Can a softball umpire make a call based on a play they did not see?
May 25, 2014 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Is there an official rule in amateur softball about when an umpire can reverse a call? We had a single umpire at a youth game who made a "safe" call at first, then was told by a coach that the catcher was hit by the bat. The umpire reversed the call and called the batter out at first. When asked the umpire said heard the bat hit something but wouldn't say he saw it. Is there a rule in this circumstance as to whether an umpire can 1) make a call on a play he did not see; or 2) reverse a call on a play he did not see? I can only find answers for multiple umpires at a game, not for a solo umpire.
posted by nathanrudy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
ump is in charge, he can do whatever he wants. he did it, and it's stood up so far, hasn't it? you could lodge a protest with the league, but league commissioner bruce didn't see it either and he backs his umps.

that said, the ump should not have reversed the call based on a statement from a self-interested coach. it shows a certain weakness and pliability which knowledgeable observers will be sure to exploit. if i were the manager of the victimized team, i would have gone nose-to-nose, at high risk of getting tossed, which can be an inspiration all its own for the players.

youth softball helps prepare kids for adult society, where officials make even more important calls based on low information. learning experience!

the game is as the ump sees it, or doesn't see it, as the case may be. this is akin to reality itself, where we have a formalized simulacrum of reality determined in the courtroom, versus a real reality which is essentially unknowable.
posted by bruce at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

What Bruce said. Read rule 10 of the official rules, which covers umpires. "The plate umpire shall have the authority to make decisions on any situation not specifically covered in the rules." Nothing in the rules says the umpire has to see something in order to make a call. And to underscore the umpire's absolute authority, at the end of rule 10 it says, "failure of umpires to adhere to Rule 10 shall not be grounds for protest. These are guidelines for umpires." In other words, umpires can do what they want, because the rules for them are not really hard and fast rules, and because they are the final authority from which no appeal is possible.
posted by beagle at 5:34 AM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks to you both. Actually, on my appeal, "You can't call it like you see it if you didn't see it" he reversed again. It was a mess.
posted by nathanrudy at 6:11 AM on May 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Which coach let him know that the catcher was hit? If it was a coach from the team up at bat, I can understand the umpire's call more than if it was a coach on the defensive side.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:12 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

BozoBurgerBonanza -- It was the defensive team's coach.
posted by nathanrudy at 6:30 AM on May 25, 2014

he reversed AGAIN? OMFG! i wonder what he would have done if the other manager had come up and made a particularly vehement but articulate plea. nathanrudy, *i* could have gotten him to reverse a third time.

he may be outstanding in his community, his family and his day job, but there are certain undertakings which require strong decisionmaking. baseball umpire. traffic court judge. at the end of the day they might not be sure what happened, but they will make the best decision they can, and stick to it. i have lost confidence in this man's ability to umpire a softball game.

your options are to take this argument to the league and maybe get him retired under honorable but undisclosed circumstances, or just file it away and play him like a cello in future games.

bozoburgerbonanza asks an excellent question. if it was a coach from the team up at bat who admitted that the bat struck the catcher, that would constitute a "party admission" which is an exception to the hearsay rule and usually determinative.
posted by bruce at 6:42 AM on May 25, 2014

This guy is clearly a crappy ump. But "youth game"? How old were these kids? Are these umps paid or volunteers? Is this the sort of thing where parents volunteer on a roster basis or something? I mean, if the guy gets paid to do this it's worth mentioning to the league (the double reversal thing is just tragic), but if we're talking about volunteer umps at a kids game...well, it wouldn't even be worth raising here, let alone mentioning to anyone else.
posted by yoink at 8:07 AM on May 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yoink -- It's third, fourth and fifth grade softball, and the ump is paid. He also does our senior league and adult league games.

If it were a volunteer I'd just have ignored the whole thing.
posted by nathanrudy at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2014

As described it was exactly the wrong call. If the catcher is hit by the bat it's Catcher's interference. The batter bears no responsibility to avoid the catcher, the opposite is true.

"Is there a rule in this circumstance as to whether an umpire can 1) make a call on a play he did not see; or 2) reverse a call on a play he did not see?"

Seeing a play is not necessarily the sine qua non of making a call. Lots of calls are made at first base um, based on the sound of the play, [the smack of the ball hitting the glove vs. the thump of the foot hitting the base] and a lot of caught foul tips in fast pitch baseball or softball are called based on the sound of the "tick" of the bat an instant before the sound of the "smack" when a ball reaches the catcher's mitt.

"Is there an official rule in amateur softball about when an umpire can reverse a call?

As said above if an umpire says that you are "out" you are, by definition, "out". The reality of the situation is immaterial.

I've been in similar situations as an interested party when I was a kid and played soccer and baseball, had two sisters who played both, and as a parent - you have my sympathy. It's so frustrating.

Ice Cream Time.
posted by vapidave at 1:49 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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