Use of Video Replay to be Expanded at 2009 Little League Baseball World Series
Video replays, used at the Little League Baseball World Series in 2008 for the first time by any baseball organization, will be expanded at this year’s Series, it was announced today. The 63rd annual tournament for 11-12-year-olds is scheduled for Aug. 21-30, the culmination of more than 16,000 games played worldwide to determine the World Champion.
Last year, video replay was limited to the case of a batted ball that left the field of play at or near the outfield fence, or should have been ruled out of the field of play at or near the outfield fence. Some examples of these types of batted balls are a home run, a double by rule, a ball that goes under the home run fence, and fan interference at the home run fence. The system was used twice in 32 games, and in neither case was the call on the field reversed.
This year, in addition, umpires on the field will be able to refer a call to video replay when a thrown or batted ball is ruled in play or fair, but should have been ruled out of play, or foul. In no event will video replay be used to make a ball “live” again, after it has been ruled out of play or foul by the umpires on the field.
“We are able to do this for the second year because all 32 games are televised on the ESPN family of networks,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “As we have seen even in the professional ranks, these calls are among the most difficult for umpires to make, for a variety of reasons. Using video replay, in these limited situations, simply gives us a better chance to get these calls right.”
When a play occurs that fits the criteria, the umpire who originally made the call may request a conference of the other umpires. If the Umpire-In-Chief for that game believes video replay should be used, the call will be referred to a “Replay Team” composed of a Little League International Tournament Committee member (the Game Operations Replay Official) and a volunteer Little League Baseball World Series Umpire.
The Replay Team will review the play on video provided by up to 12 camera angles from ESPN. If the Replay Team believes there is clear and convincing evidence to reverse the call made on the field, the decision will be relayed to the Umpire-In-Chief. If there is not enough evidence to reverse the decision, or if evidence shows the correct call was made, the play will stand as called on the field.
“From the beginning, we wanted our volunteer umpires, who pay their own way to come to the Little League World Series from all corners of the globe, to be involved in the decision-making process,” Dennis Lewin, Chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors, said. “Our volunteer umpires are second-to-none, so this simply provides them with another tool. Last year was a successful experiment, so we are expanding the use of video replay for 2009.”
Little League International will not extend the use of video replay to calls of out/safe, ball/strike, or any other call that does not fit the criteria. No player, manager or coach can request that video replay be used under any circumstance. That decision rests solely with the umpires on the field.
The Replay Team will be located in an office at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, where most of the games are played. The same office will be used for games originating at Little League Volunteer Stadium.
When video replay is used, and after the Umpire-in-Chief announces the decision by the Replay Team, it will be relayed to fans in the stadium by the Public Address Announcer.
“On these types of plays, while the umpires are conferring, our Replay Team should have ample time to review all the angles available,” Mr. Keener said. “If the decision on the field is to refer the call to the Replay Team, we expect that the decision should be available without any significant delays.”
Should the schedule of games require adjustment because of weather delays, and if a game is not televised, video replay will not be used for that game.
Innovations at the Little League Baseball World Series, which usually boasts a total attendance of more than 300,000 over 10 days, have become common.
In the 1980s, ABC first introduced the “umpire cam” at the Little League World Series. Starting in 2002, all 32 games of the Little League Baseball World Series have been televised by the ESPN family of networks nationally and internationally. In 2007, Little League International and ESPN signed an eight-year contract that calls for at least 49 games to be televised nationally every August, not only in the Little League Baseball Division, but in all its divisions of baseball and softball.