The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 11, 2013

Baseball rule change will affect local athletes

Caleb Odom
For The News Courier

— The catcher cuts his eyes to the other team’s runner dancing around at first base, looking for any clue to indicate the runner will attempt to steal.

Having no luck, the catcher takes his focus back to his pitcher giving him a sign for a fastball as the right-handed hitter hovers his bat over home plate gearing up for the pitch.

As the pitcher starts his delivery, the runner at first scrambles for second base, the pitch pops in the catcher’s mitt, past the flailing hitter. But as the catcher springs up to throw the runner out, the hitter’s bat clips the catcher in the arm, altering the throw off target and allowing the base to be stolen.

The call by the home plate umpire is batter interference because the hitter prevents the catcher from making a clean throw.

A rule change for next season in high school baseball is for plays just like the one described above.

The new rule will include backswing interference. Rule 7-3-5c states: “A batter shall not interfere with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by making any other movement, including backswing interference, which hinders action at home plate or the catcher’s attempt to play on a runner.”

Athens baseball coach Thad Prater said the rule puts more pressure on the home plate umpire to make a judgment call, which is not a good thing.

Prater said he had three players called out on interference calls last season. He feels it is not interference if the batter stays in the box while he swings.

“The box is the batter’s,” Prater said. “He shouldn’t really be the one to have to move.”

Prater said the rule is taking away from the game.

Another rule change has to do with player collisions during games.

The interpretation on player collisions is divided into three types:

• 1. The contact is the result of intentional excessive force;

• 2. The contact occurs close to the bag or home plate or above the waist of the receiving player; or

• 3. There was intent to injure.

Prater said that this was a good rule change for player safety.

The other target for improvement in the high school game is coach/umpire arguing during games.

This change has no impact on Prater who laughed about his lack of disputes with umpires.

“I haven’t ever had anyone try to throw me out,” Prater said. “You go out there and you talk to the umpire in a civil manner.”

Keeping the peace with the men in blue is a strategy the Athens coach sees a lot.

“Around here, I have never seen that be a problem,” Prater said.