Coach learns a valuable lesson about the men in blue
Got an email today from the mom of one of my students about something that happened in a tournament. She wanted to know if I would talk to her daughter’s coach Kevin about it. I was a little concerned at first, but no need. She actually likes the coach, and it turns out he’s a fan of this blog. Of course I said “sure” — I would’ve done that even if he wasn’t a reader — and then waited for the call.
When he called he told me what happened. His team was at a tournament, and during a close game he noticed that the opposing pitcher was starting with one foot behind the rubber instead of both feet touching. Being the sort that believes people should play within the rules, he decided to bring it up to the umpiring crew — average age approximately 20. Yep, you guessed it. Big mistake.
The field and plate umps talked with him, and then the field ump declared the pitcher wasn’t doing anything illegal. Or at least he couldn’t see anything illegal about it. (He said the back foot was pretty obviously off, and I trust him on it, so it was more of a choice than an inability to see it.)
The next half-inning when his team took the field it started. The field umpire waited until the other team had a runner on base, then called his pitcher (my student) for crow hopping. Not once but twice, advancing the runner to third. Guess he showed Kevin!
I know this student very well, and she doesn’t crow hop. She may get a little airborne from time to time, which would be a leap, but you’d have to be looking awfully close to see it, and it’s nothing she does all the time. If the field umpire couldn’t see the other pitcher starting with her foot off the rubber, it’s unlikely he saw whether Kevin’s pitcher was leaping or not.
There was one other part to the story. Kevin told me there was a rather large rut coming off the pitching rubber, thanks to a general lack of field maintenance. So it’s possible that Kevin’s pitcher wasn’t even illegal since a pitcher is allowed to have her foot off the ground (level with where the ground would’ve been) if there’s rut.
The conclusion he came to was he probably shouldn’t have said anything about the other pitcher. It’s likely the umpire took exception to him bringing it up and decided to make him pay for it. (There’s also a possibility he got “homered” although he didn’t have any way of knowing for sure.)
Bummer, but such is life. Good umpires know coaches questioning things is part of the game and let it roll off their backs. After 15 years of coaching and never being successful in getting even an obvious illegal pitch called, I’d say it’s not worth it. If you see it, learn to let it go and hope the folks in blue care enough to keep the game fair and the playing field level. Thanks to Kevin for allowing me to share this story. And Kevin, if you’re reading this and have anything to add, be sure to leave a comment. The rest of you too!