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There’s No Upside...

Michael Leavitt shares his innermost thoughts as they relate to his personal and family life. He can be heard to say often to his kids... “There’s no upside!”


NOTE: If you are interested in Michael’s business inspection related blog, then click on Bloggers in the left column and select Michael - Inspector.

OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND BASE

Obstruction-YT

ML2014JULY 25, 2019 - I shared a video online regarding a play at second base in a recent USA Softball tournament game with older high school varsity aged girls. I was taken by surprise at the time that it took place, but I have had several days and nights to rethink about the play and the coaching tactics that brought it about. Being caught off guard, I was then being played by the coaches and the runner as they attempted to get an obstruction call from my partner and I on the field. Let me first state that I do not like being played as a fool, and I do not appreciate coaching tactics meant to manipulate the game by deception. I deem this poor sportsmanship and will strive to be right on top of this type of play in my future years of umpiring.

The video quickly inspired a lengthy discussion online amongst some very seasoned umpires from across the country. The video received over 1,500 views, mainly on private Facebook groups. In the private softball umpire forum world, that is considered a viral video. I have copied the transcript of discussions, and removed the last names of those sharing their insights. The information, reaction, and insights they share are priceless to me as I mentally form my actions for  future encounters with this coaching tactic.

I encourage those of you that are interested to watch the video. Those of you who want to become better informed can then delve into the long transcript below...

Obstruction YT Play

CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO


OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND

SCENARIO - Potential game-winning R1 on first with no outs. B2 bunts towards the pitcher who throws to second instead of first. The shortstop is ready to receive the force play throw and R1 is going to be safe. R1 then decides to run full speed through second and onto third. If the throw is in time, then there would be an out at second base. Since the throw is late, at what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction by cutting off the inside turn base path at second base on a force play? Can they be making a force play, like a stretched-out first baseman, and by losing the bang-banger we are forced to call obstruction? And then there is the high school varsity aged player who has apparently been coached to draw the obstruction in this video from Saturday morning... What's your call? Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

RESPONSES

Mike R. - The mere presence of the defender without possession of the ball could be cause for an OBS call

Michael M. - Mike R., the fielder was NOT in the base path

Mike R. - Michael M., The runner owns the base and any path they wish to take. If she wants the inside corner, it is the runner's option

Michael Leavitt - We give a special waiver to the first baseman because runners can run straight through. We add to that the use of a safety base here in Utah. The same type of play at second or third does not have the same protection for a defender, by rule. The issue is that a savvy runner can then exploit a "Safe" call by turning, thus drawing an obstruction and possibly gaining another base. In my opinion, this scenario was never the intent of the obstruction rule. Force play coverage should be ruled a bit differently than tag play coverage.

Michael M. - Runner did not alter her path. Its a judgement call by the BU. No way would that be obstruction in my view. Now if the runner altered in any way and fielder did not have the ball its obstruction

Mike R. - Seems to me the runner had no intention of stopping. Looks like a planned play which means the runner was looking for that corner. But it really doesn't matter, the runner's selected path was blocked by a player not in possession of the ball which is OBS whether you care for the scenario or not.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed, Mike R., but this does not mean that is the intent of the rules committee either. The forearm shove by the runner does not seem to be an issue by those of you commenting so far. We want defensive teams to make close force plays at second and third, and we want runners to be aggressive at those same bases. I feel that there has to be some balance and protections for both the offensive runner and defender on close inside corner force plays. What are your thoughts?

Jay B. - Mike R. you could have that scenario on a close play at first, would you still consider OBS?

Mike R. - Michael Leavitt - I didn't see a shove, or any definitive contact. But would have preferred the runner just run into her? Or maybe a hard pop-up slide in anticipation of advancing?

Mike R. - Jay B. - It is not at 1st

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt we absolutely give no waiver to F3. Where did you read that?

Jay B. - Mike R. it’s a question, if a slapper decides round first and to go to second (instead of running through the base) before the F3 catches the throw, would you consider OBS.

Joe W. - Jay B. did F3 have the ball when she hindered the slapper?

Jay B. - Joe W. - I’m just putting this out there because I think you could have the scenario posted in the OP happen at first. So, no, F3 would be waiting to receive the ball

Joe W. - Jay B. a defender without the ball(and not making an initial play on a batted ball) hindered the batter/runner? That is OBS.

Jay B. - Joe W. I could see this starting a trend, and not a good one

Joe W. - Jay B. the trend of umpires doing as we are told?

Jay B. - Joe W. no, the trend of base coaches trying to test the limits of the rule. How many times do you see a runner beat a throw by a step or even two, now you could have a smart coach telling the runner to go to 2. Just saying

Joe W. - Jay B. we need to be cognizant of the schemes of coaches and players but, we must call the game by the rules.

David S. - Mike R. - so would you award her 3rd base? I wouldn’t! No way was she going to achieve 3rd base without obstruction!

David S. - We might not like the scenario but the coach and runner won’t like my ruling either. Obstruction and runner went beyond where I had her protected and now she is out! NO WAY AM I PROTECTING HER TO 3rd!


Michael M. - It doesn't look to me that the base runner changed paths. If your running full speed you would round the bag around the shortstop anyway. I do not see obstruction there

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - There is a forearm shove that displaces the shortstop. There is most definitely contact on this play. Contact equals being hindered.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt - no way. She extended her arm. Did not have to.

Michael M. - You cant ASSume she wanted the inside. She was not hindered. You could also say Maybe she would have been out if she didn't shove the fielder

Michael Leavitt - Michael M., there is no argument from me. But you could argue that the runner is hindered if they do not have the full area on either side of the bag as a potential chosen base path. The runner was not obstructed here, in this video. The runner initiated unnecessary contact with the fielder. The player hindered was the defensive player that was unnecessarily touched by the runner and interference could be a justified call. I made a safe call with nothing further and then the PU called her out near third base. I was not mentally ready to explain a "no obstruction" call and ensuing explanation with the coach. Why? This play strategy caught me totally off guard. Hearing Joe Joe M Elking call it the Kansas City Steal was intriguing, and I will forever be looking for it the next time I have a bunter with a runner on first. My vow... No more surprises! :-)

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt, you cant ASSume that the runner would run inside. And the defensive player was well inside. No way in this scenario. Not even close.

Michael M. - Hindered. Would mean she altered her path. That clearly did not happen

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - The logical path is the most inside corner of the base. That is why we have our arms up 10 times a game in 12U ball when a first, second, or third baseman is standing there on their base when there is no play and the runner is coming by. The fact that the fielder is there on the inside path when the runner is running by is obstruction. I do not think that you and I are in complete disagreement. Surely we agree that the shortest legal base running distance from first to third is by way of the innermost corner of second base, right. Experienced players are going to choose that path every time and experienced fielders would like to get them to swing wider so that it takes longer to get to third. So just because we do not see a veer in the runner's path just before the base, that decision may have been made 45 feet earlier as the play is developing. But the smart fielder in the video was not taking away the inside path. She gave plenty of room for the run by and did not deserve a forearm to her back by the runner. Would you ever call interference on a play like this, where no contact is warranted?

Michael M. - Lol. I think we both agree. Like Joe said. I think it was Joe. 999 times out of 100. You don't overrun second base when the ball is being thrown there. You run hard and slide to stop you. The fielder can't possibly play their spot on a force play in any other position. You can't expect them to put a foot on the center field side of the base nor wait till they catch it and then “find” the bag. Lol


Bret S. - At what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction? At the point where she is not in possession of the ball and she impedes or hinders the runner.

Michael M. - Bret S., even watching all the slow motion. The runner did not alter paths and fielder did not hinder. No way is this obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Bret S., the taking away of the inside base path on a close force play called safe immediately leaves us with obstruction. Yet, called out there is nothing. And in this video, you see the runner purposefully take their left forearm and initiate contact and displace the shortstop to make sure she has an obstruction call. Is this what we want to promote? At what point do we go the other way and call malicious contact?

Kelly Z. - If the shortstop initiated the contact (without possession of the ball), you could have an argument in favor of obstruction. In this scenario, I see the runner initiating contact. I'm not calling obstruction unless an action by the defense hindered the runner in some way. On this play, I have no obstruction.

Bret S. - Michael Leavitt I didn’t offer an opinion of this specific play. I just answered the question that you posed in your post. You seem to want to add a lot of “ifs and maybes” into this call, even going so far as questioning “the rule committee’s intentions”. Why not just apply the rule as it’s written? Did the fielder have the ball? Did she impede or hinder the runner?

Bret S. - Michael M. - Again, I wasn’t offering an opinion on this specific play. If that’s your judgment, then that’s your judgment. I don’t have an issue with that.


Keith W. - Never obstruction. This is clearly a designed play. Running through the base is faster than sliding in, so she has been coached to run through on a close play and try to earn the base via an obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - In my mind, this creates a very dangerous situation for defenders. If they stretch out to try to win a banger at second or third, then they obstruct by eliminating the inside corner. If they opt to be far enough inside to catch the ball and then get their leg and foot over to touch the bag, then they will never have a banger or a force out on a close play. This is a quandary for me and not a clear cut ruling. I see a huge difference between a force play obstruction and a tag play obstruction when dealing with inside corner positioning.

Mike R. - IMJ (In My Judgement), She didn't "run through" but making a planned turn. For that matter, she actually moved her path to the right of the base in anticipation of making the turn. And if the intent was to draw an OBS, why not take the turn and run into the defender?

Keith W. - If that is the case (we would be supposing then that she has no idea the play is coming to second base) then she could bowl over any shortstop trying to make a play on the runner.

In my opinion, that is not the intent of the rule.

We are viewing the situation differently, but that, of course does happen. As a defensive coach I would definitely not be happy with your ruling, haha.

Joe W. - Keith W. - The intent of the rule cannot be the opposite of what it says.

Keith W. - The intent of the rule is to keep defensive players from hindering the offense’s progress around the bases. The intent of the rule is not to force the defense to catch the ball and then run to the base after.

Keith W. - Mike R. - So are you arguing that she should have been coached better to barrel into the defender, or are you arguing that she moved her path to round the base and only wanted the obstruction when she knew she was dead to rights?

Keith W. - Also, for what it’s worth, the shortstop clearly takes a step in front of the base to catch the ball, clearing the bag anyway.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - It is interesting that the fielder did everything they were supposed to do on this play, and that is why nothing really registered when it happened. I was shocked that the runner continued towards third. Her continued actions flushed my mental hard drive of her running by second and I was at a real loss when obstruction was later being demanded. The offense didn't get their wish, yet went on to score the bunter on the very next play to win the game. As I left the field, it was under the cloud of a missed call on a play that did not happen the way they prefer to remember it happening. But not to worry, I will be sharing with them the video excerpt and it should be a fun and short discussion.

Keith W. - Michael Leavitt - If this thread, which has exploded in an hour on a Monday morning, is any indication, the discussion won’t be short.

Mike R. - Keith W. - The intent is to keep the defense from hindering a runner/batter-runner anywhere on the field. And stepping out of the way at the last second to not negate the OBS. And, BTW, at no point did I suggest barreling into anyone.

Keith W. - I apologize for using a little reducto ad absurdum into my argument. It wasn’t helpful. But, what is a reasonable amount of time that we need to allow the shortstop here to make a decision as to whether she has a force play on the runner coming into second base?

In my judgment, she makes that decision and clears the base as soon as she realizes the play will be late. Is she still guilty of obstruction here?


Patrick S. - I see no obstruction here. I saw the fielder go inside the diamond 2-3’ and the runner trying to get an obstruction call by throwing out her arm.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed.


Jim R. - The runner threw a forearm at the defender. I’m calling her out for interference. The spirit and intent of the rule is very clear. I am also telling the coach if that happens again, he will be ejected.

Patrick S. - Jim R., there’s no interference here.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - You would be mistaken. Since the runner and coach have indicated there was contact by their obstruction signal, I’ll go with that. The fielder was making a play and the runner intentionally made contact. If you let that go you are legitimizing the teams actions. I assume you are a coach Patrick.

Patrick S. - Jim R. -You know what happens when you assume? Attempting to interfere is not interference unless they actually interfere.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I assume nothing. The player admitted she made contact. She threw a wing and made contact. I can’t ASSUME it did not hinder or impede the fielder. The runner caused the infraction and gets no potential advantage from her foul play. I don’t even understand your defending of the play.

Patrick S. - Jim R. - You said you assume I’m a coach, then you say you assume nothing. Hmm. I’m not condemning or defending the play. I’m calling what’s in front of me. No obstruction, runner is out on the tag.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - That’s ok. When I was your age I thought I knew everything too. You’re kinda funny.

Patrick S. - Jim R., I know I don’t know everything. But this is a no brainer. It can’t be interference, there was no play to interfere with.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I’ve forgotten more than you know

Patrick S. - Jim R. -Do you really have to make personal attacks? You can’t keep it about the facts? You must’ve forgotten this part then.


Michael Leavitt - I was not expecting this to occur. I was initially planning on a call at first base. Obviously, I followed the ball, or my GoPro on my hat would not have caught the action. The run through call was easy with "Safe" at second. The continued running surprised me and it led to the timeout call near third. Then the throw back to second left me calling another safe. When the action stopped I did not even realize where the coach and runner wanted the obstruction call. My PU was screened by a fielder and had no view of second base. I did not rule obstruction and I did not realize that the runner initiated contact while rounding the base. When I went back and watched the backstop view it looks like a rather nothing play at second. The closer view from my hat shows the details I missed during the play. This leads to the bigger philosophical scenario questions regarding force play coverage and forearm shoves.


Joe W. - I could not call OBS from this video. However, if the runner was impeded by the player without the ball-ie she had to take extra steps to run around her, then it would be OBS. It is too hard to tell from the video.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I agree, in this video. The coaches were very upset and treated it as though the fielder was closer and taking away the inside corner base path. This leads the discussion regarding where the line is drawn on inside corner force play coverage at second and third.

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, the line is very clear. A fielder(not in possession of the ball & not making an initial play on a batter ball) who hinders or impedes a runner is guilty of OBS.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Yes, I know the rule. Is the fielder with their foot touching the inside corner of second or third, stretched out to receive a thrown ball, hindering or impeding the runner?

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, she sure could be. The runner gets to go where she wants to go.

Keith W. - Joe W. - The rule is very clear but the judgment aspect of what constitutes the runner being hindered/impeded is not. Ultimately, as umpires we need to be able to clearly and consistently enforce the rules, and if there are umpires that would call this specific play obstruction, then we need to be able to explain why.

Joe W. - Keith W. - "Coach, the runner was obstructed by your fielder who did not have possession of the ball"

Keith W. - We all know how to explain obstruction to a coach. We all know what obstruction is. You’ve said elsewhere that you would not call obstruction based on the video evidence of this play, but are adamantly arguing for it being called if the runner is impeded or hindered. I have no issue with that. Nobody does.

You are now intentionally conflating arguments and oversimplifying the situation.

The post is asking two related questions:

  • 1. Does this play constitute obstruction? You stated (elsewhere) no.
  • 2. (Philosophically) Should it be obstruction any time a runner chooses a path around a base and narrowly beats a bang-bang force play, because, by definition of “safe,” the fielder did not have the ball when the runner reached second? You seem to be stating yes.

Joe W. - Keith W. - 1) I cannot tell what happened at 2nd base here. I'm not saying that it wasn't OBS. 2) about to receive a throw or making a play on a throw are not exceptions to the OBS rule.

Keith W. - Re: #2, the aspects of the obstruction rule are understood.

You didn’t answer the question as asked.

Joe W. - Keith W., #2 sounds like OBS to me. Is there some reason that you think it shouldn't be?

Keith W. - It disincentivizes and even punishes a team for trying to make any close play on a runner.

Joe W. - Keith W. - Ask them to change the rule.

Keith W. - Can you reconcile for me how you can take a firm stance on #2 but cannot take any stance at all on the video presented in this post?
After you do that, I think we are probably done here. We are just going in circles at this point.

Joe W. - Keith The video is not clear enough for me to see what happened. Or, my monitor is not good enough ;-)

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Did you watch the second half of the video? Some of the earlier posters did not. The far away backstop view does little to help. My hat-cam view reveals a lot. But maybe you need a bigger monitor, too. :-)

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, I could see that being called either way. It is very close. You were there, I'll go with what you called.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I was caught by surprise. That is my fault. I was not on top of what happened mentally. I NEVER want to be in that frame of mind again on this play. Discussing this today, with all of you, will arm me with the tools, skills, and understanding when I see this again... And you just know it is waiting to spring itself into my game again before the year is over. :-) Thanks again for the feedback!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, and the next one will be different

Bob R. - Great videos. Dang coaches or parents teach these kids this type of ugly ball. I usually look for that at first but I see second will get my eye a little longer.


Patrick S. - This is not a good play to ask this question. If the throw is slightly late, and the runner is safe, but certainly would be out if she rounded and were tagged, are we calling obstruction?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - No obstruction registered in my mind at the time of the play, but by the time it was over my mind was already reworking and changing what might have happened. By the time I walked off the field I was wondering just what actually happened. Rewatching the film made me realize that the coaches were taking advantage of the situation and hoping I would give them a call that wasn't really there. I was being played, yet I knew I could review it in video and see the realities... Unfortunately, I now know that it was a designed play and their disgust for the missed call was unsubstantiated.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - But, designed play or not. If the runner were safe on the force but would certainly be dead out if she rounded, do we call the obstruction if she’s hindered while rounding?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - Good question. Can she be there in a low stretched-out position and not obstruct the rounding? I can imagine a situation where there is no hindrance or impedance of the runner. At the same time, you could make the stand that just her foot being there takes away the runner's foot placement on the ground just inside the bag as she runs by with just her side of the foot touching the base. The truth is that we want the defense to go for this force out and we also want the offense to not be obstructed.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt but even with obstruction, I’m only awarding second base so what’s the point?

Keith W. - Patrick S. - The offensive team wants the obstruction call on this play when the throw goes to first (as it most often does) and they can argue that the runner would have made it to third safely (with one out in this case).

Which is why, along with what appears to be intentional contact initiated by the runner, it always seemed like a designed play to me. The throw just went to second instead of first, which complicated the scheme.

