A team in Majors 60, the next division up in our rec league, was short players and my son and another player from my rec team were asked to fill in. We met the head coach, and he and all the coaches (I went to college with one of the assistants and it was only 25 years later we found out we live in the same town) were exceptionally nice and treated the two younger boys extremely well. I set up shop deep along the left-field line figuring I might enjoy a game in which I could just sit back and watch my son play baseball.
The boys played well enough and were on second and third with one out when a player from their host-team hit a pop-up to short. My immediate thought after the umpire yelled “infield fly” was, “This is going to be interesting.” I knew the two younger players had no clue about what happens on an infield fly other than perhaps knowing the batter was out.
On cue, the shortstop missed the pop-up and the two boys took off for home and third, both reaching safely in the way that can only happen in a game of young players still learning baseball (my son was perhaps three feet from the shortstop and standing on second when he made his mad dash for third.)
“No harm. No foul,” I thought, only to hear someone yell to the catcher, who had the ball, to touch third base. When he did, the umpire called my other minors player, who had scored, out. There was a brief discussion among the coaches and the call stood.Every nerve in my body save one was compelling me to get up and make sure my son’s host-coaches understood the rule. The one nerve won out. Then a parent walked over two other parents I was sitting by and explained the call was the kid hadn’t tagged up as per the rule. I simply asked, “How do you tag up on a ball that wasn’t caught?”
In between innings I strolled over to my classmate and the head coach to say the ump didn’t get the call right, but I thought they had handled it beautifully. Though the game got out of hand later, it was a close game at that point and they handled it without a fuss.
I’d like to believe I would have handled it with the aplomb they did. Hats off and all my respect to them.
I’d also like to think I would have made sure the call was reversed – I cannot stress enough this is in no way a knock on my son’s host coaches.
I would have wanted the correct call made not so much because of the possibility of a win (though I’ve always been clear I believe it is the coach’s job to put the players in the best possible situation to win and that means coaching to your best ability in all situations) but because it was another valuable teaching moment lost in a season where I’ve seen too many lost already. In the aftermath of the blown call, there are at least two young ball players who were involved in the play still with no clue about the infield fly rule and while I don’t know about the Majors players, I’d guess quite a few of them are in the same boat. You also have a young umpire (our rec league uses umps as young as 13) who does not understand the rule. Worse still, the same group believes they now know the infield fly rule. Unfortunately, what they “know” is incorrect.
While we were getting an ice cream after the game, I asked my son what happens on an infield fly. His response, which included something about tagging up, made it clear he really didn’t know anything other than the batter is out. I told him that was on me because I hadn’t taught it to him yet.
We have a travel team practice tonight. I’ll be teaching the infield fly rule.