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I recently put in this pick off move at 2nd base that I came up with. My high school team used it 3 times so far and we are 1 for 3 with it. One of the other times was very close, could have went either way. Here's how it works:

It is done at 2nd base. Shortstop breaks over near the bag and does a couple of glove pats (the usual). As he retreats, he comes in front of the runner. At this point he stops dead and turns face to face with the runner so they catch eyes. At this time the 2nd baseman goes to the bag, the catcher drops his mitt as a signal for the pitcher to turn and throw.

All three times we used this move, the opposing coach came out questioning the umpire about obstruction. All three times they were told the same thing, " The shortstop did not impede the runner from getting back to 2nd base. He was not in the base-path but instead, in front of him. If this is done with perfect timing, it's almost sure to work. It's only human nature when a guy stop abruptly and stares into your eyes for a split second to stare back for a split second. That's all it takes. Tell me what you think.

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Replies to This Discussion

There is nothing un-ethical about it.....sh*tty it may be....but you know as well as I know, that when guys start getting slid into hard, or getting plunked, or extra smacky mouth, an out on a guy in scoring position will quiet down most teams pretty quick. My team does the same thing, but the "stop and stare" part is absolute genius. As long as they don't kiss after they stare, we're okay......
Do it as you please, its completely within the letter of the law, but clearly not the spirit of the law. Depending what level you're playing obviously makes a difference in response from the other team. Be glad these are high schoolers and probably wont be throwing at and spiking your guys. Regardless, its bush league and not the right way to play the game. If you were my coach I'd be looking elsewhere for better instruction and knowledge on how to play the game.
I think it is chicken sh*t. When I coached high school ball I had an apposing coach try to pull that play against my kids. With one of my runners on 2nd he had taught his shortstop to "Loop de Lou" around him. So I instructed my runners to knock the ss on his butt just as soon as he got between them and third base. Obstruction was called when I pointed out that my runner was trying to steal third when he was blocked. That coach soon quit teaching that technique.
Have to agree with Kris. There are a lot of things you can do within the spirit of the game, I personally don't think this is one of them. I would have a difficult time not coming back with something (CLEAN) after you pulled that against us. Although I must admit, if I were a little league coach, I'd be tempted to try it once for fun!
Boy...I really rubbed you the wrong way Kris. " If I were a player I would look elsewhere for better instruction"???? Please, give me a break. I can guarantee you that my players are getting a great baseball education.So please, save the insults. I asked you what I thought of the play, not my ability to coach.
I have to agree with both of you on this. Its a great way to get the runner's attention. I have run that play before, like Edwin described, without the "stop and stare" and it is usually effective. There is nothing about this being illegal in high school and up but in little league it would be considered illegal. There is a fine line though between being able to throw a great pick off and hindering the other players in such a fashion that it makes it easy to do so. I would want to know that the pitcher and fielders can work together in such a fashion that a great pick off occurs, not cause the runner cannot see what is happening. The "stop and stare" variation is something that I would not do, but the rest of the play is perfectly fine.
I'd be curious to know what your reaction would be if the runner at second, when a line drive or hard ground ball was hit toward the shortstop, got in the face of the shortshop making eye contact and then moving out of the way at the last second. Frankly, these "let's push the ethical envelope" discussion grow tiresome. Why aren't we focusing more on improving the quality of the kid's fundamentals rather than trying to create an unfair, albeit "within the letter of the law", advantage?
Dwight, your comment is in the rules, this would be interference, dead ball, runner out and all runners return to the base they were on except if forced. And if in the Umpires judgment two outs could have been made on the play, the Umpire could rule another runner out, such as a runner going home from third or the batter-runner. There is no room for unsporting behavior in baseball or any other sport for that matter.
I think the play itself, and the people teaching the play have no room in the game. That's my opinion and if you don't like it oh well. I wasn't directly insulting you, I am insulting the play. And yes, I would definitely look elsewhere as a player. For a different instructor, or team. Unfortunate for high school kids they get stuck with what they get stuck with. Stick to teaching and developing skills and talents, especially at that level when the kids need it. They dont need the b.s. bush league antics. Again, thats my opinion and if others dont like it or dont agree thats fine. Thats why they are opinions.
As an Umpire, I might consider this as unsporting and call obstruction. Even thought it's not listed in the HS rule book, you could consider this like a runner stopping in from of the shortstop for a second when the ball is hit to the shortstop so he could not field the ball. This would be interference as it blocked the shortstops view of the ball coming his way. This type of teaching baseball is unsporting and an unfair advantage in deceiving the runner. Don't forget Umpires have a right to make a judgment call that is not listed in the rule book. I would then give the runner third base.
To me its a travesty to the game. Remember three things, and in this case, 4 things can happen and three of them are bad
The 1 good thing you may get a pick off .
2, obstruction,3, the pitcher throws the ball into center field, and the runner advances, 4, or the pitcher screws up and the umpires call a balk.
"stick to fundamentals"
There are two infractions here that I would call. The 1st one would be obstruction. Obstruction can occur when any act by a fielder impedes a runner from advancing or returning to a base. I would award the runner third base or ask the offensive team if they would rather take the play.

Because this act was planned I could also call the team for unsportsmanlike conduct. This is bush league and I would have a serious talk with each of the umpires who didn't make a call.

Mark Cassler
President Northern Vermont Baseball Umpires Association

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