Patrick S. - Keith Williams - In a two-man crew, if the throw does go to first, no one-s focus is really going to be on this. PU does have the touch, but also has running lane.

Keith W. - Patrick S. - True, but that doesn’t mean the offensive team can’t try.

Patrick S. - Keith W. - If I think they’re trying to draw an obstruction call, they are getting very little leeway.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - When does it cross into interference/out for you? I am wavering on this one and would love your seasoned perspective. I warn younger USA Softball teams to not initiate contact to get their obstruction call. Coaches seem to be coaching the girls to make sure there is contact so that they can get the call. This creates unnecessary contact and can cause injury. Does this "chicken wing" cross over into interference for you? What are your thoughts?

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - There would have to be interference in order to call it. The offense would have had to hinder the defenses opportunity to get an out. There would have to be an out to get.

David S. - Keith W., they can “argue” all they want, she is NOT protected to 3rd!


Joe M. - In watching the play the runner sticks her arm out to make contact to get an obstruction call. No obstruction your out

Patrick S. - Joe M., you can’t call interference if interference didn’t occur.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - I think Joe Meyer is referring to the runner going out of her way to initiate the contact as she runs by the defender. There was contact and displacement.

Joe M. - Michael Leavitt that would be correct. You can’t reward someone for sticking out their chicken wing to creat contact.

Patrick S. - Joe M., true, but you can’t call interference if she didn’t interfere. I saw slight contact, but nothing that kept F6 from making a play.

Patrick S. - Joe M., unless I misunderstood and you were just saying let the out stand.

Michael Leavitt - Is sticking her with a slight "chicken wing" as she runs by malicious contact and worthy of ejection? Wait, there is no "malicious contact" verbiage in USA Softball. Is it worthy of interference and just being called out? RS#33 says that "Interference is the act of an offensive player or team member that impedes, hinders, or confuses a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Interference may be in the form of physical contact, verbal distraction, visual distraction, or any type of distraction that hundred a fielder in the execution of a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field or throw the ball without being hindered."This certainly does not limit interference to fielding a batted ball. That is pretty strong verbiage to justify calling an out for the "chicken wing" contact in the defender's back... Good call, Joe Meyer!

Joe M. - Patrick S., that is correct the out stands. There was no interference and any chance of obstruction was initiated by the offensive player. So don’t reward her for it. She bumps the defensive player to get an obstruction call and even holds her arm out to sell it to umpires. Then goes on to third thinking she won’t be called out.

Mike R. - Joe M., the runner initiated OBS because she wanted the inside corner of the base?


Craig B. - I think no call is the clear correct decision on this specific play. They obviously had a play called that didn’t go as planned because F1 chose to try to make a play at 2nd instead of taking the out at 1st. The Offense didn’t account for that possibility and got burned for it. I would also point out that I think R1 clearly left early on this pitch as well.

Joe W. - What play do you think they had planned? Running to 3rd?

David S. - If that was their plan it wouldn’t work on me. I do see some hindering but if I call obstruction she is NOT going to be awarded 3rd. That’s her decision to go beyond the protected base and therefore in jeopardy


Joe E. - Joe W., this play is known as the Kansas City Steal, old dogs like myself taught this to our players because most umpires don't enforce the obstruction

Keith J. - Looking at the video I am trying to see where the obstruction occurred on the 2nd baseman/SS. The base runner makes contact with the player about to receive the ball. So how do you get an obstruction on the defense. If anything you could almost get interference on the offense.

Joe W. - Keith a fielder without the ball (and not making an initial play on a batted ball) cannot hinder or impede a runner.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - And a runner cannot interfere with a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field. Interference trumps obstruction.... BTW, where is "field the ball" defined in the rule book. This includes a batted ball, but does this also include catching a thrown ball? If so, then we should be talking a lot more about interference and not just stopping with the definition of obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - Michael no, it does not include thrown ball.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., Reference? The Rules Supplement does not specify the initial play on a batted ball. It includes fielding the ball. Where is this defined?

Joe W. - Michael

JoeW 01

Michael Leavitt - That helps define obstruction, but does little to help define "field the ball" when dealing with interference. RS #33 is not limited by a batted ball. It deals with a fielder "attempting to execute a play".

Keith J. - Joe W., where did she impede the runner? Hence me asking, again, where is the obstruction??

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, "fielding" is never used(to my knowledge) to describe catching a thrown ball.

Joe E. - Michael Leavitt, I think that is where the umpire's judgement takes precedence

Joe E. - Keith J., I can't make out the obstruction or interference from video, without the ability to zoom in

Keith J. - Joe W., the defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. And as you see in this video, as defense is awaiting to "receive" the "thrown ball" the runner makes contact with her forearm. Now, did this cause any issues with receiving the throw? Does not look like but I can tell you I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Keith J. - Joe E., you can see the forearm of the runner make slight contact. But again, I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - "The defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. " Nope. The defense has zero right to impede or hinder a runner in order to try to catch a thrown ball. The rule is worded very clearly-the exception that you are making is one that you are making. The rule disagrees with you.

Keith J. - Where is the runner impeded????

Michael Leavitt - Joe E., - Did you watch the last half of the video?... It is pretty zoomed up.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., as with every USA Softball formal ruling I have received from Kevin Ryan, it rarely involves one rule location to support the ruling. Instead, multiple rule locations are used to help paint the fuller picture. The logic is that the rule book would be too big if they dealt with every item, in full, in each portion of the rule book. I have learned to be cautious of myopically focusing in on one sentence or one reference. Instead, I have had to be pliable and allow multiple rules being referenced to get the final call correct. I always come back to try to determine how the rules making body of the game I am officiating want me to rule on any given play. It is not always as black and white as you like to infer. We often deal in shades of gray and tend to overuse the phrase, "in my judgment" to sound assertive and confident. I would rather say, "Kevin Ryan and the rules making committee has determined that....." Just my thoughts!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt It isn't always black and white. But, OBS is black and white. The fielder either has the ball or doesn't. The folks who want to make exception on the bases would(hopefully) not give the same exception to the catcher.

David S. - It’s easier than everyone is making it. 1. She is safe at2nd. 2. If there is obstruction called (umpire judgment) then why would any umpire protect her to 3rd? 3. Therefore if thrown out at 3rd, she is now out! End of discussion with coach

Joe W. - David 3) you would put her back on 2nd


Clinton K. - I have no obstruction.

  • No change of path
  • Path took her too outside bag
  • Forearm tried to create contact
  • Smart runner
  • This is a tough one

Manny A. - Hold on a second here. I'm not going to read all of the previous posts, but in some of them, it appears umpires want to rule obstruction if F4 or F6 is set up for a force play by keeping her foot on the bag while stretching toward F1 to receive the throw, and this is deemed to be obstruction if she doesn't have the ball the split second before R1 wants to use the inside corner of the base to keep going to third base??

C'mon folks, you're requiring the fielder (either F4 or F6) to not play her position properly. Are you really expecting the fielder on a routine force play to not put her foot on the bag until she actually has the ball, in the off-chance that the oncoming runner who 999 times out of 1000 is going to slide directly into the base to beat the throw may just this one time decide to round the bag and keep going to third base? I don't buy that at all.

If that were the case, just like others have indicated here, then we can expect an obstruction call at first base if the BR decides to round the bag as F3 is waiting for the throw to first. This is not how the game is supposed to be played. This, to me, is a runner deviating her expected path to draw an obstruction call instead of attempting to get to the base safely. No runner in their right mind rounds a base as the ball is being thrown to that base for a force play or play on the BR unless they are doing something with intent to draw the obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - I wholeheartedly agree. Very well worded. Consider it stolen, yet I will give you full credit. :-)

David S. - I can rule obstruction but only protected to 2nd, she is not getting 3rd.


Michael Leavitt - And by the way, thanks to all of you for carrying on an intelligent discussion without any personal attacks. These are real life scenarios that need intelligent experienced umpires to discuss. It certainly helps broaden my understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss!


Rusty S. - The baserunner clearly initiated contact with the defensive player at 2nd base by extending her left arm, it didn't appear that it was done due to the defender impeding or obstructing her from rounding 2nd base. If I'm umpiring this game I've got the lead runner tagged out. No obstruction.

Keith J. - DITTO!!!!


David S. - I have obstruction but I certainly don’t protect her to 3rd. What makes the coach and runner think she automatically gets awarded 3rd, when there is no chance she could get there if no obstruction.

Michael M. - David S., How in the world do u have obstruction?

Bret S. - Then you’d put her back on second base?

Michael Leavitt - David S., they just wanted her to be placed safely back at second. Nobody expected her to be awarded third base. Time had expired and she was the potential game-winning run. They were hoping for obstruction, and possibly some type of overthrow that would allow her to score, and at the very least be placed back at second. Much to their dismay, she was out and the batter-runner was now standing on second.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt so if you DID call obstruction. Did she get obstructed to second or from 2nd to 3rd? And lets just say if the shortstop threw to first and it was an errant throw because of the chicken wing in the back she would be out for interference.

David S. - Michael M., in my judgment she was obstructed because the fielder did not have the ball and hindered the runner from obtaining any part of the base she wanted to use, I really don't see interference by the so called "chicken wing" as I don't see any contact. It also doesn't look like she is sticking it out there for contact. Again, my judgment. Now you might see something different and that is your judgment. Now, she is only going to be protected to 2nd, so when she continued to 3rd, she puts herself in jeopardy of being put out, which she was.

David S. - Pausing the video repeatedly shows that the runner was hindered from using the inside corner of the base, therefore obstruction! But only protected to 2nd.

Obs 01

 Obs 02

Logan B. - Based on the video, I do not have obstruction

Rick W. - Runner trying to create false obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Does that qualify for RS #49? Does this violate the values of softball competition based upon good sporting behavior and fair play, that includes coaching tactics that endanger the safety of players?

Rick W. - I would say yes. I have watched this tactic used the last couple of years. I issued warnings so it would stop. Elbowing defense while rounding bases is not obstruction, but rather malicious contact. Stop or face ejection. It stops!


John S. - I don't have obstruction


Orvin W. - In my opinion, from the PU’s camera angle, it looks like she was about to attempt a slide into 2b but probably heard her coach say 3 and tried to cut the base tight to make it there. However, I don’t have an obstruction call from this view because nothing stops her path onto 3b from his angle. Besides, the PU has the lead runner anyway.

The BU’s camera angle may not have her making the attempt to slide but her inside arm was trying to make contact with the defense. The contact didn’t disrupt her path plus the defense was playing it as a force play so no obstruction call from his view. Her foot being on the bag didn’t block the entire bag to touch. Run down tag for an out on R1 and B2 is safe at 2B.


Dave B. - In my judgment, I did not see the runner become hindered by the defensive player without the ball. No obstruction, out.

Mike R. - Tell me, Dave, when you played did you intentionally turn a base in any way other than using the inside corner?

Dave B. - Yes. I’d have to see a little more than this, though. I just don’t see obstruction on this play. We can disagree on this one. That won’t bother me.


FB LINK

 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

ML2014JULY 25, 2019 - I shared a video online regarding a play at second base in a recent USA Softball tournament game with older high school varsity aged girls. I was taken by surprise at the time that it took place, but I have had several days and nights to rethink about the play and the coaching tactics that brought it about. Being caught off guard, I was then being played by the coaches and the runner as they attempted to get an obstruction call from my partner and I on the field. Let me first state that I do not like being played as a fool, and I do not appreciate coaching tactics meant to manipulate the game by deception. I deem this poor sportsmanship and will strive to be right on top of this type of play in my future years of umpiring.

The video quickly inspired a lengthy discussion online amongst some very seasoned umpires from across the country. The video received over 1,500 views, mainly on private Facebook groups. In the private softball umpire forum world, that is considered a viral video. I have copied the transcript of discussions, and removed the last names of those sharing their insights. The information, reaction, and insights they share are priceless to me as I mentally form my actions for  future encounters with this coaching tactic.

I encourage those of you that are interested to watch the video. Those of you who want to become better informed can then delve into the long transcript below...

Obstruction YT Play

CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO


OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND

SCENARIO - Potential game-winning R1 on first with no outs. B2 bunts towards the pitcher who throws to second instead of first. The shortstop is ready to receive the force play throw and R1 is going to be safe. R1 then decides to run full speed through second and onto third. If the throw is in time, then there would be an out at second base. Since the throw is late, at what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction by cutting off the inside turn base path at second base on a force play? Can they be making a force play, like a stretched-out first baseman, and by losing the bang-banger we are forced to call obstruction? And then there is the high school varsity aged player who has apparently been coached to draw the obstruction in this video from Saturday morning... What's your call? Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

RESPONSES

Mike R. - The mere presence of the defender without possession of the ball could be cause for an OBS call

Michael M. - Mike R., the fielder was NOT in the base path

Mike R. - Michael M., The runner owns the base and any path they wish to take. If she wants the inside corner, it is the runner's option

Michael Leavitt - We give a special waiver to the first baseman because runners can run straight through. We add to that the use of a safety base here in Utah. The same type of play at second or third does not have the same protection for a defender, by rule. The issue is that a savvy runner can then exploit a "Safe" call by turning, thus drawing an obstruction and possibly gaining another base. In my opinion, this scenario was never the intent of the obstruction rule. Force play coverage should be ruled a bit differently than tag play coverage.

Michael M. - Runner did not alter her path. Its a judgement call by the BU. No way would that be obstruction in my view. Now if the runner altered in any way and fielder did not have the ball its obstruction

Mike R. - Seems to me the runner had no intention of stopping. Looks like a planned play which means the runner was looking for that corner. But it really doesn't matter, the runner's selected path was blocked by a player not in possession of the ball which is OBS whether you care for the scenario or not.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed, Mike R., but this does not mean that is the intent of the rules committee either. The forearm shove by the runner does not seem to be an issue by those of you commenting so far. We want defensive teams to make close force plays at second and third, and we want runners to be aggressive at those same bases. I feel that there has to be some balance and protections for both the offensive runner and defender on close inside corner force plays. What are your thoughts?

Jay B. - Mike R. you could have that scenario on a close play at first, would you still consider OBS?

Mike R. - Michael Leavitt - I didn't see a shove, or any definitive contact. But would have preferred the runner just run into her? Or maybe a hard pop-up slide in anticipation of advancing?

Mike R. - Jay B. - It is not at 1st

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt we absolutely give no waiver to F3. Where did you read that?

Jay B. - Mike R. it’s a question, if a slapper decides round first and to go to second (instead of running through the base) before the F3 catches the throw, would you consider OBS.

Joe W. - Jay B. did F3 have the ball when she hindered the slapper?

Jay B. - Joe W. - I’m just putting this out there because I think you could have the scenario posted in the OP happen at first. So, no, F3 would be waiting to receive the ball

Joe W. - Jay B. a defender without the ball(and not making an initial play on a batted ball) hindered the batter/runner? That is OBS.

Jay B. - Joe W. I could see this starting a trend, and not a good one

Joe W. - Jay B. the trend of umpires doing as we are told?

Jay B. - Joe W. no, the trend of base coaches trying to test the limits of the rule. How many times do you see a runner beat a throw by a step or even two, now you could have a smart coach telling the runner to go to 2. Just saying

Joe W. - Jay B. we need to be cognizant of the schemes of coaches and players but, we must call the game by the rules.

David S. - Mike R. - so would you award her 3rd base? I wouldn’t! No way was she going to achieve 3rd base without obstruction!

David S. - We might not like the scenario but the coach and runner won’t like my ruling either. Obstruction and runner went beyond where I had her protected and now she is out! NO WAY AM I PROTECTING HER TO 3rd!


Michael M. - It doesn't look to me that the base runner changed paths. If your running full speed you would round the bag around the shortstop anyway. I do not see obstruction there

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - There is a forearm shove that displaces the shortstop. There is most definitely contact on this play. Contact equals being hindered.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt - no way. She extended her arm. Did not have to.

Michael M. - You cant ASSume she wanted the inside. She was not hindered. You could also say Maybe she would have been out if she didn't shove the fielder

Michael Leavitt - Michael M., there is no argument from me. But you could argue that the runner is hindered if they do not have the full area on either side of the bag as a potential chosen base path. The runner was not obstructed here, in this video. The runner initiated unnecessary contact with the fielder. The player hindered was the defensive player that was unnecessarily touched by the runner and interference could be a justified call. I made a safe call with nothing further and then the PU called her out near third base. I was not mentally ready to explain a "no obstruction" call and ensuing explanation with the coach. Why? This play strategy caught me totally off guard. Hearing Joe Joe M Elking call it the Kansas City Steal was intriguing, and I will forever be looking for it the next time I have a bunter with a runner on first. My vow... No more surprises! :-)

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt, you cant ASSume that the runner would run inside. And the defensive player was well inside. No way in this scenario. Not even close.

Michael M. - Hindered. Would mean she altered her path. That clearly did not happen

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - The logical path is the most inside corner of the base. That is why we have our arms up 10 times a game in 12U ball when a first, second, or third baseman is standing there on their base when there is no play and the runner is coming by. The fact that the fielder is there on the inside path when the runner is running by is obstruction. I do not think that you and I are in complete disagreement. Surely we agree that the shortest legal base running distance from first to third is by way of the innermost corner of second base, right. Experienced players are going to choose that path every time and experienced fielders would like to get them to swing wider so that it takes longer to get to third. So just because we do not see a veer in the runner's path just before the base, that decision may have been made 45 feet earlier as the play is developing. But the smart fielder in the video was not taking away the inside path. She gave plenty of room for the run by and did not deserve a forearm to her back by the runner. Would you ever call interference on a play like this, where no contact is warranted?

Michael M. - Lol. I think we both agree. Like Joe said. I think it was Joe. 999 times out of 100. You don't overrun second base when the ball is being thrown there. You run hard and slide to stop you. The fielder can't possibly play their spot on a force play in any other position. You can't expect them to put a foot on the center field side of the base nor wait till they catch it and then “find” the bag. Lol


Bret S. - At what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction? At the point where she is not in possession of the ball and she impedes or hinders the runner.

