Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hint for coaches on tag ups

I started the Rulebook Edge website as a way to help coaches gain a competitive edge by knowing some of the intricacies on some rules.  This blog has mainly talked about rules but I've gotten a bit away from the helping coaches bit.  Today's post is meant for coaches.  It deals with tagging up on a fly ball, and gives tips to the offense, and a legal trick play that can be used by a devious defense.

Every coach and player from Little League on up knows that runners need to tag up on a fly ball that is caught.  If a runner leaves before the ball is caught, he needs to go back and retouch the base or be in danger of getting doubled off.  What many players and coaches don't know, however, is that there is a difference between the time a catch is deemed to be a catch, and the time when a runner can legally leave his base...
A catch is defined in Rule 2.00 "Definition of Terms" as
 "..the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it.... It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or  immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional."
Ok, fairly straightforward, although I have had coaches tell me that the "ground can't cause a drop"  (this ain't football), or that "he took 3 steps, therefore it's a catch, blue!", when I've given the safe sign on dropped catches.   Basically, it's a catch if the ball is caught, AND he does not involuntarily drop the ball.  Catching a ball on the run, running 10 feet hitting the wall and dropping the ball is NOT a catch.    So, an umpire cannot declare a caught ball an "Out", until the fielder has voluntarily released the ball.

Now let's read the comment in the rulebook subsequent to the definition:

Comment: A catch is legal if the ball is finally held by any fielder, even though juggled, or held by another fielder before it touches the ground. Runners may leave their bases the instant the first fielder touches the ball. 

Ah-ha! There's the catch! (pun intended).  A runner may leave their base the instant the first fielder touches the ball.  So, if a fielder dives for a ball and is rolling around on the ground, the umpire cannot rule a catch until he sees that the fielder has possession of the ball.  But the second he touches the ball, the runners can tag up.  This is a very important and basic piece of baserunning that you should make sure you instruct your players.  Ok, so there's my easy tip for the offense.  Now, how can you use this to your advantage on defense? Imagine this situation: Tie game, Bottom 9th, R3 with 1 out.  Batter hits a deep fly ball.  How can you prevent the runner on 3rd from tagging up and scoring?  Well, assuming he hasn't read this post, what you could do is instead of making a clean catch, you can juggle it while running in towards the infield.  If the runner stays on the base and waits for the out call to be made, by the time it is, you should be close enough to the infield that he either will not attempt to tag up, or will be thrown out easily.   A couple of caveats here:
1) This will NOT work at any advanced level.  Maybe Little League majors, and recreational/community ball for those slightly older.  Try doing this at a varsity high school game and all this will accomplish is lots of laughter.
2) If this does work once, do not ever try it again against the same team.  Players, coaches and even Umpires all learn from their mistakes.  Somebody in the stands will know that the runner could have run and I guarantee he will either tell the coach or the player after the game, and they will look it up and know for next time.
3) If you are going to try this I would suggest that you practice it a few times and ONLY use it when absolutely necessary.  You don't want to try this early in the game, because there's a good chance the outfielder ends up dropping the ball, and you don't even get the batter out.

Spring is here! Hope to be back on the field in a few weeks.  PLAY!

1 comment:

  1. If you're such an expert on the rules why would you even suggest that someone make a travesty of the game. This is exactly what this is a travesty of the rules. Shame on you for even suggesting such, now someone somewhere is going to do this without meaning to and then some poor umpire is going to have to straighten the mess out in accordance to the rules.