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Old Tue Feb 05, 2019, 08:17pm
David Emerling David Emerling is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Germantown, TN (east of Memphis)
Posts: 783
Verbal obstruction? (FED)

An issue came up last night at one of our weekly preseason umpire training sessions and I would be interested in some of the opinions in this group.

PLAY: Less than 2 outs. R1 stealing on the pitch. The batter swings and (a) hits an infield pop-up to F5 or (b) gets a clean hit into right field.

In (a) F6 pretends to be fielding a grounder as F4 covers 2nd. Several defensive players yell, "Turn two!". The stealing runner is fooled into thinking the ball was on the ground and continues to 2nd and is doubled-up at 1st.

In (b) F6 pretends to be camping out under a pop-up and yells, "I got it!". The stealing runner is fooled into thinking that a pop-up has been hit and tries to return to 1st. As a result, two baserunners end up on 1st and one is tagged out.

QUESTION: In either case, is the defense guilty of "verbal obstruction"?

Our group was split about 50/50 on this issue.

Those who thought this was verbal instruction cited Case Play 2.21.1A which says: R1 attempts to steal second. F2, upon receiving the pitch, throws a pop-up to F6. F5 yells "get back, get back." R1 thinks B2 has hit a pop-up and starts back to first where is tagged out. RULING: This is verbal obstruction and R1 shall be awarded second base.

They also made the point that the defense "altered the course of play".

Those who thought that this was NOTHING claimed that the Case Play doesn't accurately reflect the play in question. In the Case Play, the fielder is yelling something that is clearly meant for the runner to misinterpret it as an instruction from his base coach. Anytime a fielder says something that is intended for the runner to interpret it as something said by a coach ("Get back!") or by and umpire ("Foul ball!") - that is verbal obstruction. It's also verbal obstruction if the fielder says something directly to the runner (Fielder tells the stealing runner, sliding into 2nd, "It was a foul.") Those are all examples of verbal obstruction.

"I got it!" and "Turn two!" are things fielders say to one another. They are not pretending to be a coach or an umpire. They are not addressing the runner. It's all part of a legitimate decoy. The fact that the runner is fooled is indicative of bad baserunning.

Another example:

PLAY: R2. Base hit to centerfield. R2 tries to score. F3 comes into the center of the diamond to act as the cut-off man. F8 throws to the plate. F2 yells, "Let it go!" as the throw approaches F3. The BR, thinking the throw is going to the plate decides to advance to 2nd. Despite the instruction to "Let it go!", F3 cuts it off, throws to 2nd, and easily retires the BR at 2nd. F3 was even decoying as if he was going to "let it go".

QUESTION: Verbal obstruction? If not, how is it different than the OP?

I'd be curious if this group has the same 50/50 split on this issue.
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