Michael M. - Bret S., even watching all the slow motion. The runner did not alter paths and fielder did not hinder. No way is this obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Bret S., the taking away of the inside base path on a close force play called safe immediately leaves us with obstruction. Yet, called out there is nothing. And in this video, you see the runner purposefully take their left forearm and initiate contact and displace the shortstop to make sure she has an obstruction call. Is this what we want to promote? At what point do we go the other way and call malicious contact?

Kelly Z. - If the shortstop initiated the contact (without possession of the ball), you could have an argument in favor of obstruction. In this scenario, I see the runner initiating contact. I'm not calling obstruction unless an action by the defense hindered the runner in some way. On this play, I have no obstruction.

Bret S. - Michael Leavitt I didn’t offer an opinion of this specific play. I just answered the question that you posed in your post. You seem to want to add a lot of “ifs and maybes” into this call, even going so far as questioning “the rule committee’s intentions”. Why not just apply the rule as it’s written? Did the fielder have the ball? Did she impede or hinder the runner?

Bret S. - Michael M. - Again, I wasn’t offering an opinion on this specific play. If that’s your judgment, then that’s your judgment. I don’t have an issue with that.


Keith W. - Never obstruction. This is clearly a designed play. Running through the base is faster than sliding in, so she has been coached to run through on a close play and try to earn the base via an obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - In my mind, this creates a very dangerous situation for defenders. If they stretch out to try to win a banger at second or third, then they obstruct by eliminating the inside corner. If they opt to be far enough inside to catch the ball and then get their leg and foot over to touch the bag, then they will never have a banger or a force out on a close play. This is a quandary for me and not a clear cut ruling. I see a huge difference between a force play obstruction and a tag play obstruction when dealing with inside corner positioning.

Mike R. - IMJ (In My Judgement), She didn't "run through" but making a planned turn. For that matter, she actually moved her path to the right of the base in anticipation of making the turn. And if the intent was to draw an OBS, why not take the turn and run into the defender?

Keith W. - If that is the case (we would be supposing then that she has no idea the play is coming to second base) then she could bowl over any shortstop trying to make a play on the runner.

In my opinion, that is not the intent of the rule.

We are viewing the situation differently, but that, of course does happen. As a defensive coach I would definitely not be happy with your ruling, haha.

Joe W. - Keith W. - The intent of the rule cannot be the opposite of what it says.

Keith W. - The intent of the rule is to keep defensive players from hindering the offense’s progress around the bases. The intent of the rule is not to force the defense to catch the ball and then run to the base after.

Keith W. - Mike R. - So are you arguing that she should have been coached better to barrel into the defender, or are you arguing that she moved her path to round the base and only wanted the obstruction when she knew she was dead to rights?

Keith W. - Also, for what it’s worth, the shortstop clearly takes a step in front of the base to catch the ball, clearing the bag anyway.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - It is interesting that the fielder did everything they were supposed to do on this play, and that is why nothing really registered when it happened. I was shocked that the runner continued towards third. Her continued actions flushed my mental hard drive of her running by second and I was at a real loss when obstruction was later being demanded. The offense didn't get their wish, yet went on to score the bunter on the very next play to win the game. As I left the field, it was under the cloud of a missed call on a play that did not happen the way they prefer to remember it happening. But not to worry, I will be sharing with them the video excerpt and it should be a fun and short discussion.

Keith W. - Michael Leavitt - If this thread, which has exploded in an hour on a Monday morning, is any indication, the discussion won’t be short.

Mike R. - Keith W. - The intent is to keep the defense from hindering a runner/batter-runner anywhere on the field. And stepping out of the way at the last second to not negate the OBS. And, BTW, at no point did I suggest barreling into anyone.

Keith W. - I apologize for using a little reducto ad absurdum into my argument. It wasn’t helpful. But, what is a reasonable amount of time that we need to allow the shortstop here to make a decision as to whether she has a force play on the runner coming into second base?

In my judgment, she makes that decision and clears the base as soon as she realizes the play will be late. Is she still guilty of obstruction here?


Patrick S. - I see no obstruction here. I saw the fielder go inside the diamond 2-3’ and the runner trying to get an obstruction call by throwing out her arm.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed.


Jim R. - The runner threw a forearm at the defender. I’m calling her out for interference. The spirit and intent of the rule is very clear. I am also telling the coach if that happens again, he will be ejected.

Patrick S. - Jim R., there’s no interference here.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - You would be mistaken. Since the runner and coach have indicated there was contact by their obstruction signal, I’ll go with that. The fielder was making a play and the runner intentionally made contact. If you let that go you are legitimizing the teams actions. I assume you are a coach Patrick.

Patrick S. - Jim R. -You know what happens when you assume? Attempting to interfere is not interference unless they actually interfere.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I assume nothing. The player admitted she made contact. She threw a wing and made contact. I can’t ASSUME it did not hinder or impede the fielder. The runner caused the infraction and gets no potential advantage from her foul play. I don’t even understand your defending of the play.

Patrick S. - Jim R. - You said you assume I’m a coach, then you say you assume nothing. Hmm. I’m not condemning or defending the play. I’m calling what’s in front of me. No obstruction, runner is out on the tag.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - That’s ok. When I was your age I thought I knew everything too. You’re kinda funny.

Patrick S. - Jim R., I know I don’t know everything. But this is a no brainer. It can’t be interference, there was no play to interfere with.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I’ve forgotten more than you know

Patrick S. - Jim R. -Do you really have to make personal attacks? You can’t keep it about the facts? You must’ve forgotten this part then.


Michael Leavitt - I was not expecting this to occur. I was initially planning on a call at first base. Obviously, I followed the ball, or my GoPro on my hat would not have caught the action. The run through call was easy with "Safe" at second. The continued running surprised me and it led to the timeout call near third. Then the throw back to second left me calling another safe. When the action stopped I did not even realize where the coach and runner wanted the obstruction call. My PU was screened by a fielder and had no view of second base. I did not rule obstruction and I did not realize that the runner initiated contact while rounding the base. When I went back and watched the backstop view it looks like a rather nothing play at second. The closer view from my hat shows the details I missed during the play. This leads to the bigger philosophical scenario questions regarding force play coverage and forearm shoves.


Joe W. - I could not call OBS from this video. However, if the runner was impeded by the player without the ball-ie she had to take extra steps to run around her, then it would be OBS. It is too hard to tell from the video.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I agree, in this video. The coaches were very upset and treated it as though the fielder was closer and taking away the inside corner base path. This leads the discussion regarding where the line is drawn on inside corner force play coverage at second and third.

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, the line is very clear. A fielder(not in possession of the ball & not making an initial play on a batter ball) who hinders or impedes a runner is guilty of OBS.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Yes, I know the rule. Is the fielder with their foot touching the inside corner of second or third, stretched out to receive a thrown ball, hindering or impeding the runner?

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, she sure could be. The runner gets to go where she wants to go.

Keith W. - Joe W. - The rule is very clear but the judgment aspect of what constitutes the runner being hindered/impeded is not. Ultimately, as umpires we need to be able to clearly and consistently enforce the rules, and if there are umpires that would call this specific play obstruction, then we need to be able to explain why.

Joe W. - Keith W. - "Coach, the runner was obstructed by your fielder who did not have possession of the ball"

Keith W. - We all know how to explain obstruction to a coach. We all know what obstruction is. You’ve said elsewhere that you would not call obstruction based on the video evidence of this play, but are adamantly arguing for it being called if the runner is impeded or hindered. I have no issue with that. Nobody does.

You are now intentionally conflating arguments and oversimplifying the situation.

The post is asking two related questions:

  • 1. Does this play constitute obstruction? You stated (elsewhere) no.
  • 2. (Philosophically) Should it be obstruction any time a runner chooses a path around a base and narrowly beats a bang-bang force play, because, by definition of “safe,” the fielder did not have the ball when the runner reached second? You seem to be stating yes.

Joe W. - Keith W. - 1) I cannot tell what happened at 2nd base here. I'm not saying that it wasn't OBS. 2) about to receive a throw or making a play on a throw are not exceptions to the OBS rule.

Keith W. - Re: #2, the aspects of the obstruction rule are understood.

You didn’t answer the question as asked.

Joe W. - Keith W., #2 sounds like OBS to me. Is there some reason that you think it shouldn't be?

Keith W. - It disincentivizes and even punishes a team for trying to make any close play on a runner.

Joe W. - Keith W. - Ask them to change the rule.

Keith W. - Can you reconcile for me how you can take a firm stance on #2 but cannot take any stance at all on the video presented in this post?
After you do that, I think we are probably done here. We are just going in circles at this point.

Joe W. - Keith The video is not clear enough for me to see what happened. Or, my monitor is not good enough ;-)

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Did you watch the second half of the video? Some of the earlier posters did not. The far away backstop view does little to help. My hat-cam view reveals a lot. But maybe you need a bigger monitor, too. :-)

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, I could see that being called either way. It is very close. You were there, I'll go with what you called.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I was caught by surprise. That is my fault. I was not on top of what happened mentally. I NEVER want to be in that frame of mind again on this play. Discussing this today, with all of you, will arm me with the tools, skills, and understanding when I see this again... And you just know it is waiting to spring itself into my game again before the year is over. :-) Thanks again for the feedback!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, and the next one will be different

Bob R. - Great videos. Dang coaches or parents teach these kids this type of ugly ball. I usually look for that at first but I see second will get my eye a little longer.


Patrick S. - This is not a good play to ask this question. If the throw is slightly late, and the runner is safe, but certainly would be out if she rounded and were tagged, are we calling obstruction?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - No obstruction registered in my mind at the time of the play, but by the time it was over my mind was already reworking and changing what might have happened. By the time I walked off the field I was wondering just what actually happened. Rewatching the film made me realize that the coaches were taking advantage of the situation and hoping I would give them a call that wasn't really there. I was being played, yet I knew I could review it in video and see the realities... Unfortunately, I now know that it was a designed play and their disgust for the missed call was unsubstantiated.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - But, designed play or not. If the runner were safe on the force but would certainly be dead out if she rounded, do we call the obstruction if she’s hindered while rounding?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - Good question. Can she be there in a low stretched-out position and not obstruct the rounding? I can imagine a situation where there is no hindrance or impedance of the runner. At the same time, you could make the stand that just her foot being there takes away the runner's foot placement on the ground just inside the bag as she runs by with just her side of the foot touching the base. The truth is that we want the defense to go for this force out and we also want the offense to not be obstructed.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt but even with obstruction, I’m only awarding second base so what’s the point?

Keith W. - Patrick S. - The offensive team wants the obstruction call on this play when the throw goes to first (as it most often does) and they can argue that the runner would have made it to third safely (with one out in this case).

Which is why, along with what appears to be intentional contact initiated by the runner, it always seemed like a designed play to me. The throw just went to second instead of first, which complicated the scheme.

Patrick S. - Keith Williams - In a two-man crew, if the throw does go to first, no one-s focus is really going to be on this. PU does have the touch, but also has running lane.

Keith W. - Patrick S. - True, but that doesn’t mean the offensive team can’t try.

Patrick S. - Keith W. - If I think they’re trying to draw an obstruction call, they are getting very little leeway.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - When does it cross into interference/out for you? I am wavering on this one and would love your seasoned perspective. I warn younger USA Softball teams to not initiate contact to get their obstruction call. Coaches seem to be coaching the girls to make sure there is contact so that they can get the call. This creates unnecessary contact and can cause injury. Does this "chicken wing" cross over into interference for you? What are your thoughts?

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - There would have to be interference in order to call it. The offense would have had to hinder the defenses opportunity to get an out. There would have to be an out to get.

David S. - Keith W., they can “argue” all they want, she is NOT protected to 3rd!


Joe M. - In watching the play the runner sticks her arm out to make contact to get an obstruction call. No obstruction your out

Patrick S. - Joe M., you can’t call interference if interference didn’t occur.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - I think Joe Meyer is referring to the runner going out of her way to initiate the contact as she runs by the defender. There was contact and displacement.

Joe M. - Michael Leavitt that would be correct. You can’t reward someone for sticking out their chicken wing to creat contact.

Patrick S. - Joe M., true, but you can’t call interference if she didn’t interfere. I saw slight contact, but nothing that kept F6 from making a play.

Patrick S. - Joe M., unless I misunderstood and you were just saying let the out stand.

Michael Leavitt - Is sticking her with a slight "chicken wing" as she runs by malicious contact and worthy of ejection? Wait, there is no "malicious contact" verbiage in USA Softball. Is it worthy of interference and just being called out? RS#33 says that "Interference is the act of an offensive player or team member that impedes, hinders, or confuses a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Interference may be in the form of physical contact, verbal distraction, visual distraction, or any type of distraction that hundred a fielder in the execution of a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field or throw the ball without being hindered."This certainly does not limit interference to fielding a batted ball. That is pretty strong verbiage to justify calling an out for the "chicken wing" contact in the defender's back... Good call, Joe Meyer!

Joe M. - Patrick S., that is correct the out stands. There was no interference and any chance of obstruction was initiated by the offensive player. So don’t reward her for it. She bumps the defensive player to get an obstruction call and even holds her arm out to sell it to umpires. Then goes on to third thinking she won’t be called out.

Mike R. - Joe M., the runner initiated OBS because she wanted the inside corner of the base?


Craig B. - I think no call is the clear correct decision on this specific play. They obviously had a play called that didn’t go as planned because F1 chose to try to make a play at 2nd instead of taking the out at 1st. The Offense didn’t account for that possibility and got burned for it. I would also point out that I think R1 clearly left early on this pitch as well.

Joe W. - What play do you think they had planned? Running to 3rd?

David S. - If that was their plan it wouldn’t work on me. I do see some hindering but if I call obstruction she is NOT going to be awarded 3rd. That’s her decision to go beyond the protected base and therefore in jeopardy


Joe E. - Joe W., this play is known as the Kansas City Steal, old dogs like myself taught this to our players because most umpires don't enforce the obstruction

Keith J. - Looking at the video I am trying to see where the obstruction occurred on the 2nd baseman/SS. The base runner makes contact with the player about to receive the ball. So how do you get an obstruction on the defense. If anything you could almost get interference on the offense.

Joe W. - Keith a fielder without the ball (and not making an initial play on a batted ball) cannot hinder or impede a runner.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - And a runner cannot interfere with a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field. Interference trumps obstruction.... BTW, where is "field the ball" defined in the rule book. This includes a batted ball, but does this also include catching a thrown ball? If so, then we should be talking a lot more about interference and not just stopping with the definition of obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - Michael no, it does not include thrown ball.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., Reference? The Rules Supplement does not specify the initial play on a batted ball. It includes fielding the ball. Where is this defined?

Joe W. - Michael

JoeW 01

Michael Leavitt - That helps define obstruction, but does little to help define "field the ball" when dealing with interference. RS #33 is not limited by a batted ball. It deals with a fielder "attempting to execute a play".

Keith J. - Joe W., where did she impede the runner? Hence me asking, again, where is the obstruction??

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, "fielding" is never used(to my knowledge) to describe catching a thrown ball.

Joe E. - Michael Leavitt, I think that is where the umpire's judgement takes precedence

Joe E. - Keith J., I can't make out the obstruction or interference from video, without the ability to zoom in

Keith J. - Joe W., the defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. And as you see in this video, as defense is awaiting to "receive" the "thrown ball" the runner makes contact with her forearm. Now, did this cause any issues with receiving the throw? Does not look like but I can tell you I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Keith J. - Joe E., you can see the forearm of the runner make slight contact. But again, I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - "The defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. " Nope. The defense has zero right to impede or hinder a runner in order to try to catch a thrown ball. The rule is worded very clearly-the exception that you are making is one that you are making. The rule disagrees with you.

Keith J. - Where is the runner impeded????

Michael Leavitt - Joe E., - Did you watch the last half of the video?... It is pretty zoomed up.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., as with every USA Softball formal ruling I have received from Kevin Ryan, it rarely involves one rule location to support the ruling. Instead, multiple rule locations are used to help paint the fuller picture. The logic is that the rule book would be too big if they dealt with every item, in full, in each portion of the rule book. I have learned to be cautious of myopically focusing in on one sentence or one reference. Instead, I have had to be pliable and allow multiple rules being referenced to get the final call correct. I always come back to try to determine how the rules making body of the game I am officiating want me to rule on any given play. It is not always as black and white as you like to infer. We often deal in shades of gray and tend to overuse the phrase, "in my judgment" to sound assertive and confident. I would rather say, "Kevin Ryan and the rules making committee has determined that....." Just my thoughts!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt It isn't always black and white. But, OBS is black and white. The fielder either has the ball or doesn't. The folks who want to make exception on the bases would(hopefully) not give the same exception to the catcher.

David S. - It’s easier than everyone is making it. 1. She is safe at2nd. 2. If there is obstruction called (umpire judgment) then why would any umpire protect her to 3rd? 3. Therefore if thrown out at 3rd, she is now out! End of discussion with coach

Joe W. - David 3) you would put her back on 2nd


Clinton K. - I have no obstruction.

  • No change of path
  • Path took her too outside bag
  • Forearm tried to create contact
  • Smart runner
  • This is a tough one

Manny A. - Hold on a second here. I'm not going to read all of the previous posts, but in some of them, it appears umpires want to rule obstruction if F4 or F6 is set up for a force play by keeping her foot on the bag while stretching toward F1 to receive the throw, and this is deemed to be obstruction if she doesn't have the ball the split second before R1 wants to use the inside corner of the base to keep going to third base??

C'mon folks, you're requiring the fielder (either F4 or F6) to not play her position properly. Are you really expecting the fielder on a routine force play to not put her foot on the bag until she actually has the ball, in the off-chance that the oncoming runner who 999 times out of 1000 is going to slide directly into the base to beat the throw may just this one time decide to round the bag and keep going to third base? I don't buy that at all.

If that were the case, just like others have indicated here, then we can expect an obstruction call at first base if the BR decides to round the bag as F3 is waiting for the throw to first. This is not how the game is supposed to be played. This, to me, is a runner deviating her expected path to draw an obstruction call instead of attempting to get to the base safely. No runner in their right mind rounds a base as the ball is being thrown to that base for a force play or play on the BR unless they are doing something with intent to draw the obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - I wholeheartedly agree. Very well worded. Consider it stolen, yet I will give you full credit. :-)

David S. - I can rule obstruction but only protected to 2nd, she is not getting 3rd.


