This is a user-submitted question from Brad in Texas. If you have an umpiring question you’d like answered, simply email ask@UmpHub.com.
I have a situation I’d like to throw out there about something I encountered this weekend.
I was calling youth ball (12u) this weekend, and base runners were freely stealing bases (which was normal) for both teams. However, the pitcher for one team was REALLY slow to deliver a pitch (even in the stretch!). So slow that by the time he actually released the ball to the plate, the runner had already obtained the next base, and had rounded it several feet. However, when the above happens and the batter fouls the pitch off, where does the runner return to? I know that if the ball is thrown out of play (at the time of pitch) the ball is dead, the runner would get 1 base from the base last occupied. Is a foul ball handled the same way?
The ruling my partner wanted to use (and I went along with), was to put the runner back at his ‘original’ base, stating that the runner had not obtained the base before the pitcher started his motion to pitch. But I can see why the runner could stay at his last obtained base too, when the foul ball occurs.
While I don’t foresee this happening too often in high school or college, it could happen…
Brad – thanks for your question. The good news is, no matter the level you’re umpiring, the ruling is going to be the same. It doesn’t matter how slow the pitcher is to deliver the ball to the plate because the “time of the pitch” has nothing to do with when they release the baseball. The best definition that we found for “time of the pitch” is from the NFHS Rule Book.
2.28.Art 3: Time of the pitch is when the pitcher has committed himself to delivering the pitch to the batter. For the windup position, the “time of the pitch” occurs when the pitcher, (a) first starts any movement of his arm(s) or leg(s) after stepping onto the pitcher’s plate with his hands already together in front of his body; (b) with both hands at his side, first starts any movement with both arms or leg(s) prior to the pitch; (c) with either hand in front of the body and the other hand at his side, after bringing his hands together, first starts any movement of his arm(s) or leg(s) prior to the pitch. For the set position, the “time of the pitch” occurs the instant the pitcher, after coming to a complete and discernible stop, starts any movement with arm(s) and/or leg(s) that commits him to pitch.
So based on your situation, if the runners had obtained the next base while the pitcher was in the “set position”, they they’d stay there. I’m going to guess that they just got great jumps and stole the bases while the pitcher was already making movements towards the plate. If that’s the case, you’d send them back to the base that they had obtained “at the time of the pitch”.
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