Rule 8.06 and Babe Ruth Softball Rule 8.12, the second trip in the same inning to the same pitcher shall automatically result in the removal of that pitcher from the game AS A PITCHER ONLY.
What constitutes a trip to the mound? When a coach makes a pitching change from the dugout without going onto the field, is that a trip to the mound? Keep in mind the primary purpose of Official Baseball Rule 8.06 and Babe Ruth Softball Rule 8.12 is to prevent delay of the game. The game was delayed by changing the pitcher, and is thus considered a trip to the mound, whether or not the manager/coach physically visited the mound.
Coaching Education and Certification
Per Babe Ruth League Rule 0.04, paragrah 5, all rostered managers and coaches in all Divisions are required to complete coaching education and certification. Per Babe Ruth League Rule 11.04, paragraph 1(h), all tournament coaches and managers must present to tournament officials prior to the start of competition, a Coaching Certification I.D. Card or Certificate.
Extra Player - Local League Play (All Divisions)
Any registered Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball or Babe Ruth Softball league, prior to the beginning of regular season play, may elect to add a tenth player to the batting order during league games. This player will be indicated in the line-up as the "EP". The "EP" will be treated as any other starter. The re-entry rule including the re-entry of used players is in effect with the "EP". The "EP" may appear in any position in the batting order.
Extra Player - Tournament Competition (All Divisions)
A team may elect to add a tenth player to the batting order for district, state and regional tournament competition and Word Series. Prior to the beginning of the game, this player will be indicated in the line-up as the "EP". The "EP" will be treated as any other starter, and cannot be eliminated during the course of the game. NOTE: If a team's line-up starts with 10 players, the team must finish with 10 players. Penalty shall be a forfeit.
Taking Signs From the Rubber (Official Baseball Rule 8.01 - All Divisions)
The pitcher must take signs from the catcher while standing on the rubber. Penalty - After a warning by the umpire, the pitcher, on the next offense, shall be removed from the mound as a pitcher for the remainder of the game.
Shoulder Emblems (All Divisions)
All teams participating in Babe Ruth local league and tournament competition are required to wear the Official Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, or Babe Ruth Softball shoulder emblem on their left outer uniform sleeve, or if vest type, sleeveless jersey, on the upper left chest of the jersey. The official shoulder emblem is required to be permanently affixed for World Series competition. Leagues have the option to purchase caps from approved dealers Outdoor Cap or Pacific Headwear that contain the Official Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, or Babe Ruth Softball shoulder emblem to satisfy the Official Shoulder Emblem requirement for local league and tournament play, with the exception of World Series competition.
Tobacco (All Divisions)
Babe Ruth League, Inc. prohibits the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco for both local league and tournament competition. This rule applies to all field personnel also, which includes managers, coaches and umpires.
Official Baseball Rules Not Applicable to Cal Ripken Major/60 Division
Base Running - rules 5.09(h), 7:04(d) and 7.07
6.09(b) is not used in 10U and younger
Approved and Non-Compliant Bats
To review all rules and regulations regarding Babe Ruth League approved and non-compliant bats, refer to the 2015 Rules and Regulations or visit www.baberuthleague.org.
Umpiring is a skill, a craft, an art, and a science. A true knowledge of umpiring lies in a complete understanding of the rules. An easy way to learn rules is to simply read the rulebook on a regular basis. Know the rule and the intent of each rule. And, never stop learning. Keep up to date on rules that change or become non-existent. A blend of common sense and rule knowledge will make you a good umpire.
The rules and regulations listed above are a great overview, but to be truly prepared, read and study the Official Rules of Baseball, the Babe Ruth League special Rules and regulations and the Official Babe Ruth Softball Rules and Regulations.