Michael Leavitt - And by the way, thanks to all of you for carrying on an intelligent discussion without any personal attacks. These are real life scenarios that need intelligent experienced umpires to discuss. It certainly helps broaden my understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss!


Rusty S. - The baserunner clearly initiated contact with the defensive player at 2nd base by extending her left arm, it didn't appear that it was done due to the defender impeding or obstructing her from rounding 2nd base. If I'm umpiring this game I've got the lead runner tagged out. No obstruction.

Keith J. - DITTO!!!!


David S. - I have obstruction but I certainly don’t protect her to 3rd. What makes the coach and runner think she automatically gets awarded 3rd, when there is no chance she could get there if no obstruction.

Michael M. - David S., How in the world do u have obstruction?

Bret S. - Then you’d put her back on second base?

Michael Leavitt - David S., they just wanted her to be placed safely back at second. Nobody expected her to be awarded third base. Time had expired and she was the potential game-winning run. They were hoping for obstruction, and possibly some type of overthrow that would allow her to score, and at the very least be placed back at second. Much to their dismay, she was out and the batter-runner was now standing on second.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt so if you DID call obstruction. Did she get obstructed to second or from 2nd to 3rd? And lets just say if the shortstop threw to first and it was an errant throw because of the chicken wing in the back she would be out for interference.

David S. - Michael M., in my judgment she was obstructed because the fielder did not have the ball and hindered the runner from obtaining any part of the base she wanted to use, I really don't see interference by the so called "chicken wing" as I don't see any contact. It also doesn't look like she is sticking it out there for contact. Again, my judgment. Now you might see something different and that is your judgment. Now, she is only going to be protected to 2nd, so when she continued to 3rd, she puts herself in jeopardy of being put out, which she was.

David S. - Pausing the video repeatedly shows that the runner was hindered from using the inside corner of the base, therefore obstruction! But only protected to 2nd.

Obs 01

 Obs 02

Logan B. - Based on the video, I do not have obstruction

Rick W. - Runner trying to create false obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Does that qualify for RS #49? Does this violate the values of softball competition based upon good sporting behavior and fair play, that includes coaching tactics that endanger the safety of players?

Rick W. - I would say yes. I have watched this tactic used the last couple of years. I issued warnings so it would stop. Elbowing defense while rounding bases is not obstruction, but rather malicious contact. Stop or face ejection. It stops!


John S. - I don't have obstruction


Orvin W. - In my opinion, from the PU’s camera angle, it looks like she was about to attempt a slide into 2b but probably heard her coach say 3 and tried to cut the base tight to make it there. However, I don’t have an obstruction call from this view because nothing stops her path onto 3b from his angle. Besides, the PU has the lead runner anyway.

The BU’s camera angle may not have her making the attempt to slide but her inside arm was trying to make contact with the defense. The contact didn’t disrupt her path plus the defense was playing it as a force play so no obstruction call from his view. Her foot being on the bag didn’t block the entire bag to touch. Run down tag for an out on R1 and B2 is safe at 2B.


Dave B. - In my judgment, I did not see the runner become hindered by the defensive player without the ball. No obstruction, out.

Mike R. - Tell me, Dave, when you played did you intentionally turn a base in any way other than using the inside corner?

Dave B. - Yes. I’d have to see a little more than this, though. I just don’t see obstruction on this play. We can disagree on this one. That won’t bother me.


FB LINK

 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


ML2014JULY 25, 2019 - I shared a video online regarding a play at second base in a recent USA Softball tournament game with older high school varsity aged girls. I was taken by surprise at the time that it took place, but I have had several days and nights to rethink about the play and the coaching tactics that brought it about. Being caught off guard, I was then being played by the coaches and the runner as they attempted to get an obstruction call from my partner and I on the field. Let me first state that I do not like being played as a fool, and I do not appreciate coaching tactics meant to manipulate the game by deception. I deem this poor sportsmanship and will strive to be right on top of this type of play in my future years of umpiring.

The video quickly inspired a lengthy discussion online amongst some very seasoned umpires from across the country. The video received over 1,500 views, mainly on private Facebook groups. In the private softball umpire forum world, that is considered a viral video. I have copied the transcript of discussions, and removed the last names of those sharing their insights. The information, reaction, and insights they share are priceless to me as I mentally form my actions for  future encounters with this coaching tactic.

I encourage those of you that are interested to watch the video. Those of you who want to become better informed can then delve into the long transcript below...

Obstruction YT Play

CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO


OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND

SCENARIO - Potential game-winning R1 on first with no outs. B2 bunts towards the pitcher who throws to second instead of first. The shortstop is ready to receive the force play throw and R1 is going to be safe. R1 then decides to run full speed through second and onto third. If the throw is in time, then there would be an out at second base. Since the throw is late, at what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction by cutting off the inside turn base path at second base on a force play? Can they be making a force play, like a stretched-out first baseman, and by losing the bang-banger we are forced to call obstruction? And then there is the high school varsity aged player who has apparently been coached to draw the obstruction in this video from Saturday morning... What's your call? Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

RESPONSES

Mike R. - The mere presence of the defender without possession of the ball could be cause for an OBS call

Michael M. - Mike R., the fielder was NOT in the base path

Mike R. - Michael M., The runner owns the base and any path they wish to take. If she wants the inside corner, it is the runner's option

Michael Leavitt - We give a special waiver to the first baseman because runners can run straight through. We add to that the use of a safety base here in Utah. The same type of play at second or third does not have the same protection for a defender, by rule. The issue is that a savvy runner can then exploit a "Safe" call by turning, thus drawing an obstruction and possibly gaining another base. In my opinion, this scenario was never the intent of the obstruction rule. Force play coverage should be ruled a bit differently than tag play coverage.

Michael M. - Runner did not alter her path. Its a judgement call by the BU. No way would that be obstruction in my view. Now if the runner altered in any way and fielder did not have the ball its obstruction

Mike R. - Seems to me the runner had no intention of stopping. Looks like a planned play which means the runner was looking for that corner. But it really doesn't matter, the runner's selected path was blocked by a player not in possession of the ball which is OBS whether you care for the scenario or not.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed, Mike R., but this does not mean that is the intent of the rules committee either. The forearm shove by the runner does not seem to be an issue by those of you commenting so far. We want defensive teams to make close force plays at second and third, and we want runners to be aggressive at those same bases. I feel that there has to be some balance and protections for both the offensive runner and defender on close inside corner force plays. What are your thoughts?

Jay B. - Mike R. you could have that scenario on a close play at first, would you still consider OBS?

Mike R. - Michael Leavitt - I didn't see a shove, or any definitive contact. But would have preferred the runner just run into her? Or maybe a hard pop-up slide in anticipation of advancing?

Mike R. - Jay B. - It is not at 1st

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt we absolutely give no waiver to F3. Where did you read that?

Jay B. - Mike R. it’s a question, if a slapper decides round first and to go to second (instead of running through the base) before the F3 catches the throw, would you consider OBS.

Joe W. - Jay B. did F3 have the ball when she hindered the slapper?

Jay B. - Joe W. - I’m just putting this out there because I think you could have the scenario posted in the OP happen at first. So, no, F3 would be waiting to receive the ball

Joe W. - Jay B. a defender without the ball(and not making an initial play on a batted ball) hindered the batter/runner? That is OBS.

Jay B. - Joe W. I could see this starting a trend, and not a good one

Joe W. - Jay B. the trend of umpires doing as we are told?

Jay B. - Joe W. no, the trend of base coaches trying to test the limits of the rule. How many times do you see a runner beat a throw by a step or even two, now you could have a smart coach telling the runner to go to 2. Just saying

Joe W. - Jay B. we need to be cognizant of the schemes of coaches and players but, we must call the game by the rules.

David S. - Mike R. - so would you award her 3rd base? I wouldn’t! No way was she going to achieve 3rd base without obstruction!

David S. - We might not like the scenario but the coach and runner won’t like my ruling either. Obstruction and runner went beyond where I had her protected and now she is out! NO WAY AM I PROTECTING HER TO 3rd!


Michael M. - It doesn't look to me that the base runner changed paths. If your running full speed you would round the bag around the shortstop anyway. I do not see obstruction there

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - There is a forearm shove that displaces the shortstop. There is most definitely contact on this play. Contact equals being hindered.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt - no way. She extended her arm. Did not have to.

Michael M. - You cant ASSume she wanted the inside. She was not hindered. You could also say Maybe she would have been out if she didn't shove the fielder

Michael Leavitt - Michael M., there is no argument from me. But you could argue that the runner is hindered if they do not have the full area on either side of the bag as a potential chosen base path. The runner was not obstructed here, in this video. The runner initiated unnecessary contact with the fielder. The player hindered was the defensive player that was unnecessarily touched by the runner and interference could be a justified call. I made a safe call with nothing further and then the PU called her out near third base. I was not mentally ready to explain a "no obstruction" call and ensuing explanation with the coach. Why? This play strategy caught me totally off guard. Hearing Joe Joe M Elking call it the Kansas City Steal was intriguing, and I will forever be looking for it the next time I have a bunter with a runner on first. My vow... No more surprises! :-)

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt, you cant ASSume that the runner would run inside. And the defensive player was well inside. No way in this scenario. Not even close.

Michael M. - Hindered. Would mean she altered her path. That clearly did not happen

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - The logical path is the most inside corner of the base. That is why we have our arms up 10 times a game in 12U ball when a first, second, or third baseman is standing there on their base when there is no play and the runner is coming by. The fact that the fielder is there on the inside path when the runner is running by is obstruction. I do not think that you and I are in complete disagreement. Surely we agree that the shortest legal base running distance from first to third is by way of the innermost corner of second base, right. Experienced players are going to choose that path every time and experienced fielders would like to get them to swing wider so that it takes longer to get to third. So just because we do not see a veer in the runner's path just before the base, that decision may have been made 45 feet earlier as the play is developing. But the smart fielder in the video was not taking away the inside path. She gave plenty of room for the run by and did not deserve a forearm to her back by the runner. Would you ever call interference on a play like this, where no contact is warranted?

Michael M. - Lol. I think we both agree. Like Joe said. I think it was Joe. 999 times out of 100. You don't overrun second base when the ball is being thrown there. You run hard and slide to stop you. The fielder can't possibly play their spot on a force play in any other position. You can't expect them to put a foot on the center field side of the base nor wait till they catch it and then “find” the bag. Lol


Bret S. - At what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction? At the point where she is not in possession of the ball and she impedes or hinders the runner.

Michael M. - Bret S., even watching all the slow motion. The runner did not alter paths and fielder did not hinder. No way is this obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Bret S., the taking away of the inside base path on a close force play called safe immediately leaves us with obstruction. Yet, called out there is nothing. And in this video, you see the runner purposefully take their left forearm and initiate contact and displace the shortstop to make sure she has an obstruction call. Is this what we want to promote? At what point do we go the other way and call malicious contact?

Kelly Z. - If the shortstop initiated the contact (without possession of the ball), you could have an argument in favor of obstruction. In this scenario, I see the runner initiating contact. I'm not calling obstruction unless an action by the defense hindered the runner in some way. On this play, I have no obstruction.

Bret S. - Michael Leavitt I didn’t offer an opinion of this specific play. I just answered the question that you posed in your post. You seem to want to add a lot of “ifs and maybes” into this call, even going so far as questioning “the rule committee’s intentions”. Why not just apply the rule as it’s written? Did the fielder have the ball? Did she impede or hinder the runner?

Bret S. - Michael M. - Again, I wasn’t offering an opinion on this specific play. If that’s your judgment, then that’s your judgment. I don’t have an issue with that.


Keith W. - Never obstruction. This is clearly a designed play. Running through the base is faster than sliding in, so she has been coached to run through on a close play and try to earn the base via an obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - In my mind, this creates a very dangerous situation for defenders. If they stretch out to try to win a banger at second or third, then they obstruct by eliminating the inside corner. If they opt to be far enough inside to catch the ball and then get their leg and foot over to touch the bag, then they will never have a banger or a force out on a close play. This is a quandary for me and not a clear cut ruling. I see a huge difference between a force play obstruction and a tag play obstruction when dealing with inside corner positioning.

Mike R. - IMJ (In My Judgement), She didn't "run through" but making a planned turn. For that matter, she actually moved her path to the right of the base in anticipation of making the turn. And if the intent was to draw an OBS, why not take the turn and run into the defender?

Keith W. - If that is the case (we would be supposing then that she has no idea the play is coming to second base) then she could bowl over any shortstop trying to make a play on the runner.

In my opinion, that is not the intent of the rule.

We are viewing the situation differently, but that, of course does happen. As a defensive coach I would definitely not be happy with your ruling, haha.

Joe W. - Keith W. - The intent of the rule cannot be the opposite of what it says.

Keith W. - The intent of the rule is to keep defensive players from hindering the offense’s progress around the bases. The intent of the rule is not to force the defense to catch the ball and then run to the base after.

Keith W. - Mike R. - So are you arguing that she should have been coached better to barrel into the defender, or are you arguing that she moved her path to round the base and only wanted the obstruction when she knew she was dead to rights?

Keith W. - Also, for what it’s worth, the shortstop clearly takes a step in front of the base to catch the ball, clearing the bag anyway.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - It is interesting that the fielder did everything they were supposed to do on this play, and that is why nothing really registered when it happened. I was shocked that the runner continued towards third. Her continued actions flushed my mental hard drive of her running by second and I was at a real loss when obstruction was later being demanded. The offense didn't get their wish, yet went on to score the bunter on the very next play to win the game. As I left the field, it was under the cloud of a missed call on a play that did not happen the way they prefer to remember it happening. But not to worry, I will be sharing with them the video excerpt and it should be a fun and short discussion.

Keith W. - Michael Leavitt - If this thread, which has exploded in an hour on a Monday morning, is any indication, the discussion won’t be short.

Mike R. - Keith W. - The intent is to keep the defense from hindering a runner/batter-runner anywhere on the field. And stepping out of the way at the last second to not negate the OBS. And, BTW, at no point did I suggest barreling into anyone.

Keith W. - I apologize for using a little reducto ad absurdum into my argument. It wasn’t helpful. But, what is a reasonable amount of time that we need to allow the shortstop here to make a decision as to whether she has a force play on the runner coming into second base?

In my judgment, she makes that decision and clears the base as soon as she realizes the play will be late. Is she still guilty of obstruction here?


Patrick S. - I see no obstruction here. I saw the fielder go inside the diamond 2-3’ and the runner trying to get an obstruction call by throwing out her arm.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed.


Jim R. - The runner threw a forearm at the defender. I’m calling her out for interference. The spirit and intent of the rule is very clear. I am also telling the coach if that happens again, he will be ejected.

Patrick S. - Jim R., there’s no interference here.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - You would be mistaken. Since the runner and coach have indicated there was contact by their obstruction signal, I’ll go with that. The fielder was making a play and the runner intentionally made contact. If you let that go you are legitimizing the teams actions. I assume you are a coach Patrick.

Patrick S. - Jim R. -You know what happens when you assume? Attempting to interfere is not interference unless they actually interfere.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I assume nothing. The player admitted she made contact. She threw a wing and made contact. I can’t ASSUME it did not hinder or impede the fielder. The runner caused the infraction and gets no potential advantage from her foul play. I don’t even understand your defending of the play.

Patrick S. - Jim R. - You said you assume I’m a coach, then you say you assume nothing. Hmm. I’m not condemning or defending the play. I’m calling what’s in front of me. No obstruction, runner is out on the tag.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - That’s ok. When I was your age I thought I knew everything too. You’re kinda funny.

Patrick S. - Jim R., I know I don’t know everything. But this is a no brainer. It can’t be interference, there was no play to interfere with.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I’ve forgotten more than you know

Patrick S. - Jim R. -Do you really have to make personal attacks? You can’t keep it about the facts? You must’ve forgotten this part then.


Michael Leavitt - I was not expecting this to occur. I was initially planning on a call at first base. Obviously, I followed the ball, or my GoPro on my hat would not have caught the action. The run through call was easy with "Safe" at second. The continued running surprised me and it led to the timeout call near third. Then the throw back to second left me calling another safe. When the action stopped I did not even realize where the coach and runner wanted the obstruction call. My PU was screened by a fielder and had no view of second base. I did not rule obstruction and I did not realize that the runner initiated contact while rounding the base. When I went back and watched the backstop view it looks like a rather nothing play at second. The closer view from my hat shows the details I missed during the play. This leads to the bigger philosophical scenario questions regarding force play coverage and forearm shoves.


Joe W. - I could not call OBS from this video. However, if the runner was impeded by the player without the ball-ie she had to take extra steps to run around her, then it would be OBS. It is too hard to tell from the video.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I agree, in this video. The coaches were very upset and treated it as though the fielder was closer and taking away the inside corner base path. This leads the discussion regarding where the line is drawn on inside corner force play coverage at second and third.

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, the line is very clear. A fielder(not in possession of the ball & not making an initial play on a batter ball) who hinders or impedes a runner is guilty of OBS.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Yes, I know the rule. Is the fielder with their foot touching the inside corner of second or third, stretched out to receive a thrown ball, hindering or impeding the runner?

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, she sure could be. The runner gets to go where she wants to go.

Keith W. - Joe W. - The rule is very clear but the judgment aspect of what constitutes the runner being hindered/impeded is not. Ultimately, as umpires we need to be able to clearly and consistently enforce the rules, and if there are umpires that would call this specific play obstruction, then we need to be able to explain why.

Joe W. - Keith W. - "Coach, the runner was obstructed by your fielder who did not have possession of the ball"

Keith W. - We all know how to explain obstruction to a coach. We all know what obstruction is. You’ve said elsewhere that you would not call obstruction based on the video evidence of this play, but are adamantly arguing for it being called if the runner is impeded or hindered. I have no issue with that. Nobody does.

You are now intentionally conflating arguments and oversimplifying the situation.

