Congratulations to the NCAA Softball Rules Committee and umpires everywhere! You have managed to make what used to be the greatest play in the game and turned it into a mystery. Or should I say a misery!
After watching several games on ESPN and the SEC Network recently, I have come to a very sad and demoralizing conclusion. The new obstruction rules have made it almost impossible for a catcher to make a play at the plate anymore! The catcher has, in effect, been robbed of the opportunity to make the greatest play ever.
Trust me, I understand we want to remove unnecessary collisions from our game. With all the awareness of concussions and the potential for injury, we’re always going to err on the side of safety.
But the play at the plate is a necessary collision.
Come on now, you all remember feeling the excitement build when the runner is rounding third and heading for home, the outfielder is charging hard and scoops and throws. It’s going to be close at the plate and both the catcher and base runner are giving it everything they have. Were there some collisions? Of course, but these were also the most exciting plays, ever!!!
Why is the obstruction rule so bad? Because it is very difficult to understand. What’s more, it’s almost impossible for the catcher to make a play that meets the criteria.
From what I saw, unless the catcher is clearly outside the baseline, catches the ball while outside the baseline, has the ball clearly in her possession and then steps into the play to make a tag, it will always be called obstruction. The catcher has almost no flexibility in how she receives the throw and makes the tag.
If a throw takes the catcher across the base path, it’s obstruction.
It the catcher moves into the base path while catching the ball, even if she beats the runner there, it’s obstruction.
If the catcher is anywhere near home plate while catching the ball, it’s obstruction.
If the catcher fights to keep a runner from touching home plate, something we used to praise her for, it’s obstruction!
When you watch an NFL game, you know that lately no one, including the officials, can tell you if the ball you just saw get caught is in fact a catch. Well, our game is in the same boat with the obstruction rule. It just doesn’t make sense!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.