My wife is in Brazil, so what do I do with my spare time? Naturally I go across the street to watch the Little League 10 and under All-Stars playing. It was our local team against a team from one of the leagues up north.
Two great pitchers keep the score 0-0 through six. Our team breaks through for 2 runs in the top of the 7th, we get down to bases loaded and two outs until “it” happens.
“It” was a routine pop up to the 2nd baseman. He camps under it when the base runner runs right near him. (Did he touch him? I don’t know, because it happened so fast, but I know that the runner is out because he interfered with the play, the rule doesn’t care if there’s contact at this point). The 2nd baseman drops the ball and 2 runs score. The umpire doesn’t call anything and lets the play stand. Is this a time to protest the game?
What do you as a coach do? It’s funny, but the kids in the league aren’t the only ones who are young and inexperienced. If your league’s like ours, your coach – maybe your All-Star coach – is just one of the dads (or in a few cases, even moms) who has probably only been coaching, at the most, 4 years. Maybe you are or will be that coach this year or next.
You know you feel like you’ve just been had and if you’re like this coach, you kind of feel helpless, because the umpire didn’t see it the way you did. Do you have any recourse (it makes the difference of going to the winner’s bracket finals, or dropping to the loser’s bracket and having to fight your way back up if they get another run, since they now have a runner on 2nd and 3rd and you and your kids are real upset)?
The story doesn’t turn out well for our kids. By the time I track down the coach and try to train him in how to protest the game, the kidthrows the next pitch and so any right to protest (in this league and in most leagues) is cancelled.
I’ll show you what to do in this situation, so you can have it at your disposal for any time you might need to protest a game.
First off, you need to remain calm and unemotional, then call time. Know that you can’t protest a judgment call, if he sees it differently than you do, that’s probably going to be it, but you still can do something to try to help yourself and the team to see if there’s a chance to protest the game. Get the umpire talking; make him tell you what he saw, question him on what you saw. Again you’re not trying to get him to change his mind.
Here’s the key: you’re trying to get him to tell you something that you can protest the rule.
In this case the umpire actually made the mistake of saying “It was only incidental contact.” BINGO – Protest Game time. Now he just admitted there was contact, and he can’t weasel out of the actual rule which states that the base runner has to avoid the runner (so contact or not, this is proof that the umpire saw the runner not avoiding the fielder). That’s what you base your protest on. And you’ll win.
Game over, beat the weak team that was next, and the championship or 2nd place is yours. The way it actually turned out is they did get the 3rd run, we lose, play a super strong team and lose another 3-2 game in the loser’s bracket.
Hopefully for you, you’ll now be prepared to know your rule book and get the umpire talking until you find him making a ruling that’s against the rule. Then you calmly enter your protest before the pitcher throws the next pitch and either get the ruling right then or get it later and play the rest of the game over from that point on regardless of the outcome of the game (unless you end up winning anyway, at which point you drop your protest).
Andy Collins has coached for 30 years on the local and international level (with the Brazilian National team) and at the World Scholar Athlete Games. He specializes in training coaches on how to teach hitting and loves to help baseball and softball players reach their goals. He offers hitting techniques, tips, recommendations, and even free hitting lessons by e-mail at his website, www.theInternetHittingCoach.com.* This article appeared in the July 2005 issue of Coach Andy’s Hitting E-zine.