The post is asking two related questions:

  • 1. Does this play constitute obstruction? You stated (elsewhere) no.
  • 2. (Philosophically) Should it be obstruction any time a runner chooses a path around a base and narrowly beats a bang-bang force play, because, by definition of “safe,” the fielder did not have the ball when the runner reached second? You seem to be stating yes.

Joe W. - Keith W. - 1) I cannot tell what happened at 2nd base here. I'm not saying that it wasn't OBS. 2) about to receive a throw or making a play on a throw are not exceptions to the OBS rule.

Keith W. - Re: #2, the aspects of the obstruction rule are understood.

You didn’t answer the question as asked.

Joe W. - Keith W., #2 sounds like OBS to me. Is there some reason that you think it shouldn't be?

Keith W. - It disincentivizes and even punishes a team for trying to make any close play on a runner.

Joe W. - Keith W. - Ask them to change the rule.

Keith W. - Can you reconcile for me how you can take a firm stance on #2 but cannot take any stance at all on the video presented in this post?
After you do that, I think we are probably done here. We are just going in circles at this point.

Joe W. - Keith The video is not clear enough for me to see what happened. Or, my monitor is not good enough ;-)

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Did you watch the second half of the video? Some of the earlier posters did not. The far away backstop view does little to help. My hat-cam view reveals a lot. But maybe you need a bigger monitor, too. :-)

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, I could see that being called either way. It is very close. You were there, I'll go with what you called.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I was caught by surprise. That is my fault. I was not on top of what happened mentally. I NEVER want to be in that frame of mind again on this play. Discussing this today, with all of you, will arm me with the tools, skills, and understanding when I see this again... And you just know it is waiting to spring itself into my game again before the year is over. :-) Thanks again for the feedback!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, and the next one will be different

Bob R. - Great videos. Dang coaches or parents teach these kids this type of ugly ball. I usually look for that at first but I see second will get my eye a little longer.


Patrick S. - This is not a good play to ask this question. If the throw is slightly late, and the runner is safe, but certainly would be out if she rounded and were tagged, are we calling obstruction?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - No obstruction registered in my mind at the time of the play, but by the time it was over my mind was already reworking and changing what might have happened. By the time I walked off the field I was wondering just what actually happened. Rewatching the film made me realize that the coaches were taking advantage of the situation and hoping I would give them a call that wasn't really there. I was being played, yet I knew I could review it in video and see the realities... Unfortunately, I now know that it was a designed play and their disgust for the missed call was unsubstantiated.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - But, designed play or not. If the runner were safe on the force but would certainly be dead out if she rounded, do we call the obstruction if she’s hindered while rounding?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - Good question. Can she be there in a low stretched-out position and not obstruct the rounding? I can imagine a situation where there is no hindrance or impedance of the runner. At the same time, you could make the stand that just her foot being there takes away the runner's foot placement on the ground just inside the bag as she runs by with just her side of the foot touching the base. The truth is that we want the defense to go for this force out and we also want the offense to not be obstructed.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt but even with obstruction, I’m only awarding second base so what’s the point?

Keith W. - Patrick S. - The offensive team wants the obstruction call on this play when the throw goes to first (as it most often does) and they can argue that the runner would have made it to third safely (with one out in this case).

Which is why, along with what appears to be intentional contact initiated by the runner, it always seemed like a designed play to me. The throw just went to second instead of first, which complicated the scheme.

Patrick S. - Keith Williams - In a two-man crew, if the throw does go to first, no one-s focus is really going to be on this. PU does have the touch, but also has running lane.

Keith W. - Patrick S. - True, but that doesn’t mean the offensive team can’t try.

Patrick S. - Keith W. - If I think they’re trying to draw an obstruction call, they are getting very little leeway.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - When does it cross into interference/out for you? I am wavering on this one and would love your seasoned perspective. I warn younger USA Softball teams to not initiate contact to get their obstruction call. Coaches seem to be coaching the girls to make sure there is contact so that they can get the call. This creates unnecessary contact and can cause injury. Does this "chicken wing" cross over into interference for you? What are your thoughts?

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - There would have to be interference in order to call it. The offense would have had to hinder the defenses opportunity to get an out. There would have to be an out to get.

David S. - Keith W., they can “argue” all they want, she is NOT protected to 3rd!


Joe M. - In watching the play the runner sticks her arm out to make contact to get an obstruction call. No obstruction your out

Patrick S. - Joe M., you can’t call interference if interference didn’t occur.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - I think Joe Meyer is referring to the runner going out of her way to initiate the contact as she runs by the defender. There was contact and displacement.

Joe M. - Michael Leavitt that would be correct. You can’t reward someone for sticking out their chicken wing to creat contact.

Patrick S. - Joe M., true, but you can’t call interference if she didn’t interfere. I saw slight contact, but nothing that kept F6 from making a play.

Patrick S. - Joe M., unless I misunderstood and you were just saying let the out stand.

Michael Leavitt - Is sticking her with a slight "chicken wing" as she runs by malicious contact and worthy of ejection? Wait, there is no "malicious contact" verbiage in USA Softball. Is it worthy of interference and just being called out? RS#33 says that "Interference is the act of an offensive player or team member that impedes, hinders, or confuses a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Interference may be in the form of physical contact, verbal distraction, visual distraction, or any type of distraction that hundred a fielder in the execution of a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field or throw the ball without being hindered."This certainly does not limit interference to fielding a batted ball. That is pretty strong verbiage to justify calling an out for the "chicken wing" contact in the defender's back... Good call, Joe Meyer!

Joe M. - Patrick S., that is correct the out stands. There was no interference and any chance of obstruction was initiated by the offensive player. So don’t reward her for it. She bumps the defensive player to get an obstruction call and even holds her arm out to sell it to umpires. Then goes on to third thinking she won’t be called out.

Mike R. - Joe M., the runner initiated OBS because she wanted the inside corner of the base?


Craig B. - I think no call is the clear correct decision on this specific play. They obviously had a play called that didn’t go as planned because F1 chose to try to make a play at 2nd instead of taking the out at 1st. The Offense didn’t account for that possibility and got burned for it. I would also point out that I think R1 clearly left early on this pitch as well.

Joe W. - What play do you think they had planned? Running to 3rd?

David S. - If that was their plan it wouldn’t work on me. I do see some hindering but if I call obstruction she is NOT going to be awarded 3rd. That’s her decision to go beyond the protected base and therefore in jeopardy


Joe E. - Joe W., this play is known as the Kansas City Steal, old dogs like myself taught this to our players because most umpires don't enforce the obstruction

Keith J. - Looking at the video I am trying to see where the obstruction occurred on the 2nd baseman/SS. The base runner makes contact with the player about to receive the ball. So how do you get an obstruction on the defense. If anything you could almost get interference on the offense.

Joe W. - Keith a fielder without the ball (and not making an initial play on a batted ball) cannot hinder or impede a runner.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - And a runner cannot interfere with a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field. Interference trumps obstruction.... BTW, where is "field the ball" defined in the rule book. This includes a batted ball, but does this also include catching a thrown ball? If so, then we should be talking a lot more about interference and not just stopping with the definition of obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - Michael no, it does not include thrown ball.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., Reference? The Rules Supplement does not specify the initial play on a batted ball. It includes fielding the ball. Where is this defined?

Joe W. - Michael

JoeW 01

Michael Leavitt - That helps define obstruction, but does little to help define "field the ball" when dealing with interference. RS #33 is not limited by a batted ball. It deals with a fielder "attempting to execute a play".

Keith J. - Joe W., where did she impede the runner? Hence me asking, again, where is the obstruction??

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, "fielding" is never used(to my knowledge) to describe catching a thrown ball.

Joe E. - Michael Leavitt, I think that is where the umpire's judgement takes precedence

Joe E. - Keith J., I can't make out the obstruction or interference from video, without the ability to zoom in

Keith J. - Joe W., the defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. And as you see in this video, as defense is awaiting to "receive" the "thrown ball" the runner makes contact with her forearm. Now, did this cause any issues with receiving the throw? Does not look like but I can tell you I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Keith J. - Joe E., you can see the forearm of the runner make slight contact. But again, I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - "The defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. " Nope. The defense has zero right to impede or hinder a runner in order to try to catch a thrown ball. The rule is worded very clearly-the exception that you are making is one that you are making. The rule disagrees with you.

Keith J. - Where is the runner impeded????

Michael Leavitt - Joe E., - Did you watch the last half of the video?... It is pretty zoomed up.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., as with every USA Softball formal ruling I have received from Kevin Ryan, it rarely involves one rule location to support the ruling. Instead, multiple rule locations are used to help paint the fuller picture. The logic is that the rule book would be too big if they dealt with every item, in full, in each portion of the rule book. I have learned to be cautious of myopically focusing in on one sentence or one reference. Instead, I have had to be pliable and allow multiple rules being referenced to get the final call correct. I always come back to try to determine how the rules making body of the game I am officiating want me to rule on any given play. It is not always as black and white as you like to infer. We often deal in shades of gray and tend to overuse the phrase, "in my judgment" to sound assertive and confident. I would rather say, "Kevin Ryan and the rules making committee has determined that....." Just my thoughts!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt It isn't always black and white. But, OBS is black and white. The fielder either has the ball or doesn't. The folks who want to make exception on the bases would(hopefully) not give the same exception to the catcher.

David S. - It’s easier than everyone is making it. 1. She is safe at2nd. 2. If there is obstruction called (umpire judgment) then why would any umpire protect her to 3rd? 3. Therefore if thrown out at 3rd, she is now out! End of discussion with coach

Joe W. - David 3) you would put her back on 2nd


Clinton K. - I have no obstruction.

  • No change of path
  • Path took her too outside bag
  • Forearm tried to create contact
  • Smart runner
  • This is a tough one

Manny A. - Hold on a second here. I'm not going to read all of the previous posts, but in some of them, it appears umpires want to rule obstruction if F4 or F6 is set up for a force play by keeping her foot on the bag while stretching toward F1 to receive the throw, and this is deemed to be obstruction if she doesn't have the ball the split second before R1 wants to use the inside corner of the base to keep going to third base??

C'mon folks, you're requiring the fielder (either F4 or F6) to not play her position properly. Are you really expecting the fielder on a routine force play to not put her foot on the bag until she actually has the ball, in the off-chance that the oncoming runner who 999 times out of 1000 is going to slide directly into the base to beat the throw may just this one time decide to round the bag and keep going to third base? I don't buy that at all.

If that were the case, just like others have indicated here, then we can expect an obstruction call at first base if the BR decides to round the bag as F3 is waiting for the throw to first. This is not how the game is supposed to be played. This, to me, is a runner deviating her expected path to draw an obstruction call instead of attempting to get to the base safely. No runner in their right mind rounds a base as the ball is being thrown to that base for a force play or play on the BR unless they are doing something with intent to draw the obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - I wholeheartedly agree. Very well worded. Consider it stolen, yet I will give you full credit. :-)

David S. - I can rule obstruction but only protected to 2nd, she is not getting 3rd.


Michael Leavitt - And by the way, thanks to all of you for carrying on an intelligent discussion without any personal attacks. These are real life scenarios that need intelligent experienced umpires to discuss. It certainly helps broaden my understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss!


Rusty S. - The baserunner clearly initiated contact with the defensive player at 2nd base by extending her left arm, it didn't appear that it was done due to the defender impeding or obstructing her from rounding 2nd base. If I'm umpiring this game I've got the lead runner tagged out. No obstruction.

Keith J. - DITTO!!!!


David S. - I have obstruction but I certainly don’t protect her to 3rd. What makes the coach and runner think she automatically gets awarded 3rd, when there is no chance she could get there if no obstruction.

Michael M. - David S., How in the world do u have obstruction?

Bret S. - Then you’d put her back on second base?

Michael Leavitt - David S., they just wanted her to be placed safely back at second. Nobody expected her to be awarded third base. Time had expired and she was the potential game-winning run. They were hoping for obstruction, and possibly some type of overthrow that would allow her to score, and at the very least be placed back at second. Much to their dismay, she was out and the batter-runner was now standing on second.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt so if you DID call obstruction. Did she get obstructed to second or from 2nd to 3rd? And lets just say if the shortstop threw to first and it was an errant throw because of the chicken wing in the back she would be out for interference.

David S. - Michael M., in my judgment she was obstructed because the fielder did not have the ball and hindered the runner from obtaining any part of the base she wanted to use, I really don't see interference by the so called "chicken wing" as I don't see any contact. It also doesn't look like she is sticking it out there for contact. Again, my judgment. Now you might see something different and that is your judgment. Now, she is only going to be protected to 2nd, so when she continued to 3rd, she puts herself in jeopardy of being put out, which she was.

David S. - Pausing the video repeatedly shows that the runner was hindered from using the inside corner of the base, therefore obstruction! But only protected to 2nd.

Obs 01

 Obs 02

Logan B. - Based on the video, I do not have obstruction

Rick W. - Runner trying to create false obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Does that qualify for RS #49? Does this violate the values of softball competition based upon good sporting behavior and fair play, that includes coaching tactics that endanger the safety of players?

Rick W. - I would say yes. I have watched this tactic used the last couple of years. I issued warnings so it would stop. Elbowing defense while rounding bases is not obstruction, but rather malicious contact. Stop or face ejection. It stops!


John S. - I don't have obstruction


Orvin W. - In my opinion, from the PU’s camera angle, it looks like she was about to attempt a slide into 2b but probably heard her coach say 3 and tried to cut the base tight to make it there. However, I don’t have an obstruction call from this view because nothing stops her path onto 3b from his angle. Besides, the PU has the lead runner anyway.

The BU’s camera angle may not have her making the attempt to slide but her inside arm was trying to make contact with the defense. The contact didn’t disrupt her path plus the defense was playing it as a force play so no obstruction call from his view. Her foot being on the bag didn’t block the entire bag to touch. Run down tag for an out on R1 and B2 is safe at 2B.


Dave B. - In my judgment, I did not see the runner become hindered by the defensive player without the ball. No obstruction, out.

Mike R. - Tell me, Dave, when you played did you intentionally turn a base in any way other than using the inside corner?

Dave B. - Yes. I’d have to see a little more than this, though. I just don’t see obstruction on this play. We can disagree on this one. That won’t bother me.


FB LINK

 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


ML2014JULY 25, 2019 - I shared a video online regarding a play at second base in a recent USA Softball tournament game with older high school varsity aged girls. I was taken by surprise at the time that it took place, but I have had several days and nights to rethink about the play and the coaching tactics that brought it about. Being caught off guard, I was then being played by the coaches and the runner as they attempted to get an obstruction call from my partner and I on the field. Let me first state that I do not like being played as a fool, and I do not appreciate coaching tactics meant to manipulate the game by deception. I deem this poor sportsmanship and will strive to be right on top of this type of play in my future years of umpiring.

The video quickly inspired a lengthy discussion online amongst some very seasoned umpires from across the country. The video received over 1,500 views, mainly on private Facebook groups. In the private softball umpire forum world, that is considered a viral video. I have copied the transcript of discussions, and removed the last names of those sharing their insights. The information, reaction, and insights they share are priceless to me as I mentally form my actions for  future encounters with this coaching tactic.

I encourage those of you that are interested to watch the video. Those of you who want to become better informed can then delve into the long transcript below...

Obstruction YT Play

CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO


OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND

SCENARIO - Potential game-winning R1 on first with no outs. B2 bunts towards the pitcher who throws to second instead of first. The shortstop is ready to receive the force play throw and R1 is going to be safe. R1 then decides to run full speed through second and onto third. If the throw is in time, then there would be an out at second base. Since the throw is late, at what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction by cutting off the inside turn base path at second base on a force play? Can they be making a force play, like a stretched-out first baseman, and by losing the bang-banger we are forced to call obstruction? And then there is the high school varsity aged player who has apparently been coached to draw the obstruction in this video from Saturday morning... What's your call? Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

RESPONSES

Mike R. - The mere presence of the defender without possession of the ball could be cause for an OBS call

Michael M. - Mike R., the fielder was NOT in the base path

Mike R. - Michael M., The runner owns the base and any path they wish to take. If she wants the inside corner, it is the runner's option

Michael Leavitt - We give a special waiver to the first baseman because runners can run straight through. We add to that the use of a safety base here in Utah. The same type of play at second or third does not have the same protection for a defender, by rule. The issue is that a savvy runner can then exploit a "Safe" call by turning, thus drawing an obstruction and possibly gaining another base. In my opinion, this scenario was never the intent of the obstruction rule. Force play coverage should be ruled a bit differently than tag play coverage.

Michael M. - Runner did not alter her path. Its a judgement call by the BU. No way would that be obstruction in my view. Now if the runner altered in any way and fielder did not have the ball its obstruction

Mike R. - Seems to me the runner had no intention of stopping. Looks like a planned play which means the runner was looking for that corner. But it really doesn't matter, the runner's selected path was blocked by a player not in possession of the ball which is OBS whether you care for the scenario or not.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed, Mike R., but this does not mean that is the intent of the rules committee either. The forearm shove by the runner does not seem to be an issue by those of you commenting so far. We want defensive teams to make close force plays at second and third, and we want runners to be aggressive at those same bases. I feel that there has to be some balance and protections for both the offensive runner and defender on close inside corner force plays. What are your thoughts?

Jay B. - Mike R. you could have that scenario on a close play at first, would you still consider OBS?

Mike R. - Michael Leavitt - I didn't see a shove, or any definitive contact. But would have preferred the runner just run into her? Or maybe a hard pop-up slide in anticipation of advancing?

Mike R. - Jay B. - It is not at 1st

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt we absolutely give no waiver to F3. Where did you read that?

Jay B. - Mike R. it’s a question, if a slapper decides round first and to go to second (instead of running through the base) before the F3 catches the throw, would you consider OBS.

Joe W. - Jay B. did F3 have the ball when she hindered the slapper?

Jay B. - Joe W. - I’m just putting this out there because I think you could have the scenario posted in the OP happen at first. So, no, F3 would be waiting to receive the ball

Joe W. - Jay B. a defender without the ball(and not making an initial play on a batted ball) hindered the batter/runner? That is OBS.

