Putting the ball in play is perhaps the simplest game management tool, but it is also one of the most useful. According to the Jaksa/Roder Manual, there are 13 situations when the ball is dead (foul; overthrow; lodged ball; home run; ground rule double; batter or runner hit by pitch; intentionally dropped ball; illegally batted ball; interference by runner, offensive teammate, spectator, or authorized person; umpire interference on a batted ball; obstruction and concurrent play on the obstructed runner; fielder falls on dead ball territory after a catch; and umpire calls time). Additionally, there are five situations when the ball may be called dead (a balk or illegal pitch; batter interference; catcher interference; umpire interference on a thrown ball; and obstruction without a concurrent play on the obstructed runner). A plate umpire will put the ball in play dozens of times during an average game.
When Does the Umpire Put the Ball Back in Play?
Rule 5.11 states that play shall be resumed after a dead ball when the pitcher is on the pitcher’s plate and the umpire calls “Play.” The PBUC Manual adds that the umpire calls play “as soon as the pitcher takes his place on the rubber with the ball and the batter has taken his position in the batter’s box.” NFHS and NCAA rules are similar. The umpire should also employ common sense with putting the ball in play. For instance, waiting for a coach or manager to enter the dugout, or waiting for a player to return to his position is prudent.
Why is Putting the Ball in Play a Good Habit?
Some umpires do not put the ball back in play, which can create confusion for his partner(s) as well as for the teams. Putting the ball in play lets the participants know when the ball is live. Without a good practice of putting the ball back into play, a pitcher may try to pickoff a runner, or a runner may try to steal a base before the ball is live.
Never happens you say? Here is a video clip of a pitcher trying to pickoff a runner while the ball is dead. The pitcher never took his place on the rubber, consequently the plate umpire never made the ball live. While the ball is dead the shortstop attempts a hidden ball trick. Still dead, guys.
Because MLB umpires know and utilize the putting the ball in play rule, all the umpires on this field knew the ball was dead. Make putting the ball in play part of your game.