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Softball/Softball catcher home plate obstuction

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Question
I have read many times that the catcher cannot impede a runner trying to reach home unless she has the ball.  What remains unclear is, what is considered impeding the runner.  For example, if the catcher is in the base line to receive a thrown ball, and receives the ball before the runner gets to the catcher, is that considered impeding the runner?  Clearly, if the runner contacts the catcher before receiving the ball, they were impeded.  On the other hand, if the catcher is in the base line directly at the plate and receives a ball as the runner has just turned from 3rd, the runner was clearly not impeded.  So what is the criteria?  I have to teach 12U fastpitch catchers correctly.  If a thrown ball takes them into the base line to catch, and they receive the ball before the runner gets to them, will they be called for obstruction?  Thanks a lot for your help!

Answer
Hi Mitch,

this applies to all defensive players inc the catcher...by def obstruction is the act of a FIELDER...not in possession of the ball or not in the act of fielding a batted ball which impedes the progress of a b-r or runner legally running the bases.

"It is obstruction if a defensive player is blocking the base or base path w/out the ball and the runner or b-r is impeded."  The defensive player must catch the ball, block the base and then make the tag.

So..."if the catcher is in the base line to receive a thrown ball, and receives the ball before the runner gets to the catcher, is that considered impeding the runner?" NO as long as BEFORE they had possession of the ball the runner did not have to slow up or change direction in order to avoid a collision.

"Clearly, if the runner contacts the catcher before receiving the ball, they were impeded."  Correct or if they were impeded another way (slowing up etc)

" On the other hand, if the catcher is in the base line directly at the plate and receives a ball as the runner has just turned from 3rd, the runner was clearly not impeded."  Correct

"If a thrown ball takes them into the base line to catch, and they receive the ball before the runner gets to them, will they be called for obstruction?" No unless the runner is so close that w/out the ball the defensive player impeded them.

A defensive player can stand anywhere they want, baseline or anywhere else so long as w/out having possession of the ball they do not impede or hinder the runner.

We also have something known as a crash...the ball, the defensive player and the runner all arrive at the same spot at the same time.  This is a no call of either interference or obstruction.

If we have obstruction we protect the runner to the base that in the umpire's opinion they would have made  had obstruction not occurred.  They are not protected beyond that base.  unobstructed runners are not protected unless they were effected by the obstruction.

At this level obstruction is fairly common at 1st base on a hit to the outfield.  F3 needs to stay out of the way of the b-r going to 1st or rounding 1st

let me know if you need more.  Mark

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Dr. Mark R. Ambrose

Expertise

I can answer all questions about book rules and "case book" rules governing the playing of ASA softball. Have a REAL situation that happened and are not sure the proper rule was applied, ask me.

Experience

I am a registered ASA umpire, a MASA "At-Large" umpire since 1996 and a retired District Umpire-In-Chief. I have very extensive experience in MASA State Championship and ASA national qualifying tournament play both as an umpire and an Umpire-In-Chief. I completed 3 ASA National Schools including the ASA national advanced umpire school in Ok City("Bernie" for those who know him was the lead clinician, I survived the week and couldn't let my kids watch the game tapes when I got home. No, I love you Bernie). I was one of 4 "Yankee" umpires selected to umpire the Men's D National East Championship in 2002 in Winter Haven FL

Organizations
Amateur Softball Association (The authority in softball)

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