Jay B. - Joe W. I could see this starting a trend, and not a good one

Joe W. - Jay B. the trend of umpires doing as we are told?

Jay B. - Joe W. no, the trend of base coaches trying to test the limits of the rule. How many times do you see a runner beat a throw by a step or even two, now you could have a smart coach telling the runner to go to 2. Just saying

Joe W. - Jay B. we need to be cognizant of the schemes of coaches and players but, we must call the game by the rules.

David S. - Mike R. - so would you award her 3rd base? I wouldn’t! No way was she going to achieve 3rd base without obstruction!

David S. - We might not like the scenario but the coach and runner won’t like my ruling either. Obstruction and runner went beyond where I had her protected and now she is out! NO WAY AM I PROTECTING HER TO 3rd!


Michael M. - It doesn't look to me that the base runner changed paths. If your running full speed you would round the bag around the shortstop anyway. I do not see obstruction there

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - There is a forearm shove that displaces the shortstop. There is most definitely contact on this play. Contact equals being hindered.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt - no way. She extended her arm. Did not have to.

Michael M. - You cant ASSume she wanted the inside. She was not hindered. You could also say Maybe she would have been out if she didn't shove the fielder

Michael Leavitt - Michael M., there is no argument from me. But you could argue that the runner is hindered if they do not have the full area on either side of the bag as a potential chosen base path. The runner was not obstructed here, in this video. The runner initiated unnecessary contact with the fielder. The player hindered was the defensive player that was unnecessarily touched by the runner and interference could be a justified call. I made a safe call with nothing further and then the PU called her out near third base. I was not mentally ready to explain a "no obstruction" call and ensuing explanation with the coach. Why? This play strategy caught me totally off guard. Hearing Joe Joe M Elking call it the Kansas City Steal was intriguing, and I will forever be looking for it the next time I have a bunter with a runner on first. My vow... No more surprises! :-)

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt, you cant ASSume that the runner would run inside. And the defensive player was well inside. No way in this scenario. Not even close.

Michael M. - Hindered. Would mean she altered her path. That clearly did not happen

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - The logical path is the most inside corner of the base. That is why we have our arms up 10 times a game in 12U ball when a first, second, or third baseman is standing there on their base when there is no play and the runner is coming by. The fact that the fielder is there on the inside path when the runner is running by is obstruction. I do not think that you and I are in complete disagreement. Surely we agree that the shortest legal base running distance from first to third is by way of the innermost corner of second base, right. Experienced players are going to choose that path every time and experienced fielders would like to get them to swing wider so that it takes longer to get to third. So just because we do not see a veer in the runner's path just before the base, that decision may have been made 45 feet earlier as the play is developing. But the smart fielder in the video was not taking away the inside path. She gave plenty of room for the run by and did not deserve a forearm to her back by the runner. Would you ever call interference on a play like this, where no contact is warranted?

Michael M. - Lol. I think we both agree. Like Joe said. I think it was Joe. 999 times out of 100. You don't overrun second base when the ball is being thrown there. You run hard and slide to stop you. The fielder can't possibly play their spot on a force play in any other position. You can't expect them to put a foot on the center field side of the base nor wait till they catch it and then “find” the bag. Lol


Bret S. - At what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction? At the point where she is not in possession of the ball and she impedes or hinders the runner.

Michael M. - Bret S., even watching all the slow motion. The runner did not alter paths and fielder did not hinder. No way is this obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Bret S., the taking away of the inside base path on a close force play called safe immediately leaves us with obstruction. Yet, called out there is nothing. And in this video, you see the runner purposefully take their left forearm and initiate contact and displace the shortstop to make sure she has an obstruction call. Is this what we want to promote? At what point do we go the other way and call malicious contact?

Kelly Z. - If the shortstop initiated the contact (without possession of the ball), you could have an argument in favor of obstruction. In this scenario, I see the runner initiating contact. I'm not calling obstruction unless an action by the defense hindered the runner in some way. On this play, I have no obstruction.

Bret S. - Michael Leavitt I didn’t offer an opinion of this specific play. I just answered the question that you posed in your post. You seem to want to add a lot of “ifs and maybes” into this call, even going so far as questioning “the rule committee’s intentions”. Why not just apply the rule as it’s written? Did the fielder have the ball? Did she impede or hinder the runner?

Bret S. - Michael M. - Again, I wasn’t offering an opinion on this specific play. If that’s your judgment, then that’s your judgment. I don’t have an issue with that.


Keith W. - Never obstruction. This is clearly a designed play. Running through the base is faster than sliding in, so she has been coached to run through on a close play and try to earn the base via an obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - In my mind, this creates a very dangerous situation for defenders. If they stretch out to try to win a banger at second or third, then they obstruct by eliminating the inside corner. If they opt to be far enough inside to catch the ball and then get their leg and foot over to touch the bag, then they will never have a banger or a force out on a close play. This is a quandary for me and not a clear cut ruling. I see a huge difference between a force play obstruction and a tag play obstruction when dealing with inside corner positioning.

Mike R. - IMJ (In My Judgement), She didn't "run through" but making a planned turn. For that matter, she actually moved her path to the right of the base in anticipation of making the turn. And if the intent was to draw an OBS, why not take the turn and run into the defender?

Keith W. - If that is the case (we would be supposing then that she has no idea the play is coming to second base) then she could bowl over any shortstop trying to make a play on the runner.

In my opinion, that is not the intent of the rule.

We are viewing the situation differently, but that, of course does happen. As a defensive coach I would definitely not be happy with your ruling, haha.

Joe W. - Keith W. - The intent of the rule cannot be the opposite of what it says.

Keith W. - The intent of the rule is to keep defensive players from hindering the offense’s progress around the bases. The intent of the rule is not to force the defense to catch the ball and then run to the base after.

Keith W. - Mike R. - So are you arguing that she should have been coached better to barrel into the defender, or are you arguing that she moved her path to round the base and only wanted the obstruction when she knew she was dead to rights?

Keith W. - Also, for what it’s worth, the shortstop clearly takes a step in front of the base to catch the ball, clearing the bag anyway.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - It is interesting that the fielder did everything they were supposed to do on this play, and that is why nothing really registered when it happened. I was shocked that the runner continued towards third. Her continued actions flushed my mental hard drive of her running by second and I was at a real loss when obstruction was later being demanded. The offense didn't get their wish, yet went on to score the bunter on the very next play to win the game. As I left the field, it was under the cloud of a missed call on a play that did not happen the way they prefer to remember it happening. But not to worry, I will be sharing with them the video excerpt and it should be a fun and short discussion.

Keith W. - Michael Leavitt - If this thread, which has exploded in an hour on a Monday morning, is any indication, the discussion won’t be short.

Mike R. - Keith W. - The intent is to keep the defense from hindering a runner/batter-runner anywhere on the field. And stepping out of the way at the last second to not negate the OBS. And, BTW, at no point did I suggest barreling into anyone.

Keith W. - I apologize for using a little reducto ad absurdum into my argument. It wasn’t helpful. But, what is a reasonable amount of time that we need to allow the shortstop here to make a decision as to whether she has a force play on the runner coming into second base?

In my judgment, she makes that decision and clears the base as soon as she realizes the play will be late. Is she still guilty of obstruction here?


Patrick S. - I see no obstruction here. I saw the fielder go inside the diamond 2-3’ and the runner trying to get an obstruction call by throwing out her arm.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed.


Jim R. - The runner threw a forearm at the defender. I’m calling her out for interference. The spirit and intent of the rule is very clear. I am also telling the coach if that happens again, he will be ejected.

Patrick S. - Jim R., there’s no interference here.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - You would be mistaken. Since the runner and coach have indicated there was contact by their obstruction signal, I’ll go with that. The fielder was making a play and the runner intentionally made contact. If you let that go you are legitimizing the teams actions. I assume you are a coach Patrick.

Patrick S. - Jim R. -You know what happens when you assume? Attempting to interfere is not interference unless they actually interfere.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I assume nothing. The player admitted she made contact. She threw a wing and made contact. I can’t ASSUME it did not hinder or impede the fielder. The runner caused the infraction and gets no potential advantage from her foul play. I don’t even understand your defending of the play.

Patrick S. - Jim R. - You said you assume I’m a coach, then you say you assume nothing. Hmm. I’m not condemning or defending the play. I’m calling what’s in front of me. No obstruction, runner is out on the tag.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - That’s ok. When I was your age I thought I knew everything too. You’re kinda funny.

Patrick S. - Jim R., I know I don’t know everything. But this is a no brainer. It can’t be interference, there was no play to interfere with.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I’ve forgotten more than you know

Patrick S. - Jim R. -Do you really have to make personal attacks? You can’t keep it about the facts? You must’ve forgotten this part then.


Michael Leavitt - I was not expecting this to occur. I was initially planning on a call at first base. Obviously, I followed the ball, or my GoPro on my hat would not have caught the action. The run through call was easy with "Safe" at second. The continued running surprised me and it led to the timeout call near third. Then the throw back to second left me calling another safe. When the action stopped I did not even realize where the coach and runner wanted the obstruction call. My PU was screened by a fielder and had no view of second base. I did not rule obstruction and I did not realize that the runner initiated contact while rounding the base. When I went back and watched the backstop view it looks like a rather nothing play at second. The closer view from my hat shows the details I missed during the play. This leads to the bigger philosophical scenario questions regarding force play coverage and forearm shoves.


Joe W. - I could not call OBS from this video. However, if the runner was impeded by the player without the ball-ie she had to take extra steps to run around her, then it would be OBS. It is too hard to tell from the video.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I agree, in this video. The coaches were very upset and treated it as though the fielder was closer and taking away the inside corner base path. This leads the discussion regarding where the line is drawn on inside corner force play coverage at second and third.

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, the line is very clear. A fielder(not in possession of the ball & not making an initial play on a batter ball) who hinders or impedes a runner is guilty of OBS.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Yes, I know the rule. Is the fielder with their foot touching the inside corner of second or third, stretched out to receive a thrown ball, hindering or impeding the runner?

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, she sure could be. The runner gets to go where she wants to go.

Keith W. - Joe W. - The rule is very clear but the judgment aspect of what constitutes the runner being hindered/impeded is not. Ultimately, as umpires we need to be able to clearly and consistently enforce the rules, and if there are umpires that would call this specific play obstruction, then we need to be able to explain why.

Joe W. - Keith W. - "Coach, the runner was obstructed by your fielder who did not have possession of the ball"

Keith W. - We all know how to explain obstruction to a coach. We all know what obstruction is. You’ve said elsewhere that you would not call obstruction based on the video evidence of this play, but are adamantly arguing for it being called if the runner is impeded or hindered. I have no issue with that. Nobody does.

You are now intentionally conflating arguments and oversimplifying the situation.

The post is asking two related questions:

  • 1. Does this play constitute obstruction? You stated (elsewhere) no.
  • 2. (Philosophically) Should it be obstruction any time a runner chooses a path around a base and narrowly beats a bang-bang force play, because, by definition of “safe,” the fielder did not have the ball when the runner reached second? You seem to be stating yes.

Joe W. - Keith W. - 1) I cannot tell what happened at 2nd base here. I'm not saying that it wasn't OBS. 2) about to receive a throw or making a play on a throw are not exceptions to the OBS rule.

Keith W. - Re: #2, the aspects of the obstruction rule are understood.

You didn’t answer the question as asked.

Joe W. - Keith W., #2 sounds like OBS to me. Is there some reason that you think it shouldn't be?

Keith W. - It disincentivizes and even punishes a team for trying to make any close play on a runner.

Joe W. - Keith W. - Ask them to change the rule.

Keith W. - Can you reconcile for me how you can take a firm stance on #2 but cannot take any stance at all on the video presented in this post?
After you do that, I think we are probably done here. We are just going in circles at this point.

Joe W. - Keith The video is not clear enough for me to see what happened. Or, my monitor is not good enough ;-)

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Did you watch the second half of the video? Some of the earlier posters did not. The far away backstop view does little to help. My hat-cam view reveals a lot. But maybe you need a bigger monitor, too. :-)

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, I could see that being called either way. It is very close. You were there, I'll go with what you called.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I was caught by surprise. That is my fault. I was not on top of what happened mentally. I NEVER want to be in that frame of mind again on this play. Discussing this today, with all of you, will arm me with the tools, skills, and understanding when I see this again... And you just know it is waiting to spring itself into my game again before the year is over. :-) Thanks again for the feedback!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, and the next one will be different

Bob R. - Great videos. Dang coaches or parents teach these kids this type of ugly ball. I usually look for that at first but I see second will get my eye a little longer.


Patrick S. - This is not a good play to ask this question. If the throw is slightly late, and the runner is safe, but certainly would be out if she rounded and were tagged, are we calling obstruction?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - No obstruction registered in my mind at the time of the play, but by the time it was over my mind was already reworking and changing what might have happened. By the time I walked off the field I was wondering just what actually happened. Rewatching the film made me realize that the coaches were taking advantage of the situation and hoping I would give them a call that wasn't really there. I was being played, yet I knew I could review it in video and see the realities... Unfortunately, I now know that it was a designed play and their disgust for the missed call was unsubstantiated.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - But, designed play or not. If the runner were safe on the force but would certainly be dead out if she rounded, do we call the obstruction if she’s hindered while rounding?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - Good question. Can she be there in a low stretched-out position and not obstruct the rounding? I can imagine a situation where there is no hindrance or impedance of the runner. At the same time, you could make the stand that just her foot being there takes away the runner's foot placement on the ground just inside the bag as she runs by with just her side of the foot touching the base. The truth is that we want the defense to go for this force out and we also want the offense to not be obstructed.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt but even with obstruction, I’m only awarding second base so what’s the point?

Keith W. - Patrick S. - The offensive team wants the obstruction call on this play when the throw goes to first (as it most often does) and they can argue that the runner would have made it to third safely (with one out in this case).

Which is why, along with what appears to be intentional contact initiated by the runner, it always seemed like a designed play to me. The throw just went to second instead of first, which complicated the scheme.

Patrick S. - Keith Williams - In a two-man crew, if the throw does go to first, no one-s focus is really going to be on this. PU does have the touch, but also has running lane.

Keith W. - Patrick S. - True, but that doesn’t mean the offensive team can’t try.

Patrick S. - Keith W. - If I think they’re trying to draw an obstruction call, they are getting very little leeway.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - When does it cross into interference/out for you? I am wavering on this one and would love your seasoned perspective. I warn younger USA Softball teams to not initiate contact to get their obstruction call. Coaches seem to be coaching the girls to make sure there is contact so that they can get the call. This creates unnecessary contact and can cause injury. Does this "chicken wing" cross over into interference for you? What are your thoughts?

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - There would have to be interference in order to call it. The offense would have had to hinder the defenses opportunity to get an out. There would have to be an out to get.

David S. - Keith W., they can “argue” all they want, she is NOT protected to 3rd!


Joe M. - In watching the play the runner sticks her arm out to make contact to get an obstruction call. No obstruction your out

Patrick S. - Joe M., you can’t call interference if interference didn’t occur.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - I think Joe Meyer is referring to the runner going out of her way to initiate the contact as she runs by the defender. There was contact and displacement.

Joe M. - Michael Leavitt that would be correct. You can’t reward someone for sticking out their chicken wing to creat contact.

Patrick S. - Joe M., true, but you can’t call interference if she didn’t interfere. I saw slight contact, but nothing that kept F6 from making a play.

Patrick S. - Joe M., unless I misunderstood and you were just saying let the out stand.

Michael Leavitt - Is sticking her with a slight "chicken wing" as she runs by malicious contact and worthy of ejection? Wait, there is no "malicious contact" verbiage in USA Softball. Is it worthy of interference and just being called out? RS#33 says that "Interference is the act of an offensive player or team member that impedes, hinders, or confuses a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Interference may be in the form of physical contact, verbal distraction, visual distraction, or any type of distraction that hundred a fielder in the execution of a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field or throw the ball without being hindered."This certainly does not limit interference to fielding a batted ball. That is pretty strong verbiage to justify calling an out for the "chicken wing" contact in the defender's back... Good call, Joe Meyer!

Joe M. - Patrick S., that is correct the out stands. There was no interference and any chance of obstruction was initiated by the offensive player. So don’t reward her for it. She bumps the defensive player to get an obstruction call and even holds her arm out to sell it to umpires. Then goes on to third thinking she won’t be called out.

Mike R. - Joe M., the runner initiated OBS because she wanted the inside corner of the base?


Craig B. - I think no call is the clear correct decision on this specific play. They obviously had a play called that didn’t go as planned because F1 chose to try to make a play at 2nd instead of taking the out at 1st. The Offense didn’t account for that possibility and got burned for it. I would also point out that I think R1 clearly left early on this pitch as well.

Joe W. - What play do you think they had planned? Running to 3rd?

David S. - If that was their plan it wouldn’t work on me. I do see some hindering but if I call obstruction she is NOT going to be awarded 3rd. That’s her decision to go beyond the protected base and therefore in jeopardy


Joe E. - Joe W., this play is known as the Kansas City Steal, old dogs like myself taught this to our players because most umpires don't enforce the obstruction

Keith J. - Looking at the video I am trying to see where the obstruction occurred on the 2nd baseman/SS. The base runner makes contact with the player about to receive the ball. So how do you get an obstruction on the defense. If anything you could almost get interference on the offense.

Joe W. - Keith a fielder without the ball (and not making an initial play on a batted ball) cannot hinder or impede a runner.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - And a runner cannot interfere with a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field. Interference trumps obstruction.... BTW, where is "field the ball" defined in the rule book. This includes a batted ball, but does this also include catching a thrown ball? If so, then we should be talking a lot more about interference and not just stopping with the definition of obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - Michael no, it does not include thrown ball.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., Reference? The Rules Supplement does not specify the initial play on a batted ball. It includes fielding the ball. Where is this defined?

Joe W. - Michael

JoeW 01

Michael Leavitt - That helps define obstruction, but does little to help define "field the ball" when dealing with interference. RS #33 is not limited by a batted ball. It deals with a fielder "attempting to execute a play".

Keith J. - Joe W., where did she impede the runner? Hence me asking, again, where is the obstruction??

