Ask the Ump: 2014 Playoff Hidden Ball Trick

By Bob Downey, Hanover LL UIC 2015

Last Spring season, an umpire was umpiring the bases in one of the final local Intermediate Playoff games.   The game was tight and in the latter innings.  A runner had just made it to First and one to Third. A new batter was up.  The Defense requested and was granted “Time”. 

After meeting at the mound, the coach and infielders returned to their appropriate spots.  The base umpire got ready as well and watched the Pitcher take his position on the pitcher plate. 

All of a sudden he hears the Shortstop yelling “He’s out! He’s out!  Hey ump, he’s out!”   He hesitated to look at the Shortstop at first, because he was focusing on the Pitcher.  The Shortstop then came up alongside of the umpire, and at the same time the Pitcher backed away from the pitcher’s plate pointing toward Third; both still yelling that the runner at Third had been tagged and was out.  

After looking over to Third and seeing that the Third basemen had the ball, the umpire declared a “Balk”.   The reason was because by rule 8.05 (i), it is a Balk if “the Pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate …”.    The runner on Third was awarded Home, and the runner on First, Second. (The penalty for a Balk.) 

Luckily for all, the base umpire remembered before the next pitch was thrown, that he could not call a “Balk” because the ball was never “officially” put back into play after “TIME” had been called.  Another rule, 5.11, states that “After the ball is dead, play shall be resumed when the Pitcher takes a position on the pitcher’s plate with a new ball or the same ball in said Pitcher’s possession and the plate umpire calls “Play.”

Since the Pitcher never had possession of the ball, the ball remained dead: and with a dead ball, the runner could not be put out.  

While exciting at the time, everyone was glad that the umpire got the call correct in the end, and did not incorrectly give either team an advantage.