Pinellas Sports Officials Association: Softball Training / Development

The following is a partial dialog with a coach frustrated by umpires not calling obstruction… …You can’t imagine MY frustration of trying to get veteran umpires to change their old habit of not observing for obstruction before making safe or out calls, especially the safe call. They continually reply “she’s safe, why should I care if she was obstructed”? Possession Obstruction Tag is a new theory to make an accurate and correct call. The old way was Possession Tag Obstruction... she’s safe who cares. This is why I care… The play: Play at the plate with obstruction, a late tag and the runner misses the plate... The appropriate umpire mechanics progression should go like this: ... The umpire shall signal obstruction immediately (left arm straight out with a closed fist) this also signifies a delayed dead ball. No safe or out call should be made at this time and the umpire does not declare dead ball yet. Award the runner home plate by pointing at the plate with the right index finger. Here’s where it can get tricky. Because the runner missed the plate, the catcher may try to appeal by tagging the runner a second time, if this attempt to touch the plate occurs immediately as the runner is getting up from her slide, the plate umpire shall call dead ball. The logic on the dead ball call now and not immediately, is an obstructed runner is being played on with the result being an out. If there are other runners on base, their position must be observed and noted now that the ball is dead because, no runners can advance on a dead ball. It can get even messier if the runner gets up and starts for her dugout without touching an awarded base. At what time has she abandoned her effort to touch an awarded base? NFHS code states she has until one foot hits dead ball territory. If the infielders leave fair territory and the catcher leaves her normal fielding position, the defense has abandoned their right to appeal…(Side note: This restriction on an appeal applies to any half inning ending, unless it’s the last play of a game. Rule 2.1.4)  The following is not the play you have previously described, but explains the mechanics for how an umpire is supposed to signal when there is a missed tag on a runner and the runner missed touching the base/plate. Obstruction is not observed and therefore is not called. In the perfect world (where game officials are supposed to live), the umpire shall delay  momentarily making an initial call to allow for a second attempt to touch or tag by either player, then come out with the safe signal only.  At this time no verbal call shall be made as neither responsibility has been fulfilled by either player. The lack of frequency of this play is a strong contributor to why there is usually confusion among umpire, coach and spectator. If the defense successfully appeals a missed base/plate, the umpire should now make an out call. The umpire should expect a visit from the affected coach and be prepared to give a proper explanation sequencing the events you observed. 
Tom Ulbrich
Training / Development Committee

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