Situation

With one out, and runners on first and second base, the batters has a count of two strikes, one-ball. As the pitcher delivers the next pitch, the runner on second base leaves the base before the pitch reaches the batter. The base umpire, located in the “C position” – behind and to the left of the shortstop – drops the red signal flag as the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop. The shortstop fields the ball and throws to second base to retire the running originally on first base. At the end of the play, there are runners on first and third base, with two outs. After the play ends, the base umpire calls “time” and proceeds to return the runner on third base back to second base, citing that the runner left early. With the runner returned to second base, and the ball having not yet been put back into play, the offensive manager approaches the base umpire, and states that the runner in question should be left at third base because the shortstop chose to make a play on the runner attempting to reach second base. Should the base umpire change his call because returning the runner to second penalizes a runner who was forced to advance?

Explanation

In the judgment of the base umpire, the runner left the base before the pitch reached the batter located in the batter’s box, regardless of whether he was forced to advance, or not. It is not necessary for the pitch to reach the catcher for a runner to attempt to steal, but it must have reached the batter before a runner may legally release and attempt to advance. Secondly, the decision as to where the defense chooses to attempt a putout does not impact the decision, because the violation occurred prior to next play. Per the 2018 Little League Baseball® Official Regulations, Playing Rules, and Policies – Rule 7.13: When a pitcher is contacting the pitcher’s plate and in possession of the ball, and the catcher is in the catcher’s box ready to receive delivery of the ball, base runners shall not leave their bases until the ball has been delivered and reached the batter.

Note: This rule is only applicable in Little League Major Division Baseball and below. Review the entire rule to understand other situations that are related to the understanding, interpretation, and application of this rule.