Interesting experience at a tournament
So, this weekend we were at a tournament and had an interesting experience. Thought I’d share and see if this was just localized or whether others are experiencing it as well.
The tournament started on a Friday night. I got there early to watch a couple of teams I knew play and it started right away. The pitcher threw the ball, and immediately the base umpire called “Illegal pitch.” Couldn’t say I disagreed with the call — I saw it too. But as the game progressed, it started looking a little ridiculous. There were multiple calls on things that weren’t so obvious. But I figured maybe it was just that game, or that umpire.
Then we got to our game. Our starting pitcher was called for an illegal pitch, and I was confused. I know this girl and she doesn’t leap. Apparently, though, she brought her hands together twice. I didn’t see it, but the call was made by the base ump, who was a young female. Our pitcher was also called for an illegal pitch because she adjusted her face mask and didn’t wipe her hand on her pants. The umpire thought she went to her mouth, so an illegal pitch was called and the baserunners advanced.
Later we put in another pitcher, and SHE was called for using a resin bag without wiping her hand afterward. It was the darndest thing I’ve ever seen. It became so aggravating I finally yelled “C’mon Blue, let ’em play.”
Apparently we weren’t the only ones who experienced it, though. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m guessing a few coaches tracked down the tournament director or the umpire in chief and complained about the incessant calls. The reason I think so is that from Saturday on, I didn’t hear a single illegal pitch called — and I certainly saw a few. There were definitely some leaps and crow hops, and I have little doubt some of the other ticky-tacky stuff was still going on too. I also never saw the young female umpire from Friday night the rest of the tournament.
You all know that I am all in favor of enforcing the pitching rules. But there is a point where it gets to be ridiculous. I had the feeling that the base umpires I saw were so busy watching the pitchers that they wouldn’t have caught a runner leaving early if it happened right in front of them. At some point it also gets in the way of the game itself.
The rules are there to make the game fair — so one team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage. A pitcher licking her fingers or using a resin bag to get a better grip on the ball on a humid day and on a dusty field isn’t gaining an advantage in my opinion. A pitcher adjusting her face mask isn’t either.
At some point, especially in a youth tournament, a little discretion has to be used. If you’re going to call everything to the letter, let teams know that ahead of time so they can make an informed decision. But don’t be surprised if you don’t get a lot of sign-ups, because if you look hard enough you can find something illegal in just about every pitcher. Fortunately in this case someone figured it out and the rest of the tournament was fine. As far as I know, none of the coaches had a problem with illegal pitches not being called either. For those who want emphatic rule enforcement, be careful what you wish for. It’s not as much fun as you might think.