Find a League In Your Area
by Ken Vanderpoel, Atlanta MSBL Umpires Association
(This article appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of HardBall Magazine)
Nothing more clearly illustrates the priorities of MSBL baseball than RULE #4e, which can be summarized in two general statements:
1. It is the responsibility of the fielder not to block the base path without possession of the ball.
2. The baserunner must avoid a collision, whether or not the fielder obstructs the base path.
The most problematic application of this rule occurs when the catcher, awaiting a throw, blocks the baseline, denying the runner a direct path to the plate. The catcher, without the ball, is blocking the baseline illegally, but that does not obsolve the runner of his responsibility to avoid a collision.
The umpire should immediately signal the delayed dead ball (left arm outstretched, fist closed) and wait for the play to end. If the runner scores without incident, no action need be taken.
If the runner is forced to change course, play should continue. If, however, the runner initiates contact by lowering his shoulder, raising his forearm, or attempting to bowl the catcher over, he shall be declared out and ejected from the game.
At any time, the umpire may instruct the catcher to leave a path for the runner, or remind him of the proper way to block the plate (Figure 3). By leaving the rear half of the plate to the runner, the catcher forces theh runner to slide around him (Figure 4), or into his shin guard, not run around or over him. He can make the tag with little risk of injury.
In the MSBL, no game is more important than its players. By enjoying the game and respecting the players, the umpires help them temper their competitiveness with fair play and common sense.
Thanks to Lin Wood, Danny Vealey and John Rush of the Greater Atlanta MSBL for their help creating the photos which illustrate this article -- KV
ABOUT KEN VANDERPOEL
A former college baseball player in Florida, Ken began umpiring high school baseball in 1982. He has been an active official in softball, volleyball and basketball, heading up the MSBL program in Atlanta 1988 to present. His local umpire group has worked the World Series in Phoenix for three years, the MLB old-timers games, and the Colorado Silver Bullets at Atlanta Stadium.