Volume 7, No. 3 - October 2012
The Uncaught 3rd Strike Rule on the Small Diamond
With the 2012 Little League Baseball season behind us, it's time to discuss the uncaught third strike from an umpire's point of view. While this rule has been part of baseball on the 90-foot diamond since the 19th century it was now being introduced to the Little League level of play.
For 2012 it was a league option for the regular season, but was enforced during tournament play. Now that all of that has been addressed let's look at the rule and the umpire's responses to it.
Rule 6.05(b) [Page 75 of the 2012 rulebook] added the Major Division of play to the uncaught third strike language. This addition allows batters at the Major level the opportunity to advance to first base on an uncaught third strike, provided the following circumstances exist:
- If there are two strikes on the batter and there are less than two outs, first base must be unoccupied at the time of the pitch. If the catcher does not catch the strike "in flight" the batter has the opportunity to advance to first base. Either he or the base must now be touched to record the out.
- If there are two outs, first base may be occupied at the time of the pitch and an uncaught third strike will still entitle the batter the opportunity to advance to first base.
The rationale for situation 'a' is similar to the Infield Fly Rule in that the rules makers did not want to give the defense the opportunity to record an easy double- or triple-play. From a more historical perspective the rule regarding the catcher controlling the pitch goes to the concept of the definition of a catch and the fact that the in order to record an out the defense must control the ball through the conclusion of the play.
It is important to note that a pitch that bounces from the ground to the catcher's mitt or is trapped against the ground is not a pitch caught in flight and the provisions of 6.05(b) will be in effect. If we as plate umpires are correctly watching the pitch all the way to the catcher controlling the ball seeing this should not be a problem. If we do get "screened" from this our partner(s) can help by pointing to the ground with an open hand. This is something which needs to be discussed with your partner(s) before you go onto the field. While on the subject of mechanics, when the conditions are such that the batter may not attempt to reach first base; we should call the strike and announce "the batter is out, the batter is out." Although some purists may debate this verbalization it will help keep the game from descending to the level of a circus.
One last word of advice, watch the players and how they react. Their initial movements will go a long way toward letting you know what just happened.