As most of you who have played or coached above Little League know, a batter is not always automatically out on strike 3. Rare as it may be at higher levels, batters can run to 1st base safely after striking out in certain situations.
I wrote an article on The Full Windup that is geared towards those players or coaches just moving up to a division where this rule first applies. When I initially wrote it I was thinking this article would be most useful to these young players. At older levels everyone knows the rule and what to do, right? Right?
Well, I've seen some situations with senior high school aged players, where catchers forget there is a runner on 1st, and throw the ball there after a pitch in the dirt when the batter starts running. That's somewhat excusable. They did the right thing, except forgot to be aware of the base/out situation prior to the play. (which, by the way, EVERY player on the field, both on offense and defense should always know. It amazes me how many times a game a fielder will ask me how many out there are. Shouldn't they already know so they can decide whether to try to get the lead runner or the batter out, or play at double play depth or whatever? But I'm off ranting on a tangent again). But then I remembered that even in the majors, pros sometimes forget the fundamentals that I'm trying to instill through my Get the Edge series of articles.
Here is an example, that could have cost the White Sox the opportunity to win the World Series in 2005. They were trailing 1 game to none in the ALCS, when with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, AJ Pierzynski struck out to apparently send the game into extra innings. But the pitch may or may not have hit the ground before the Angels catcher caught it, and without hesitating, AJ took off for 1st, while the catcher, confident he caught the ball, rolled it to the mound. Sure enough, the umpiring crew deemed that the ball was not caught, let the batter stay on first, and moments later he came around to score the winning run. If the White Sox had lost that game, they'd be trailing 2-0, with the next 3 games on the West Coast, and might not have been able to win the pennant that led to their first World Series title in 88 years.
The batter did what I recommend all batters should do in the article, and that is running without knowing for sure whether the ball was caught or not. He had nothing to lose, and as it turned out, it won them the game.