Softball/What constitutes "control"?
BretMan wrote at 2009-10-04 12:58:29
I'll offer a slightly different take on this. The following interpretation was presented to me by an ASA State Umpire-in-Chief when we had a discussion about a similar play at first base.
There isn't any rule or definition that says a ball cannot be securely held, or under control, if it happens to be touching the ground at the same time. Of course, such a ball could never be ruled as a catch for an out on a batted ball, but the same standard doesn't apply for a catch of a batted ball as for control of the ball following a throw.
Picture this (which sounds like what happened on your play): A ball lying on the ground and a fielder with a bare hand on top of the ball, his fingers wrapped around it.
If the fielder can raise the ball from the ground WITHOUT adjusting his grip on the ball, that means that he had control of the ball while it was contacting the ground.
On the other hand, if the fielder must adjust his grip on the ball for the act of raising it, then that proves that he DID NOT have control of the ball while it was in contact with the ground.
In other words, it isn't the act of raising the ball from the ground in itself that proves control, it is being able to raise it with the same grip as when it was on the ground. By this interpretation, a ball can be judged as "securely held" even though it was touching the ground at the moment that control was gained.
It is a fine line to judge, but that is exactly why we have umpires on the field! And, ultimately, whether or not a fielder does have control of the ball is up to umpire judgment.
As for a protest, it's hard to guess how that might turn out. If the umpire simply bases his call on the fielder "not having control of the ball" before the runner got there, then the protest probably isn't going to fly.
But if he has based his call on the notion that a fielder cannot have control of the ball if it is touching the ground- which is NOT specifically stated in the rules- AND whoever is reviewing the protest is familiar with the interpretation I offered above (that might be a crapshoot), then the protest might have a leg to stand on!
Ump wrote at 2013-07-09 20:16:16
As an ASA umpire that is a good definition of the rule. Control is gained once the player has a sure grasp on the ball. Touching the ground or not control has been gained. Case, first baseman drops the ball and scrambles to grab it while laying on the ground he firmly grasp the ball in his hand pinning the ball to the ground while touching the bag with his foot. (the ball is secure and not rolling). The runner does not beat the control. You rule. Out! Is the correct call. Ball is in control and in hand regardless of the ground contact. rule 1, Catch no Catch, paragraph 2.