Saturday, October 23, 2010

When is a foul tip not a foul tip?

As I was reviewing some pages on the rulebook edge site, I came across the page I had written on foul tips and it reminded me of one of the knottier situation I got into when I was umpiring with a new Junior Umpire.
13 year old rep team.  Home team is at bat, and the runner on 1st base is stealing on the first pitch to the batter, who checks his swing, and the ball tips off the bat, and loops into the catcher's glove.   I call the batter out.   Fans all start yelling at me, and the coach comes running out,
saying it was a foul tip, it should just be strike 1.  I explain to him that it was a foul ball, not a foul tip and therefore the batter is out.  He says "but the ball didn't go over the batter's head!!".  And I patiently explain that it doesn't have to.  It didn't go direct to the catcher's glove, therefore it's not a foul tip, but just a foul ball.  It was caught, his batter is out.  "Well,  I never heard that rule before, blue".  (Why Coaches think that making themselves sound ignorant is somehow going to make them look better is beyond me.  I've always wanted to tell them, "well, that's because you wouldn't know what a rule book looks like, much less have actually read one, so I'm actually pleasantly surprised you know your team gets to take the field when there are 3 outs!", but I always reluctantly bite my tongue).  Anyhow, he walks back to the dugout.   The visiting team's Coach then comes out to me, and asks if I'm going to send the runner on 2nd back to 1st.   No, I'm not.  "But it was a foul ball, don't runners have to return on a foul ball".  "Runners have to return on a DEAD ball", I tell him.  (I really want to tell him what he should do, but I know as an umpire I cannot).  All of a sudden a light bulb comes on and he asks if he can have "time" to talk to his pitcher.  (Why do Coaches ask for Time when the play is already dead????).    So, he talks to his pitcher, walks off the field, and the pitcher throws the ball to the 1st baseman who steps on the bag.  I'm afraid the Junior Umpire is going to say something, so I quickly step in and yell "Hey - the play is still dead.  Give the ball back to your pitcher so I can put the ball in play".   So he does,  I put the ball in play, the pitcher steps off the rubber and throws to the first baseman, who looks at the base Umpire who looks confused and gives the safe sign.    So,  I call time and have a little chat with my partner.  I remind him that a foul ball was caught, and the runner left 1st base before the ball was caught, therefore he is out on a proper appeal.   I ask him if he wants to handle it or if he'd like me to.   Since the home Coach is already PO'ed at me, he decides I might as well be the one to deliver the bad news.  
"Fielder! What are you appealing?"
"um... um... the runner?"
"The runner what?"
"He didn't tag up?"
(pointing to runner on 2nd) "You're Out!"
I hadn't finished my call by the time the home Coach was in my face already.
"Why is he out?"
"He didn't tag up on the fly ball"
What fly ball?
"The one the catcher caught to get your batter out"
"But that was a foul tip"
At this point I really didn't want to rehash that whole argument.
"I called it a foul ball, not a foul tip, and it was caught so it's just like any other type of fly ball"
"Ok, so why did your partner gesture safe on the appeal?"
Hhhmm... excellent question. Probably because he was just as confused by the rule as you were, even though he should know better, I'm thinking.
"Because he didn't know what the fielder was appealing.  The fielder didn't make it clear, so that's why I went over to clarify what he was appealing.  He made a proper appeal, so your runner is out"
He looks at me with this really confused look on his face.  He then started to say something and just mumbled "ah, forget it", and he went back to his dugout.

How many mistakes did you see on that play?  I counted at least 5.  Luckily I got out of that situation with nothing worse than 2 outs called on the offense and no ejections or protests filed.


  1. Outstanding post. These are the fun ones. Keep them coming!

  2. While I will agree that the offensive coach is not the brightest guy, I guess offensive is probably the correct way to put it ;) Part of the problem may have been your wording. The defensive coach is right, on a foul ball the runners would have to return because the ball dead on a foul ball. What you had was a caught fly ball, while is was caught over foul territory that has no bearing on the play, I know you know that and you obviously know the rules so I won't lecture you further beyond saying don't use the word "foul" for a caught fly ball.

    PS I am amazed that a coach who couldn't figure out that his runner was going to get called out on that appeal even knows that 3 outs end the half inning. He is one of those guys saying "one plus one" on base awards, and saying "tie goes to the runner".

    PPS I really like your blog so far, it really has the possibility (with your website) to be a good reference for youth (and other levels) coaches on how to properly deal with umpires, how not to get dumped and how to get the correct rulings even if the guys one the field unfortunately don't know the ruling for that particular play.

  3. Thanks to both of you for your kind words.

  4. I'm not sure if this is the proper forum for this question/comment, but I'll give it a try. Let's say, for the sake of argument, the "fly ball" mentioned above had hit the catcher in the mask and popped up and was caught. Would the same rules apply? Thanks, I love the Rulebook Guru's Website and Blog!

  5. Sure. If it's a fly ball and it hasn't hit the ground (or fence or any other foreign object), it's a legal catch. Even if it hits his the catcher's mask first. Treat it the same as any other fly ball that is caught.