There Is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Appeal an Umpire’s Call
A confusing situation can occur on Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball® fields when a team’s manager wants to “appeal” an umpire’s decision. As an example, an appeal may be warranted when the defensive team suspects that a runner has either left a base early or missed a base during the course of a play. Most of the confusion results from a lack of understanding on how to properly appeal a call.
Follow along with this scenario and see if it sounds familiar.
Runner on 2nd base - Fly ball hit to centerfield - Ball is caught - Runner on 2nd leaves early in trying to advance to 3rd base - Throw to 3rd is not in time - Runner is called “Safe.”
After the play is over, the defensive team’s manager requests “time out.” This request is granted by the umpire. The manager instructs his pitcher, who now has the ball, to throw to 2nd base and appeal that the runner left early. The player complies with the manager’s request. However, when the ball is thrown to 2nd base the umpire makes no call.
Hence, the confusion begins.
Why didn’t the umpire make a call? He’s either “Safe” or “Out,” right?
Because, we now have a “dead ball” situation, an appeal may not be made under “dead ball” conditions.
The umpire may say something like, “We have a dead ball,” indicating that the appeal may not be made under dead ball conditions. The manager may not understand what he is really saying. After several failed attempts; the manager becomes frustrated because he can’t understand why a call is not being made by the umpire.
By rule (5.11), once “time” is called by an umpire; the pitcher must now return to the pitcher’s plate with possession of the ball, assume a pitching position, and allow the umpire to put the ball back into “play” before an appeal can be made.
The baseball pitcher must then, either step directly to the base and throw or properly disengage the pitching plate prior to making the appeal. In softball, an appeal cannot be made from the pitching plate, so the pitcher must properly disengage prior to making the appeal. From this we learn that one of the biggest mistakes the manager can make is to request “time out.”
Before we look at the requirements for making a proper appeal; let’s address some of the common myths.
- Should the defensive team manager or a defensive player request time before making an “appeal?”
NO – All appeal plays must be made under “live ball” conditions.
- Does the ball have to go back to the pitcher before making an appeal?
NO – Any defensive player with possession of the ball may initiate the appeal.
- If the pitcher has the ball, does he/she have to go to the mound before making an appeal?
NO – Making contact with the pitching plate now restricts the actions of the pitcher. If the pitcher commits an illegal pitch in the process of making the appeal; this is considered a play and the right to the appeal is lost.
- Does the ball have to go to the base that was left early or missed?
NO – If the runner being appealed is still on base, the ball may go to any fielder that can tag the runner.
With these questions answered, let’s now look at the requirements for making a proper appeal.
- The appeal MUST be made before the next pitch.
- The appeal MUST be made before the next play or attempted play.
- The appeal MUST be made while the ball is “In Play.”
- The appeal MUST be made in a precise, unmistakable manner.
- The appeal MUST be made before all defensive players leave fair territory.
Recalling the earlier scenario:
- The simplest way for the defense to make the appeal would have been for the third baseman to maintain possession of the ball, tag the runner, and inform the umpire that the runner left second base early.
- Even after the pitcher had possession of the ball, he/she could have gone to third base and tagged the runner or thrown the ball back to the third baseman to tag the runner and announced that the runner left second base early.
- Of course the ball could have been thrown to a fielder to tag second base and announce the infraction, but then the runner on third base might try advancing to home. If a play is made on the runner now attempting to advance, prior to completing the appeal; the right to the appeal is lost.
If the appeal is successful and the runner is called “Out,” there might be a question of whether or not other runs score.
- If there are less than two outs, the status of preceding runners is not affected; runs may score on the play.
- If there are two outs, preceding runners may score if they do so before the appeal is made (timing play), unless the appeal is a force out.
- If there are two outs, no following runners may score.
This information should give you the basics for making a proper appeal.
Remember to open your Little League Baseball or Little League Softball Rulebooks to section 7.10 and study the rule in its entirety to ensure a complete understanding of appeals.