Baseball Instruction/Illegal Pitcher Protest


There is a new rule on a pitcher being eligible to remain in a game after starting as pitcher and returning as pitcher one time during the course of a game. A ruling was made twice that a legal protest of the situation had not occurred but after appeals a board came up with the following ruling. I would add that the Umpire in question is also president of the league. The main question is if a valid protest occurred.

Letter from ruling commitee...

Please see the decision below regarding your game on May 16, 2013.  We will also reiterate to our umpires and coaches that they are ultimately responsible for knowing the rules and how to use them especially when a game has a question.  We hope the result is fair regarding this unfortunate situation.

The Panel
A panel that consisted of Mike Kelley, Karen Watson, Dennis Birdwell and Johnny Garrett was called by John Robertson to determine a matter in the Cardinals/Braves game played on May 16, 2013. The issue is whether the game was protested due to an illegal pitcher from the Cardinals.  It should be noted that the Cardinals asked whether the starting pitcher could come back into the game at pitcher and was told affirmatively yes by the umpire in violation of the Little League rules regarding a pitcher.  Both coaches including both umpires on the field were not aware of the correct rule regarding a pitcher when removed from the mound.  The rules state that once the starting pitcher is removed from the mound, that player may NOT return to the mound at any  point during the same game.  The panel met on Sunday with John Robertson, the field umpire during the game.  The panel needed further clarification of whether the game was properly protested at the time a rule was in question and a teleconference was held between the panel members and both head coaches (Littlepage and Snyder).  The panel heard from both head coaches separately and each were provided time to advise the panel of the facts as they remembered the game as well as ask any questions to the panel.  Both coaches were given time to advise the panel of what they thought would be a fair resolution of this matter.

The Cardinals were leading the Braves 6 to 1 in the bottom of the fifth inning.  The starting pitcher for the Cardinals was removed from the mound and the second pitcher entered the game for the Cardinals.  Prior to the second pitcher entering the game, the Cardinal head coach asked the field umpire whether the starting pitcher can be removed from the mound, placed at another position on defense and then placed back on the mound.  It is undisputed that the field umpire advised the Cardinal head coach that the starting pitcher could return to the mound after he’d been removed from the mound as long as the starting pitcher remained in the game on defense.  In the bottom of the 5th inning and relying on the field umpire’s advice, the Cardinal manager removed the starting pitcher from the mound and placed him at another defensive location.  The second pitcher came into the game and subsequently walked 3 batters, loading the bases with no outs.  The Cardinals reentered the starting pitcher where he subsequently threw an additional 25 pitches.

At the time the Cardinal starting pitcher reentered the mound but before he threw his first official pitch, the Braves (by the first base coach) immediately questioned the field umpire whether such a substitution was allowed.  The Braves first base coach advised the Braves head coach that the field umpire confirmed that the substitution/reentry of the starting pitcher was legal.   Since the Braves were advised by the field umpire that the substitution was legal, the game continued with the starting pitcher back on the mound. The Braves did not question the umpires’ call after his assertion that the substitution was legal.

During the time the Braves questioned the umpire about the pitcher substitution, no consultation between the umpires took place.  There was no delay in the game due to the question of the pitcher substitution.

The Braves head coach officially made his formal request for a protest immediately following the game and after the umpires had left the playing field.  At this time, it was known to all coaches and the umpires that the pitcher substitution was not allowed.

Question before the panel:  Was the Braves actions by questioning the pitcher substitution a “protest” by the Braves coach.  In short, the panel determined it was a valid protest during the game.

Rule 3.03(3) of the Little League Rules states that “pitchers once removed from the mound may not return as pitchers.”   Little League rules do not favor protest.  However, under Rule 4.19 a protest may only be considered on a violation or interpretation of a playing rule, use of an ineligible pitcher or the use of an ineligible player.  There is NO protest on a decision involving an umpire’s judgment.  Under Rule 4.19(d), a protest over an ineligible pitcher may be “considered only if made to the umpire before the umpire(s) leave the field at the end of the game.”    According to the unwritten word throughout the rules, Little League wants what is fair and accurate but wants the rules followed.

Here and under Rule 3.03(3) the Cardinals reentered their starting pitcher on the mound so therefore he was an “illegal” pitcher under the rules.  The infraction took place when the illegal pitcher took the mound.  The opposing team questioned the move and it was affirmed incorrectly by the umpire(s).  The Braves manager immediately following the game, reiterated to the umpire(s) that the use of the illegal pitcher would be protested.

The Braves manager and assistant manager immediately questioned the umpire about the substitution and the use of the illegal pitcher.  They were told it is was legal under the Rules by the umpire(s).  While the Braves manager and assistant coaches did not directly announce that they were protesting the call by the Cardinal’s manager and the umpire(s), it is the panel’s determination that the questioning of the umpire immediately after the starting pitcher re-entered the mound constituted a valid protest under Rule 4.19(d).  Therefore, the remaining of the game was played under protest.

The May 16, 2013 Cardinals v. Braves will be held open until the end of the season.  If the game matters to either team regarding their standing to win the league under Goodlettsville Baseball Rules, then the game will pick up at the moment the infraction took place.  Since the infraction took place the moment the starting pitcher reentered the mound, the game shall resume at that point with the second pitcher for the Cardinals on the mound with bases loaded and no outs.  Rule 4.19(f) states that “if the protest is allowed, resume the game from the exact point when the infraction occurred.”

We hope this resolution is fair to both teams specifically to the players, coaches and parents.  If you have any questions concerning this panel’s decision, please feel free to contact me directly or any other members of the panel.



I am going to assume that this was a Little League game.

Also, I'm a little upset that nobody knew the rules regarding a pitcher re-entering a game!

Now, let's take a look at the protest.  Rule 4.19(d) states:

"Protest made due to use of ineligible pitcher or ineligible player may be considered only if made to the umpire before the umpire(s) leave the field at the end of the game."

Also, the protest must be submitted, in writing, within 24 hours to the League President [4.19(e)].  This doesn't sound like it was completed.

In regards to allowing the protest, it doesn't meet the requirements as stipulated in the rule book, however, I believe the more alarming aspect is the fact that the managers, coaches and umpires did not know the rules.

I hope this has helped.

-Martin Hoover

Baseball Instruction

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Martin Hoover


Questions regarding the Rules and Regulations of Little League Baseball and Softball. Questions regarding the history and organization of Little League Baseball at local, state, regional, and international levels. Advise regarding certain operational procedures and recommendations to Local League representatives.


Volunteer Little League Umpire since 2000; 2003 Little League, Junior League, Senior League and Big League Softball European Regional Umpire; 2005 Little League Softball Western Regional Umpire; 2007 Junior Softball Western Regional Umpire; 2011 Little League Softball World Series Umpire; Hesperia National (Hesperia, CA) Little League Board of Directors (2003-2012); President- Hesperia National Little League Board of Directors (2005-2011); Little League District Administrator (2012-present).

Little League Baseball, Inc is the main operational center. I fall under Little League Western Region, and California District 49. I currently serve as a Little League District Administrator.

Western Regional Junior Umpire School(2000)(Named Outstanding Junior Umpire of the Western Region Area); Have instructed at numerous umpire schools & clinics.

Awards and Honors
Outstanding Junior Umpire of the Western Regional Area(2000)

©2016 All rights reserved.