The college baseball season is just around the corner and without a doubt the biggest change in 2011 is the NCAA's new timing requirements. If you need to review the rules, here is a link to information. Briefly, the NCAA has implemented a rule that pitchers have 20 seconds to pitch the ball when runners are not on base, and the teams have 90 seconds between innings. To enforce this rule, the NCAA has directed one field umpire to manage a stopwatch.
The new timing rules apply to all NCAA games. I understand that NAIA and Juco may adopt this procedure next year. The NCAA is very serious about increasing pace of play.
My college association sent its members the Robic SC-522 CountUp & CountDown Timer to use on the field. My first game here in mid-Missouri is in late February, so I recently broke out the Robic timer to test it.
The Robic SC-522 measures 3.5" x 2.125" x .625". It weighs 1.5 ounces. It is made of plastic and is black. It fits comfortably in your hand, but is considerably larger than the average indicator.
Operating the Robic is pretty simple. Using the mode button the user can select a clock, the countup timer, or the countdown timer. There is one central stop/stop button, and the controls are located on the front of the device, which prevents accidental stops/starts.
The first thing to do is to set the CountDown timer. By holding the set button for about five seconds the far right digit will flash (the "ones" place). Press the reset button to zero all digits. Then press the set button again to advance the flashing digit to the tens place. Then press the big blue "Start/Stop/Advance" button in the center twice to select the number two, and press the mode button. Now the CountDown timer is set for twenty seconds.
Operating the CountDown Timer is easy. Simply press the big blue center button and the timer starts counting down. Press the blue button again and the timer pauses, press again to resume the count down. When the timer reaches three seconds it will start beeping and then change to an alarm when it reaches zero. Pressing the blue button after the timer reaches zero will reset the timer for the next pitch.
You can reset the CountUp timer by holding the reset button for about four seconds. Then press the blue button to start/pause the timer. There is no alarm, so the base umpire has to watch the timer if the pitcher gets close.
The Robic SC-522 is sold by Amazon.com for $13.95 (orders over $25 get free shipping); and Ump-Attire for $14.99.
Fair or Foul?
Ideally an NCAA umpire timer would have two countdown timers, audible beeps for the last three seconds, and an alarm when time expires. Ideally the timer would be a little smaller, the size of an indicator would be appreciated. Other than those small complaints, the Robic SC-522 was acceptable.
Don't like the rule? Perhaps the surest way to get rid of it is to vigorously enforce it. The NCAA materials caution umpires against prematurely stopping the clock. For instance, with no runners on, if a pitcher starts and stops his windup, there is no penalty. If he has time left on the clock, he can restart. The NCAA states that starting the windup is not a reason to pause the clock, so when a pitcher begins his windup, do not stop the timer. The end result here is that the alarm will sound with each and every pitch. I would also caution against trying to stop the alarm until after the pitch/play is over - it will take your attention away from your other duties. In fact, letting the alarm sound makes it easier to reset the timer. Simply press the blue button.