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Softball/Obstruction without contact?

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I have a couple questions on obstruction.  I coach a 12U girl's fastpitch club team.  As I understand it (or at least the way I am interpreting from the 2012 ASA rule book) it states in the supplemental section that a defensive player may not be in the base path of the runner until she has control of the ball.  It even sights that in the past we taught our players to block a base even without possession of the ball but now players must first gain control of the ball, and then get into the base path to make a tag or play.  This seems pretty clear cut to me but I never see umpires making this call.  Many times when our runners are going to a base or home plate the defender is routinely in the base path before getting the ball.  Of course if the ball gets there split seconds before the runner, I can understand that the defender will have possession slightly before the runner gets to a base but if the defender is in the base path before the runner gets there, it changes the way a runner will approach a base, slide early and potentially being short of the base, etc.  I am trying to teach my girls the proper rules of obstruction and collision but it never seems like the umpires call it the way the rules are written. The way I read the rule, defenders are not allowed to be in the basepath prior to having possession and if they are in the basepath of the runner even while waiting for the throw and no contact has been made, they are technically in violation of obstruction.  The problem is, I have yet to see an umpire call this and when I argue the rule, I get blank stares as if I'm crazy or the typical, "it is a judgement call and in my judgement...it was not obstruction" or that "the defender was in the act of making a play" which goes completely against the way the rule is written.  I am very close to teaching my girls to block the bases like every other team does and take our chances until I see them call it.  If umpires routinely refuse to make this call and indeed I am correct on how I am interpreting, can you please suggest how I talk to an umpire in future games if this comes up again?  Would it make sense to ask for an interpretation prior to the game at the coin toss?  Thank You

Answer
Mike,

First off, good luck with this one!  I too coach a 12U club team and try to teach my girls correctly.

First the easy one.  The umpire that defends there lack of call with "the defender was in the act of making a play" is just dead wrong.

The problem with obstruction is it can be a split second decision.  No ball in possession, and the defense can be penalized if the runner alters there course running to the base to avoid the defender.  Once the ball is in possession, the defender can be anywhere they want.  It may be a good idea to bring it up at the plate conference just to get it in the umpires head.

When approaching an umpire about a missed obstruction call, don't start with "why wasn't that obstruction?".  Something like, "My player had to alter her course to the base because of the position of the defender before she had the ball, did you see that?  If yes, then the next question is, so you saw the obstruction on the play, why didn't you call it?  They are pretty much in a corner now.  If they said no, then, unfortunately you have to go with their judgement.

Continue to teach your players the correct way to play.  If you don't, eventually you will run into an umpire that knows what they are doing and the call will go against you.

I hope this helps.  I have seen the same blank stare you have to many times!

Tom

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Tom Mielke

Expertise

Rule and scoring questions for girls/womens Fastpitch Softball. Primarily High School (NFHS) and ASA

Experience

Rec, Varsity and Travel Ball Coach and High School Umpire

Education/Credentials
Michigan High School Athletic Association registered official: Softball, Basketball

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