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, "fielding" is never used(to my knowledge) to describe catching a thrown ball.

Joe E. - Michael Leavitt, I think that is where the umpire's judgement takes precedence

Joe E. - Keith J., I can't make out the obstruction or interference from video, without the ability to zoom in

Keith J. - Joe W., the defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. And as you see in this video, as defense is awaiting to "receive" the "thrown ball" the runner makes contact with her forearm. Now, did this cause any issues with receiving the throw? Does not look like but I can tell you I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Keith J. - Joe E., you can see the forearm of the runner make slight contact. But again, I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - "The defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. " Nope. The defense has zero right to impede or hinder a runner in order to try to catch a thrown ball. The rule is worded very clearly-the exception that you are making is one that you are making. The rule disagrees with you.

Keith J. - Where is the runner impeded????

Michael Leavitt - Joe E., - Did you watch the last half of the video?... It is pretty zoomed up.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., as with every USA Softball formal ruling I have received from Kevin Ryan, it rarely involves one rule location to support the ruling. Instead, multiple rule locations are used to help paint the fuller picture. The logic is that the rule book would be too big if they dealt with every item, in full, in each portion of the rule book. I have learned to be cautious of myopically focusing in on one sentence or one reference. Instead, I have had to be pliable and allow multiple rules being referenced to get the final call correct. I always come back to try to determine how the rules making body of the game I am officiating want me to rule on any given play. It is not always as black and white as you like to infer. We often deal in shades of gray and tend to overuse the phrase, "in my judgment" to sound assertive and confident. I would rather say, "Kevin Ryan and the rules making committee has determined that....." Just my thoughts!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt It isn't always black and white. But, OBS is black and white. The fielder either has the ball or doesn't. The folks who want to make exception on the bases would(hopefully) not give the same exception to the catcher.

David S. - It’s easier than everyone is making it. 1. She is safe at2nd. 2. If there is obstruction called (umpire judgment) then why would any umpire protect her to 3rd? 3. Therefore if thrown out at 3rd, she is now out! End of discussion with coach

Joe W. - David 3) you would put her back on 2nd


Clinton K. - I have no obstruction.

  • No change of path
  • Path took her too outside bag
  • Forearm tried to create contact
  • Smart runner
  • This is a tough one

Manny A. - Hold on a second here. I'm not going to read all of the previous posts, but in some of them, it appears umpires want to rule obstruction if F4 or F6 is set up for a force play by keeping her foot on the bag while stretching toward F1 to receive the throw, and this is deemed to be obstruction if she doesn't have the ball the split second before R1 wants to use the inside corner of the base to keep going to third base??

C'mon folks, you're requiring the fielder (either F4 or F6) to not play her position properly. Are you really expecting the fielder on a routine force play to not put her foot on the bag until she actually has the ball, in the off-chance that the oncoming runner who 999 times out of 1000 is going to slide directly into the base to beat the throw may just this one time decide to round the bag and keep going to third base? I don't buy that at all.

If that were the case, just like others have indicated here, then we can expect an obstruction call at first base if the BR decides to round the bag as F3 is waiting for the throw to first. This is not how the game is supposed to be played. This, to me, is a runner deviating her expected path to draw an obstruction call instead of attempting to get to the base safely. No runner in their right mind rounds a base as the ball is being thrown to that base for a force play or play on the BR unless they are doing something with intent to draw the obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - I wholeheartedly agree. Very well worded. Consider it stolen, yet I will give you full credit. :-)

David S. - I can rule obstruction but only protected to 2nd, she is not getting 3rd.


Michael Leavitt - And by the way, thanks to all of you for carrying on an intelligent discussion without any personal attacks. These are real life scenarios that need intelligent experienced umpires to discuss. It certainly helps broaden my understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss!


Rusty S. - The baserunner clearly initiated contact with the defensive player at 2nd base by extending her left arm, it didn't appear that it was done due to the defender impeding or obstructing her from rounding 2nd base. If I'm umpiring this game I've got the lead runner tagged out. No obstruction.

Keith J. - DITTO!!!!


David S. - I have obstruction but I certainly don’t protect her to 3rd. What makes the coach and runner think she automatically gets awarded 3rd, when there is no chance she could get there if no obstruction.

Michael M. - David S., How in the world do u have obstruction?

Bret S. - Then you’d put her back on second base?

Michael Leavitt - David S., they just wanted her to be placed safely back at second. Nobody expected her to be awarded third base. Time had expired and she was the potential game-winning run. They were hoping for obstruction, and possibly some type of overthrow that would allow her to score, and at the very least be placed back at second. Much to their dismay, she was out and the batter-runner was now standing on second.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt so if you DID call obstruction. Did she get obstructed to second or from 2nd to 3rd? And lets just say if the shortstop threw to first and it was an errant throw because of the chicken wing in the back she would be out for interference.

David S. - Michael M., in my judgment she was obstructed because the fielder did not have the ball and hindered the runner from obtaining any part of the base she wanted to use, I really don't see interference by the so called "chicken wing" as I don't see any contact. It also doesn't look like she is sticking it out there for contact. Again, my judgment. Now you might see something different and that is your judgment. Now, she is only going to be protected to 2nd, so when she continued to 3rd, she puts herself in jeopardy of being put out, which she was.

David S. - Pausing the video repeatedly shows that the runner was hindered from using the inside corner of the base, therefore obstruction! But only protected to 2nd.

Obs 01

 Obs 02

Logan B. - Based on the video, I do not have obstruction

Rick W. - Runner trying to create false obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Does that qualify for RS #49? Does this violate the values of softball competition based upon good sporting behavior and fair play, that includes coaching tactics that endanger the safety of players?

Rick W. - I would say yes. I have watched this tactic used the last couple of years. I issued warnings so it would stop. Elbowing defense while rounding bases is not obstruction, but rather malicious contact. Stop or face ejection. It stops!


John S. - I don't have obstruction


Orvin W. - In my opinion, from the PU’s camera angle, it looks like she was about to attempt a slide into 2b but probably heard her coach say 3 and tried to cut the base tight to make it there. However, I don’t have an obstruction call from this view because nothing stops her path onto 3b from his angle. Besides, the PU has the lead runner anyway.

The BU’s camera angle may not have her making the attempt to slide but her inside arm was trying to make contact with the defense. The contact didn’t disrupt her path plus the defense was playing it as a force play so no obstruction call from his view. Her foot being on the bag didn’t block the entire bag to touch. Run down tag for an out on R1 and B2 is safe at 2B.


Dave B. - In my judgment, I did not see the runner become hindered by the defensive player without the ball. No obstruction, out.

Mike R. - Tell me, Dave, when you played did you intentionally turn a base in any way other than using the inside corner?

Dave B. - Yes. I’d have to see a little more than this, though. I just don’t see obstruction on this play. We can disagree on this one. That won’t bother me.


FB LINK

 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


ML2014JULY 25, 2019 - I shared a video online regarding a play at second base in a recent USA Softball tournament game with older high school varsity aged girls. I was taken by surprise at the time that it took place, but I have had several days and nights to rethink about the play and the coaching tactics that brought it about. Being caught off guard, I was then being played by the coaches and the runner as they attempted to get an obstruction call from my partner and I on the field. Let me first state that I do not like being played as a fool, and I do not appreciate coaching tactics meant to manipulate the game by deception. I deem this poor sportsmanship and will strive to be right on top of this type of play in my future years of umpiring.

The video quickly inspired a lengthy discussion online amongst some very seasoned umpires from across the country. The video received over 1,500 views, mainly on private Facebook groups. In the private softball umpire forum world, that is considered a viral video. I have copied the transcript of discussions, and removed the last names of those sharing their insights. The information, reaction, and insights they share are priceless to me as I mentally form my actions for future encounters with this coaching tactic.

I encourage those of you that are interested to watch the video. Those of you who want to become better informed can then delve into the long transcript below...

Obstruction YT Play

CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO


OBSTRUCTION - FORCE PLAY AT 2ND

SCENARIO - Potential game-winning R1 on first with no outs. B2 bunts towards the pitcher who throws to second instead of first. The shortstop is ready to receive the force play throw and R1 is going to be safe. R1 then decides to run full speed through second and onto third. If the throw is in time, then there would be an out at second base. Since the throw is late, at what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction by cutting off the inside turn base path at second base on a force play? Can they be making a force play, like a stretched-out first baseman, and by losing the bang-banger we are forced to call obstruction? And then there is the high school varsity aged player who has apparently been coached to draw the obstruction in this video from Saturday morning... What's your call? Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah

RESPONSES

Mike R. - The mere presence of the defender without possession of the ball could be cause for an OBS call

Michael M. - Mike R., the fielder was NOT in the base path

Mike R. - Michael M., The runner owns the base and any path they wish to take. If she wants the inside corner, it is the runner's option

Michael Leavitt - We give a special waiver to the first baseman because runners can run straight through. We add to that the use of a safety base here in Utah. The same type of play at second or third does not have the same protection for a defender, by rule. The issue is that a savvy runner can then exploit a "Safe" call by turning, thus drawing an obstruction and possibly gaining another base. In my opinion, this scenario was never the intent of the obstruction rule. Force play coverage should be ruled a bit differently than tag play coverage.

Michael M. - Runner did not alter her path. Its a judgement call by the BU. No way would that be obstruction in my view. Now if the runner altered in any way and fielder did not have the ball its obstruction

Mike R. - Seems to me the runner had no intention of stopping. Looks like a planned play which means the runner was looking for that corner. But it really doesn't matter, the runner's selected path was blocked by a player not in possession of the ball which is OBS whether you care for the scenario or not.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed, Mike R., but this does not mean that is the intent of the rules committee either. The forearm shove by the runner does not seem to be an issue by those of you commenting so far. We want defensive teams to make close force plays at second and third, and we want runners to be aggressive at those same bases. I feel that there has to be some balance and protections for both the offensive runner and defender on close inside corner force plays. What are your thoughts?

Jay B. - Mike R. you could have that scenario on a close play at first, would you still consider OBS?

Mike R. - Michael Leavitt - I didn't see a shove, or any definitive contact. But would have preferred the runner just run into her? Or maybe a hard pop-up slide in anticipation of advancing?

Mike R. - Jay B. - It is not at 1st

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt we absolutely give no waiver to F3. Where did you read that?

Jay B. - Mike R. it’s a question, if a slapper decides round first and to go to second (instead of running through the base) before the F3 catches the throw, would you consider OBS.

Joe W. - Jay B. did F3 have the ball when she hindered the slapper?

Jay B. - Joe W. - I’m just putting this out there because I think you could have the scenario posted in the OP happen at first. So, no, F3 would be waiting to receive the ball

Joe W. - Jay B. a defender without the ball(and not making an initial play on a batted ball) hindered the batter/runner? That is OBS.

Jay B. - Joe W. I could see this starting a trend, and not a good one

Joe W. - Jay B. the trend of umpires doing as we are told?

Jay B. - Joe W. no, the trend of base coaches trying to test the limits of the rule. How many times do you see a runner beat a throw by a step or even two, now you could have a smart coach telling the runner to go to 2. Just saying

Joe W. - Jay B. we need to be cognizant of the schemes of coaches and players but, we must call the game by the rules.

David S. - Mike R. - so would you award her 3rd base? I wouldn’t! No way was she going to achieve 3rd base without obstruction!

David S. - We might not like the scenario but the coach and runner won’t like my ruling either. Obstruction and runner went beyond where I had her protected and now she is out! NO WAY AM I PROTECTING HER TO 3rd!


Michael M. - It doesn't look to me that the base runner changed paths. If your running full speed you would round the bag around the shortstop anyway. I do not see obstruction there

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - There is a forearm shove that displaces the shortstop. There is most definitely contact on this play. Contact equals being hindered.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt - no way. She extended her arm. Did not have to.

Michael M. - You cant ASSume she wanted the inside. She was not hindered. You could also say Maybe she would have been out if she didn't shove the fielder

Michael Leavitt - Michael M., there is no argument from me. But you could argue that the runner is hindered if they do not have the full area on either side of the bag as a potential chosen base path. The runner was not obstructed here, in this video. The runner initiated unnecessary contact with the fielder. The player hindered was the defensive player that was unnecessarily touched by the runner and interference could be a justified call. I made a safe call with nothing further and then the PU called her out near third base. I was not mentally ready to explain a "no obstruction" call and ensuing explanation with the coach. Why? This play strategy caught me totally off guard. Hearing Joe Joe M Elking call it the Kansas City Steal was intriguing, and I will forever be looking for it the next time I have a bunter with a runner on first. My vow... No more surprises! :-)

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt, you cant ASSume that the runner would run inside. And the defensive player was well inside. No way in this scenario. Not even close.

Michael M. - Hindered. Would mean she altered her path. That clearly did not happen

Michael Leavitt - Michael M. - The logical path is the most inside corner of the base. That is why we have our arms up 10 times a game in 12U ball when a first, second, or third baseman is standing there on their base when there is no play and the runner is coming by. The fact that the fielder is there on the inside path when the runner is running by is obstruction. I do not think that you and I are in complete disagreement. Surely we agree that the shortest legal base running distance from first to third is by way of the innermost corner of second base, right. Experienced players are going to choose that path every time and experienced fielders would like to get them to swing wider so that it takes longer to get to third. So just because we do not see a veer in the runner's path just before the base, that decision may have been made 45 feet earlier as the play is developing. But the smart fielder in the video was not taking away the inside path. She gave plenty of room for the run by and did not deserve a forearm to her back by the runner. Would you ever call interference on a play like this, where no contact is warranted?

Michael M. - Lol. I think we both agree. Like Joe said. I think it was Joe. 999 times out of 100. You don't overrun second base when the ball is being thrown there. You run hard and slide to stop you. The fielder can't possibly play their spot on a force play in any other position. You can't expect them to put a foot on the center field side of the base nor wait till they catch it and then “find” the bag. Lol


Bret S. - At what point is the shortstop in danger of being called for obstruction? At the point where she is not in possession of the ball and she impedes or hinders the runner.

Michael M. - Bret S., even watching all the slow motion. The runner did not alter paths and fielder did not hinder. No way is this obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Bret S., the taking away of the inside base path on a close force play called safe immediately leaves us with obstruction. Yet, called out there is nothing. And in this video, you see the runner purposefully take their left forearm and initiate contact and displace the shortstop to make sure she has an obstruction call. Is this what we want to promote? At what point do we go the other way and call malicious contact?

Kelly Z. - If the shortstop initiated the contact (without possession of the ball), you could have an argument in favor of obstruction. In this scenario, I see the runner initiating contact. I'm not calling obstruction unless an action by the defense hindered the runner in some way. On this play, I have no obstruction.

Bret S. - Michael Leavitt I didn’t offer an opinion of this specific play. I just answered the question that you posed in your post. You seem to want to add a lot of “ifs and maybes” into this call, even going so far as questioning “the rule committee’s intentions”. Why not just apply the rule as it’s written? Did the fielder have the ball? Did she impede or hinder the runner?

Bret S. - Michael M. - Again, I wasn’t offering an opinion on this specific play. If that’s your judgment, then that’s your judgment. I don’t have an issue with that.


Keith W. - Never obstruction. This is clearly a designed play. Running through the base is faster than sliding in, so she has been coached to run through on a close play and try to earn the base via an obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - In my mind, this creates a very dangerous situation for defenders. If they stretch out to try to win a banger at second or third, then they obstruct by eliminating the inside corner. If they opt to be far enough inside to catch the ball and then get their leg and foot over to touch the bag, then they will never have a banger or a force out on a close play. This is a quandary for me and not a clear cut ruling. I see a huge difference between a force play obstruction and a tag play obstruction when dealing with inside corner positioning.

Mike R. - IMJ (In My Judgement), She didn't "run through" but making a planned turn. For that matter, she actually moved her path to the right of the base in anticipation of making the turn. And if the intent was to draw an OBS, why not take the turn and run into the defender?

Keith W. - If that is the case (we would be supposing then that she has no idea the play is coming to second base) then she could bowl over any shortstop trying to make a play on the runner.

In my opinion, that is not the intent of the rule.

We are viewing the situation differently, but that, of course does happen. As a defensive coach I would definitely not be happy with your ruling, haha.

Joe W. - Keith W. - The intent of the rule cannot be the opposite of what it says.

Keith W. - The intent of the rule is to keep defensive players from hindering the offense’s progress around the bases. The intent of the rule is not to force the defense to catch the ball and then run to the base after.

Keith W. - Mike R. - So are you arguing that she should have been coached better to barrel into the defender, or are you arguing that she moved her path to round the base and only wanted the obstruction when she knew she was dead to rights?

Keith W. - Also, for what it’s worth, the shortstop clearly takes a step in front of the base to catch the ball, clearing the bag anyway.

Michael Leavitt - Keith W. - It is interesting that the fielder did everything they were supposed to do on this play, and that is why nothing really registered when it happened. I was shocked that the runner continued towards third. Her continued actions flushed my mental hard drive of her running by second and I was at a real loss when obstruction was later being demanded. The offense didn't get their wish, yet went on to score the bunter on the very next play to win the game. As I left the field, it was under the cloud of a missed call on a play that did not happen the way they prefer to remember it happening. But not to worry, I will be sharing with them the video excerpt and it should be a fun and short discussion.

Keith W. - Michael Leavitt - If this thread, which has exploded in an hour on a Monday morning, is any indication, the discussion won’t be short.

Mike R. - Keith W. - The intent is to keep the defense from hindering a runner/batter-runner anywhere on the field. And stepping out of the way at the last second to not negate the OBS. And, BTW, at no point did I suggest barreling into anyone.

Keith W. - I apologize for using a little reducto ad absurdum into my argument. It wasn’t helpful. But, what is a reasonable amount of time that we need to allow the shortstop here to make a decision as to whether she has a force play on the runner coming into second base?

In my judgment, she makes that decision and clears the base as soon as she realizes the play will be late. Is she still guilty of obstruction here?


Patrick S. - I see no obstruction here. I saw the fielder go inside the diamond 2-3’ and the runner trying to get an obstruction call by throwing out her arm.

Michael Leavitt - Agreed.


