Little League Rule Myths
Many misunderstandings on the field are the result of "Everybody Knows That..." rules myths. Listed below are a collection of common mis-beliefs about Little League baseball rules. Each of these statements are false. Clicking on each link will explain the correct ruling.
The ball is dead on a foul tip
The ball is NOT dead on a foul tip.
Rule 2.00 FOUL TIP explicitly says that a foul tip is a live ball.
Much of the confusion surrounding this probably comes from a misunderstanding of what a foul tip actually is:
A FOUL TIP is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher's hands and is legally caught. It is not a foul tip unless caught and any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play. It is not a catch if it is a rebound, unless the ball has first touched the catcher's glove or hand. A foul tip can only be caught by the catcher.
Thus, it is only a foul tip if the catcher catches the ball. A ball that hits the bat and goes straight back to the backstop is a foul ball not a foul tip.
A batted ball that hits the plate is a foul ball
For the purposes of a fair/foul determination, home plate is no different from the ground. As it happens, all of home plate is infair territory, so if a batted ball touches it, it has merely struck part of fair territory.
A ball that touches the ground before passing either first or third base is not yet a fair or foul ball. It is merely a ball over fair or foul territory. This may seem like just a bit of semantics, but the distinction is very real. The ball does not become fair or foul until it either "settles" (stops rolling) or touches something other than the ground - a player, a fence, etc. At that time, the ball is then rendered fair or foul based on its position at the time it settles or is touched. How the ball got there (the path it followed before being touched) has nothing to do with the fair/foul determination.
The pitcher gets eight warm up pitches between innings
Under normal circumstances a pitcher gets a maximum of eight pitches between innings. The pitcher is only allowed a maximum of one minute in order to complete these pitches, however. Thus, if the pitcher is slow he or she may not be able to complete the eight pitches before the one minute elapses.
The one minute clock starts at the end of the previous half-inning, that is, when the third out is made. Thus, the time for the pitcher and catcher to take their positions comes out of the one minute that the pitcher is allotted.
Little League umpires rarely time teams with a stopwatch. If the pitcher and catcher (or another player wearing the required helmet/mask/throat guard) take the field promptly and don't dawdle between pitches, then umpires usually allow them the full eight pitches, even if it takes somewhat longer than a minute. If the catcher is slow getting his gear on and the defense doesn't send another player out in his place, or if the defense has a two-minute rah-rah huddle before taking the field, an umpire can limit the number of pitches allowed, or even eliminate them completely once the one minute period is exceeded.
Conversely, if weather or other game conditions warrant it, an umpire can grant a pitcher extra warm-up pitches. In particular, if a pitcher is injured and his replacement has not had time to warm up, the umpire may allow the replacement as many pitches as the umpire sees fit.
The batter is out when he/she hits the ball when he/she is touching home plate
There is no rule that explicitly deals with the foot touching home plate. The relevant rule says:
6.06(a) A batter is out for illegal action when ... hitting the ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box.
Thus, in order for this rule to be invoked, the batter's foot must be completely outside the batter's box. If any part of his or her foot was on a line of the batter's box, this rule does not apply.
Umpires should remember that the batter's box is only four inches from home plate in Majors and below, and only six inches in Juniors and above. This distance is far shorter than the length of most players' feet. Therefore, it is quite possible for a batter to have part of his or her foot in contact with the plate and still have the heel touching the line.
Confusion over this rule is likely due to the fact that there are other baseball and softball rule sets (e.g. "Federation" aka High School) in which the batter's foot touching home plate is explicitly covered. It isn't in Little League, however.
If the batter breaks his wrists when swinging, it is a strike
Actually, if the batter breaks his wrists when swinging, it should result in a trip to the Emergency Room. Sorry, couldn't resist!
Whether or not a batter actually attempted to hit a pitch is completely and utterly a matter of judgment on the part of the umpire. There is no single "hard-and-fast" rule that can be applied. A player can easily attempt to hit the ball without breaking his/her wrists. Think about a bunt, or the "slap bunt" that is sometimes used in softball - players rarely break their wrists while doing this. Conversely, it is possible (although unlikely) that a player who swings very, very early, could break his wrists and then pull the bat back enough to convince an umpire that it was not a legitimate attempt to hit the ball.
Granted, in the vast majority of cases, if the batter breaks his wrists the umpire will call a strike. The point to be taken away is that this is neither a requirement, nor the sole determining factor.
If a fielder holds a fly ball for two seconds it is a legal catch, even if he/she drops it thereafter
Let's look at the definition of a catch in section 2.00:
A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in the hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it before it touches the ground providing such fielder does not use cap, protector, pocket or any other part of the uniform in getting possession ... In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove complete control of the ball and that release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.
You will see that no specific time limit is stipulated. The critical elements here are "secure possession" and "complete control" which are entirely a judgment call on the part of the umpire.
On one hand, fielder may be considered to have secure possession even though he holds onto the ball for far less than two seconds - consider the outfielder who catches a fly ball and immediately whips the ball back into the infield. The ball was probably in the fielder's glove or hand for much less than two seconds. On the other hand, a fielder could snow-cone a ball on a dead run, stagger for several more steps, fall and have the ball squirt free and not have it considered a catch, even though more than two seconds elapsed between the time the ball went into the glove and when it came out.
"Voluntary release" is one of the key measures that an umpire will use to judge whether or not the player is considered to have control of the ball. In the first case mentioned above, the outfielder deliberately removed the ball from his glove and threw it back to the infield. In the second case, however, the fielder did not intend for the ball to drop out of his glove. Thus, the "voluntary release" in the first case demonstrated "secure possession" and "control," while the "involuntary release" in the second case demonstrated a lack of control.
Despite the phrase "and that release of the ball is voluntary and intentional", voluntary release is not the only criteria an umpire will use. Suppose Johnny's in right field, and catches a fly ball for the final out in the Little League World Series. He runs back to the infield and jumps into the arms of another player. As he does so, the ball slips from his glove and lands on the ground. Does the fact that he did not intend to drop the ball mean that this wasn't a catch? Of course not. In carrying the ball back to the infield, he clearly demonstrated control, voluntary release or not. Thus, while voluntary release is one of the criteria an umpire will use to judge a legal catch, it's not the only one.