Video Replay to be Expanded at 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 64th annual tournament for 11-12-year-olds is scheduled for Aug. 20-29, the culmination of more than 16,000 games played worldwide to determine the World Champion.
Replays in the previous two years were limited only to those plays that should have resulted in a dead ball, but were called otherwise by the volunteer umpires who work the Little League Baseball World Series each year. This year, video replay will be expanded to more plays, such as force-outs, tags on the base paths, missed bases, and hit batters.
"We are able to do this for the third year because all of the Little League Baseball World Series games are televised on ABC or 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, certain calls in baseball are among the most difficult for officials to make, for a variety of reasons. Using video replay, since we have the means to get the call right, is the right thing to do."
Volunteer umpires, however, are involved in the video replay process as well, as part of the Replay Team that reviews the replays on video. Umpires at the Little League Baseball World Series are volunteers in local leagues who have worked their way up the tournament chain, sometimes over decades, before finally being invited to officiate in Williamsport. Each pays his or her own way to the Little League Baseball World Series.
"Our volunteer umpires do a terrific job as it is, and always have, in their one and only opportunity to umpire in the world's greatest youth sporting event," Mr. Keener said. "So we let them know this is just another tool to help them do their job. This retains not only the human element in the process, but the volunteer element."
In 2008, 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.
Last year, in addition, video replay was expanded to plays in which a thrown or batted ball was ruled in play or fair, but should have been ruled out of play, or foul. That system was again used only twice in 32 games, with neither call reversed.
Because the number of plays on which replay can be used will increase in 2010, team managers will now have the opportunity to call for a Video Replay Challenge. Last year, only the umpires could call for video replay to be used.
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 umpires cannot agree on the correct call, 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.
But if the umpires do not confer, or decide after conferring that the play should not be reviewed on video, the manager may use a Video Replay Challenge, provided the play meets the criteria for use of video replay. Each manager will be limited to one unsuccessful Video Replay Challenge for the first six innings, and one unsuccessful challenge in extra innings.
Video replay can only be used at the end of the play in question, and before another pitch or play has occurred. If a manager's Video Replay Challenge is successful, he or she will retain the opportunity to make another challenge later.
A Video Replay Challenge is made by the manager who, after requesting and receiving time out, tells the Umpire-in-Chief and the Little League Timeout Coordinator (a Little League International official) that he or she wishes to use a Video Replay Challenge.
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.
Little League International will not extend the use of video replay to calls of ball/strike, catch/no catch of a fly ball, or any other call that does not fit the criteria of the rule.
The Replay Team is 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. It is beneficial to have two years of experience with video replays at the World Series."
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 games of the Little League Baseball World Series have been televised by the ESPN family of networks nationally and internationally. This year, up to 65 games of the Little League International Tournament in baseball and softball will be televised nationally.
The full text of the Little League Baseball World Series Video Replay Rule can be found here: http://www.littleleague.org/Assets/forms_pubs/media/VideoReplay2010WS.pdf