By Jeff Parsons
columnist Baseball by the Book 

The first thing to know


It is hard to think about baseball when temperatures struggling to climb above strike zone, but what a perfect opportunity to break out the rule book and brush up on the laws of the game before we begin the 2014 season.

In the past we have spoke about individual rules and situations, which I know we will be getting into as the season progresses. But let’s start the season with the knowledge of how to navigate the rule book and find the rules that govern the game.

The Official Rule Book is comprised of 10 sections. They are:

Objectives of the game

Definition of terms

Game preliminaries

Starting and ending a game

Putting the ball into play

The Batter

The Runner

The Pitcher

The Umpire

The Official Scorer

Currently, there are 750 individual rules in the Major League rule book. In addition, most situations that occur on the field will often have more than one rule that apply. I bet you’re thinking, I can’t even program the basic functions on my furnace thermostat, how does a person read, learn and retain all this information; not to mention how to apply it in the middle of a game with everyone screaming.

After 32 years of studying the game of baseball as an official, there is only two words to describe how to navigate the rules: “the index.” This won’t make you an expert, you still need to read the book (wow, that’s my dad’s line), but the index will help you narrow down the rules that apply to a situation. Here we go ...

Situation: The batter gets hit by a pitch. What’s the call? What’s the ruling?

First, the official must determine if the batter “took one for the team” by making “no attempt” to hit the ball or by making “no attempt” to avoid being touched by the ball. He must also determine whether the batter got hit while placing himself in the strike zone.

Grab your book and flip to the index and find “hit by pitch.” You will see three different rules that may apply to the situation. In this case they are; 5.09(a), 6.05(f), 6.08(b) and 2.00 (ball/strike)

5.09(a) explains how the ball becomes dead if a pitched ball touches a batter or his clothing

6.05(b) explains a batter is out on a legally caught third strike (not applicable for this situation)

6.08(b) Is the correct rule that pertains to this situation. In short, If the batter is touched by a pitched ball making “no attempt” to hit the ball or makes “no attempt” to avoid getting touched by the ball, then first base is awarded. If it determined the batter moved into the strike zone to get hit, the ball is called dead according to rule 5.09(a) and a strike is called on the batter, whether the batter makes an attempt to hit the ball or not. (A popular call, I might add)

2.00 The Definition outlining the strike zone for the parameters of this call.

As you can see, situation baseball can be challenging. The index is helpful, but it doesn’t replace actually reading and understanding the rules of Baseball. I encourage all of you, whether you’re a player, a coach or just a fan, to take some time and simply read.


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