Jim R. - The runner threw a forearm at the defender. I’m calling her out for interference. The spirit and intent of the rule is very clear. I am also telling the coach if that happens again, he will be ejected.

Patrick S. - Jim R., there’s no interference here.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - You would be mistaken. Since the runner and coach have indicated there was contact by their obstruction signal, I’ll go with that. The fielder was making a play and the runner intentionally made contact. If you let that go you are legitimizing the teams actions. I assume you are a coach Patrick.

Patrick S. - Jim R. -You know what happens when you assume? Attempting to interfere is not interference unless they actually interfere.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I assume nothing. The player admitted she made contact. She threw a wing and made contact. I can’t ASSUME it did not hinder or impede the fielder. The runner caused the infraction and gets no potential advantage from her foul play. I don’t even understand your defending of the play.

Patrick S. - Jim R. - You said you assume I’m a coach, then you say you assume nothing. Hmm. I’m not condemning or defending the play. I’m calling what’s in front of me. No obstruction, runner is out on the tag.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - That’s ok. When I was your age I thought I knew everything too. You’re kinda funny.

Patrick S. - Jim R., I know I don’t know everything. But this is a no brainer. It can’t be interference, there was no play to interfere with.

Jim R. - Patrick S. - I’ve forgotten more than you know

Patrick S. - Jim R. -Do you really have to make personal attacks? You can’t keep it about the facts? You must’ve forgotten this part then.


Michael Leavitt - I was not expecting this to occur. I was initially planning on a call at first base. Obviously, I followed the ball, or my GoPro on my hat would not have caught the action. The run through call was easy with "Safe" at second. The continued running surprised me and it led to the timeout call near third. Then the throw back to second left me calling another safe. When the action stopped I did not even realize where the coach and runner wanted the obstruction call. My PU was screened by a fielder and had no view of second base. I did not rule obstruction and I did not realize that the runner initiated contact while rounding the base. When I went back and watched the backstop view it looks like a rather nothing play at second. The closer view from my hat shows the details I missed during the play. This leads to the bigger philosophical scenario questions regarding force play coverage and forearm shoves.


Joe W. - I could not call OBS from this video. However, if the runner was impeded by the player without the ball-ie she had to take extra steps to run around her, then it would be OBS. It is too hard to tell from the video.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I agree, in this video. The coaches were very upset and treated it as though the fielder was closer and taking away the inside corner base path. This leads the discussion regarding where the line is drawn on inside corner force play coverage at second and third.

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, the line is very clear. A fielder(not in possession of the ball & not making an initial play on a batter ball) who hinders or impedes a runner is guilty of OBS.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Yes, I know the rule. Is the fielder with their foot touching the inside corner of second or third, stretched out to receive a thrown ball, hindering or impeding the runner?

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, she sure could be. The runner gets to go where she wants to go.

Keith W. - Joe W. - The rule is very clear but the judgment aspect of what constitutes the runner being hindered/impeded is not. Ultimately, as umpires we need to be able to clearly and consistently enforce the rules, and if there are umpires that would call this specific play obstruction, then we need to be able to explain why.

Joe W. - Keith W. - "Coach, the runner was obstructed by your fielder who did not have possession of the ball"

Keith W. - We all know how to explain obstruction to a coach. We all know what obstruction is. You’ve said elsewhere that you would not call obstruction based on the video evidence of this play, but are adamantly arguing for it being called if the runner is impeded or hindered. I have no issue with that. Nobody does.

You are now intentionally conflating arguments and oversimplifying the situation.

The post is asking two related questions:

  • 1. Does this play constitute obstruction? You stated (elsewhere) no.
  • 2. (Philosophically) Should it be obstruction any time a runner chooses a path around a base and narrowly beats a bang-bang force play, because, by definition of “safe,” the fielder did not have the ball when the runner reached second? You seem to be stating yes.

Joe W. - Keith W. - 1) I cannot tell what happened at 2nd base here. I'm not saying that it wasn't OBS. 2) about to receive a throw or making a play on a throw are not exceptions to the OBS rule.

Keith W. - Re: #2, the aspects of the obstruction rule are understood.

You didn’t answer the question as asked.

Joe W. - Keith W., #2 sounds like OBS to me. Is there some reason that you think it shouldn't be?

Keith W. - It disincentivizes and even punishes a team for trying to make any close play on a runner.

Joe W. - Keith W. - Ask them to change the rule.

Keith W. - Can you reconcile for me how you can take a firm stance on #2 but cannot take any stance at all on the video presented in this post?
After you do that, I think we are probably done here. We are just going in circles at this point.

Joe W. - Keith The video is not clear enough for me to see what happened. Or, my monitor is not good enough ;-)

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - Did you watch the second half of the video? Some of the earlier posters did not. The far away backstop view does little to help. My hat-cam view reveals a lot. But maybe you need a bigger monitor, too. :-)

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, I could see that being called either way. It is very close. You were there, I'll go with what you called.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - I was caught by surprise. That is my fault. I was not on top of what happened mentally. I NEVER want to be in that frame of mind again on this play. Discussing this today, with all of you, will arm me with the tools, skills, and understanding when I see this again... And you just know it is waiting to spring itself into my game again before the year is over. :-) Thanks again for the feedback!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, and the next one will be different

Bob R. - Great videos. Dang coaches or parents teach these kids this type of ugly ball. I usually look for that at first but I see second will get my eye a little longer.


Patrick S. - This is not a good play to ask this question. If the throw is slightly late, and the runner is safe, but certainly would be out if she rounded and were tagged, are we calling obstruction?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - No obstruction registered in my mind at the time of the play, but by the time it was over my mind was already reworking and changing what might have happened. By the time I walked off the field I was wondering just what actually happened. Rewatching the film made me realize that the coaches were taking advantage of the situation and hoping I would give them a call that wasn't really there. I was being played, yet I knew I could review it in video and see the realities... Unfortunately, I now know that it was a designed play and their disgust for the missed call was unsubstantiated.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - But, designed play or not. If the runner were safe on the force but would certainly be dead out if she rounded, do we call the obstruction if she’s hindered while rounding?

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - Good question. Can she be there in a low stretched-out position and not obstruct the rounding? I can imagine a situation where there is no hindrance or impedance of the runner. At the same time, you could make the stand that just her foot being there takes away the runner's foot placement on the ground just inside the bag as she runs by with just her side of the foot touching the base. The truth is that we want the defense to go for this force out and we also want the offense to not be obstructed.

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt but even with obstruction, I’m only awarding second base so what’s the point?

Keith W. - Patrick S. - The offensive team wants the obstruction call on this play when the throw goes to first (as it most often does) and they can argue that the runner would have made it to third safely (with one out in this case).

Which is why, along with what appears to be intentional contact initiated by the runner, it always seemed like a designed play to me. The throw just went to second instead of first, which complicated the scheme.

Patrick S. - Keith Williams - In a two-man crew, if the throw does go to first, no one-s focus is really going to be on this. PU does have the touch, but also has running lane.

Keith W. - Patrick S. - True, but that doesn’t mean the offensive team can’t try.

Patrick S. - Keith W. - If I think they’re trying to draw an obstruction call, they are getting very little leeway.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - When does it cross into interference/out for you? I am wavering on this one and would love your seasoned perspective. I warn younger USA Softball teams to not initiate contact to get their obstruction call. Coaches seem to be coaching the girls to make sure there is contact so that they can get the call. This creates unnecessary contact and can cause injury. Does this "chicken wing" cross over into interference for you? What are your thoughts?

Patrick S. - Michael Leavitt - There would have to be interference in order to call it. The offense would have had to hinder the defenses opportunity to get an out. There would have to be an out to get.

David S. - Keith W., they can “argue” all they want, she is NOT protected to 3rd!


Joe M. - In watching the play the runner sticks her arm out to make contact to get an obstruction call. No obstruction your out

Patrick S. - Joe M., you can’t call interference if interference didn’t occur.

Michael Leavitt - Patrick S. - I think Joe Meyer is referring to the runner going out of her way to initiate the contact as she runs by the defender. There was contact and displacement.

Joe M. - Michael Leavitt that would be correct. You can’t reward someone for sticking out their chicken wing to creat contact.

Patrick S. - Joe M., true, but you can’t call interference if she didn’t interfere. I saw slight contact, but nothing that kept F6 from making a play.

Patrick S. - Joe M., unless I misunderstood and you were just saying let the out stand.

Michael Leavitt - Is sticking her with a slight "chicken wing" as she runs by malicious contact and worthy of ejection? Wait, there is no "malicious contact" verbiage in USA Softball. Is it worthy of interference and just being called out? RS#33 says that "Interference is the act of an offensive player or team member that impedes, hinders, or confuses a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Interference may be in the form of physical contact, verbal distraction, visual distraction, or any type of distraction that hundred a fielder in the execution of a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field or throw the ball without being hindered."This certainly does not limit interference to fielding a batted ball. That is pretty strong verbiage to justify calling an out for the "chicken wing" contact in the defender's back... Good call, Joe Meyer!

Joe M. - Patrick S., that is correct the out stands. There was no interference and any chance of obstruction was initiated by the offensive player. So don’t reward her for it. She bumps the defensive player to get an obstruction call and even holds her arm out to sell it to umpires. Then goes on to third thinking she won’t be called out.

Mike R. - Joe M., the runner initiated OBS because she wanted the inside corner of the base?


Craig B. - I think no call is the clear correct decision on this specific play. They obviously had a play called that didn’t go as planned because F1 chose to try to make a play at 2nd instead of taking the out at 1st. The Offense didn’t account for that possibility and got burned for it. I would also point out that I think R1 clearly left early on this pitch as well.

Joe W. - What play do you think they had planned? Running to 3rd?

David S. - If that was their plan it wouldn’t work on me. I do see some hindering but if I call obstruction she is NOT going to be awarded 3rd. That’s her decision to go beyond the protected base and therefore in jeopardy


Joe E. - Joe W., this play is known as the Kansas City Steal, old dogs like myself taught this to our players because most umpires don't enforce the obstruction

Keith J. - Looking at the video I am trying to see where the obstruction occurred on the 2nd baseman/SS. The base runner makes contact with the player about to receive the ball. So how do you get an obstruction on the defense. If anything you could almost get interference on the offense.

Joe W. - Keith a fielder without the ball (and not making an initial play on a batted ball) cannot hinder or impede a runner.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W. - And a runner cannot interfere with a defensive player attempting to execute a play. Defensive players must be given the opportunity to field the ball anywhere on the playing field. Interference trumps obstruction.... BTW, where is "field the ball" defined in the rule book. This includes a batted ball, but does this also include catching a thrown ball? If so, then we should be talking a lot more about interference and not just stopping with the definition of obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - Michael no, it does not include thrown ball.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., Reference? The Rules Supplement does not specify the initial play on a batted ball. It includes fielding the ball. Where is this defined?

Joe W. - Michael

JoeW 01

Michael Leavitt - That helps define obstruction, but does little to help define "field the ball" when dealing with interference. RS #33 is not limited by a batted ball. It deals with a fielder "attempting to execute a play".

Keith J. - Joe W., where did she impede the runner? Hence me asking, again, where is the obstruction??

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt, "fielding" is never used(to my knowledge) to describe catching a thrown ball.

Joe E. - Michael Leavitt, I think that is where the umpire's judgement takes precedence

Joe E. - Keith J., I can't make out the obstruction or interference from video, without the ability to zoom in

Keith J. - Joe W., the defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. And as you see in this video, as defense is awaiting to "receive" the "thrown ball" the runner makes contact with her forearm. Now, did this cause any issues with receiving the throw? Does not look like but I can tell you I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Keith J. - Joe E., you can see the forearm of the runner make slight contact. But again, I am not calling obstruction on this play.

Joe W. - "The defense still has the right to "receive" the "thrown ball" without worry of interference. " Nope. The defense has zero right to impede or hinder a runner in order to try to catch a thrown ball. The rule is worded very clearly-the exception that you are making is one that you are making. The rule disagrees with you.

Keith J. - Where is the runner impeded????

Michael Leavitt - Joe E., - Did you watch the last half of the video?... It is pretty zoomed up.

Michael Leavitt - Joe W., as with every USA Softball formal ruling I have received from Kevin Ryan, it rarely involves one rule location to support the ruling. Instead, multiple rule locations are used to help paint the fuller picture. The logic is that the rule book would be too big if they dealt with every item, in full, in each portion of the rule book. I have learned to be cautious of myopically focusing in on one sentence or one reference. Instead, I have had to be pliable and allow multiple rules being referenced to get the final call correct. I always come back to try to determine how the rules making body of the game I am officiating want me to rule on any given play. It is not always as black and white as you like to infer. We often deal in shades of gray and tend to overuse the phrase, "in my judgment" to sound assertive and confident. I would rather say, "Kevin Ryan and the rules making committee has determined that....." Just my thoughts!

Joe W. - Michael Leavitt It isn't always black and white. But, OBS is black and white. The fielder either has the ball or doesn't. The folks who want to make exception on the bases would(hopefully) not give the same exception to the catcher.

David S. - It’s easier than everyone is making it. 1. She is safe at2nd. 2. If there is obstruction called (umpire judgment) then why would any umpire protect her to 3rd? 3. Therefore if thrown out at 3rd, she is now out! End of discussion with coach

Joe W. - David 3) you would put her back on 2nd


Clinton K. - I have no obstruction.

  • No change of path
  • Path took her too outside bag
  • Forearm tried to create contact
  • Smart runner
  • This is a tough one

Manny A. - Hold on a second here. I'm not going to read all of the previous posts, but in some of them, it appears umpires want to rule obstruction if F4 or F6 is set up for a force play by keeping her foot on the bag while stretching toward F1 to receive the throw, and this is deemed to be obstruction if she doesn't have the ball the split second before R1 wants to use the inside corner of the base to keep going to third base??

C'mon folks, you're requiring the fielder (either F4 or F6) to not play her position properly. Are you really expecting the fielder on a routine force play to not put her foot on the bag until she actually has the ball, in the off-chance that the oncoming runner who 999 times out of 1000 is going to slide directly into the base to beat the throw may just this one time decide to round the bag and keep going to third base? I don't buy that at all.

If that were the case, just like others have indicated here, then we can expect an obstruction call at first base if the BR decides to round the bag as F3 is waiting for the throw to first. This is not how the game is supposed to be played. This, to me, is a runner deviating her expected path to draw an obstruction call instead of attempting to get to the base safely. No runner in their right mind rounds a base as the ball is being thrown to that base for a force play or play on the BR unless they are doing something with intent to draw the obstruction call.

Michael Leavitt - I wholeheartedly agree. Very well worded. Consider it stolen, yet I will give you full credit. :-)

David S. - I can rule obstruction but only protected to 2nd, she is not getting 3rd.


Michael Leavitt - And by the way, thanks to all of you for carrying on an intelligent discussion without any personal attacks. These are real life scenarios that need intelligent experienced umpires to discuss. It certainly helps broaden my understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to discuss!


Rusty S. - The baserunner clearly initiated contact with the defensive player at 2nd base by extending her left arm, it didn't appear that it was done due to the defender impeding or obstructing her from rounding 2nd base. If I'm umpiring this game I've got the lead runner tagged out. No obstruction.

Keith J. - DITTO!!!!


David S. - I have obstruction but I certainly don’t protect her to 3rd. What makes the coach and runner think she automatically gets awarded 3rd, when there is no chance she could get there if no obstruction.

Michael M. - David S., How in the world do u have obstruction?

Bret S. - Then you’d put her back on second base?

Michael Leavitt - David S., they just wanted her to be placed safely back at second. Nobody expected her to be awarded third base. Time had expired and she was the potential game-winning run. They were hoping for obstruction, and possibly some type of overthrow that would allow her to score, and at the very least be placed back at second. Much to their dismay, she was out and the batter-runner was now standing on second.

Michael M. - Michael Leavitt so if you DID call obstruction. Did she get obstructed to second or from 2nd to 3rd? And lets just say if the shortstop threw to first and it was an errant throw because of the chicken wing in the back she would be out for interference.

David S. - Michael M., in my judgment she was obstructed because the fielder did not have the ball and hindered the runner from obtaining any part of the base she wanted to use, I really don't see interference by the so called "chicken wing" as I don't see any contact. It also doesn't look like she is sticking it out there for contact. Again, my judgment. Now you might see something different and that is your judgment. Now, she is only going to be protected to 2nd, so when she continued to 3rd, she puts herself in jeopardy of being put out, which she was.

David S. - Pausing the video repeatedly shows that the runner was hindered from using the inside corner of the base, therefore obstruction! But only protected to 2nd.

Obs 01

 Obs 02

Logan B. - Based on the video, I do not have obstruction

Rick W. - Runner trying to create false obstruction

Michael Leavitt - Does that qualify for RS #49? Does this violate the values of softball competition based upon good sporting behavior and fair play, that includes coaching tactics that endanger the safety of players?

Rick W. - I would say yes. I have watched this tactic used the last couple of years. I issued warnings so it would stop. Elbowing defense while rounding bases is not obstruction, but rather malicious contact. Stop or face ejection. It stops!


John S. - I don't have obstruction


Orvin W. - In my opinion, from the PU’s camera angle, it looks like she was about to attempt a slide into 2b but probably heard her coach say 3 and tried to cut the base tight to make it there. However, I don’t have an obstruction call from this view because nothing stops her path onto 3b from his angle. Besides, the PU has the lead runner anyway.

The BU’s camera angle may not have her making the attempt to slide but her inside arm was trying to make contact with the defense. The contact didn’t disrupt her path plus the defense was playing it as a force play so no obstruction call from his view. Her foot being on the bag didn’t block the entire bag to touch. Run down tag for an out on R1 and B2 is safe at 2B.


Dave B. - In my judgment, I did not see the runner become hindered by the defensive player without the ball. No obstruction, out.

Mike R. - Tell me, Dave, when you played did you intentionally turn a base in any way other than using the inside corner?

Dave B. - Yes. I’d have to see a little more than this, though. I just don’t see obstruction on this play. We can disagree on this one. That won’t bother me.


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 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Out, Safe, or Obstruction - I Know, Just Kick Her ...
Interference & Infield Fly
 

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