Look Back Rule... Hidden Ball Trick

Discussion in 'The Umpires Life and Rulings' started by jd100, May 8, 2018.

  1. jd100

    jd100 Member

    Here is a new one I saw this weekend. In a 12u game, there is a runner on 3B with no outs. Batter walks and as she approaches 1B, the 1B Coach gives her the continuous walk sign, so she hits the bag and heads for 2B.

    Meanwhile the team in the field has called a play. Their 1B moves into the pitching circle and the Catcher throws the ball to the Pitcher. But the 1B player and P do some quick glove work and P fakes giving the ball to the 1B. Basically a hidden ball trick. 1B Player turns and starts to run towards the batter/runner that is heading for 2B. She does a few fake throws as she is bearing down on the batter/runner. Neither the 1B coach nor the batter/runner notice that she doesn't really have the ball, so the coach is barking out instructions and the runner is confused and does several stops and starts. The Pitcher with the ball is of course just standing still in the circle. The runner eventually heads back to 1B and stays there.

    During all this, the 3B coach gets the runner there moving also, and she takes a few steps off 3B, before he calls her back. I think he sees that the 1B player really doesn't have the ball.

    When this all ends, the team in the field wants an out called for a look-back violation. The 2 umpires confer and call nothing so the runners were safe at 1B and 3B.

    I give the coach of the team in the field an "A" for creativity but an "F" in sportsmanship.

    Any thoughts on if the umpires got this right?
  2. BretMan2

    BretMan2 TSZ/OFC Umpire in Chief

    Wow. Just when you think you've heard it all...

    Having never seen this before, I almost think that I'd have to see it happen to get an idea of how it might be called. Several thoughts:

    One bad thing about trick plays is that sometimes they fool the umpires too! If they didn't see that the pitcher still had the ball, then they obviously would let this play continue.

    After the play, once it's pointed out that the pitcher had the ball, I could see this going two ways.

    You might have an out for a Look Back violation.

    Or, you could judge that whatever the pitcher did constituted "making (faking) a play" and thus the Look Back rule was suspended.

    Sight unseen, I'm leaning toward the latter. The pitcher committed an action that would reasonably cause a runner to think that she was being played upon. This could be regarded the same as the pitcher "faking a throw" (she did fake the ball exchange).

    I don't really think that anyone can say "this is definitely how this should be called". The rules don't specifically address this play and there is a huge element of judgment involved, which might vary from person to person. This means that you might not get the same call 100% of the time. Personally, I think that I would judge what the pitcher did as making a play.
    OhPhat likes this.
  3. jd100

    jd100 Member

    At each subsequent game, I took the opportunity to ask the next set of umpires what they thought. Some were veterans and some were not. But they were unanimous in saying they needed to see it for themselves. Most doubted they could call an out based on my explanation.

    Some compared it to a fake tag play which they said is not allowed. But one umpire pointed out that the rules specifically mentions fake tags, but he didn't think they mention fake throws,... so he didn't think that would be applicable.

    I mentioned that the look-back rule says that if a play is made by the pitcher, then runner can basically change directions if she want but one umpire pointed out that the play was really made by 1B Player. I tried to make the point that the P was involved because she pretended to give the ball to 1B.

    It made for some interesting discussion. Hopefully this play does not catch on.
  4. BretMan2

    BretMan2 TSZ/OFC Umpire in Chief

    The fake tag rule wouldn't cover this. That requires a fielder to actually make a tagging motion- trying to touch the runner- except without possession of the ball. Doesn't sound like it got to that point. But if it did...a fake tag can be treated as a form obstruction.

    There's no rule against making fake throws.

    The more I think about this...the more I think that I'd rule the pitcher as having "made a play" and that releases the runner from the Look Back rule. If a fake throw by the pitcher is considered as making a play, then faking handing it off to another player should be treated the same way.
  5. sammy

    sammy New Member

    These plays are fun for the kids, but by 14u - 16u a seasoned competitive team is wary of most tricks like this. Fool me once... Etc.
  6. Southpaw

    Southpaw New Member

    There are a couple teams that use trick plays a lot and they are really good actors. Yes some 14 and 16u teams do fall for them.

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