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A high school-level pitching question about addressing the pitching rubber.

Runner on third (R3) and our RHP is on the mound, but off the rubber.  While standing behind the pitching rubber, he decides he'll pitch from the wind-up position.  He steps forward with his left foot, then with his right.  Field umpire calls a balk.  R3 scores.

I ask for an explanation and ask if it was his hands or motion that was deceptive.  Like, "did he start and stop". He tells me it is how he is "addressing the rubber".  He tells me and my RHP that he needs to step with his right foot first, then his left.  That's why he called a balk.

I've looked through rule books and this Forum about "addressing the rubber", and I cannot find anything remotely close.  I think most pitcher's engage the rubber all the time in this manner. 

I asked another umpire today and he didn't think there's any reason for a balk call in this scenario. I'm baffled. It cost us a run and the game.  Any help?

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I think the umpire must have taken the requirements to disengage the rubber and mistakenly applied them to taking the rubber.  As described, the umpire was wrong.

And, while this *might* have contributed to a run scoring (the umpire didn't put the runner on third to begin with, and we don't know what would have happened if the umpire hadn't ruled a balk), the umpire didn't "cost" you the game.

What about this sequence.  RHP "engages" with rubber with his left foot by stepping forward, pauses with hands together (ball in right hand - ball/hand in glove), then steps forward with his right foot.  Could it have been interpreted that his initial step started the motion - which he then stopped.  Should not matter that he just happened to start the motion with the "wrong" foot.

This would be compared to the RHP hving the ball in glove and right hand by his side stepping up with his left foot, then right.  The difference here is a little nuanced, but I could see the former looking like the start of the windup.

OBR 8.05(g) - The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching his pitching plate.

Since RHP tend to place their right foot on the rubber first and deliver by moving their left foot first I suppose that could be interpreted as a natural pitching motion.  If this is the thinking the umpire may have poorly explained that this was his rational. 

Without seeing the play it sounds like a reach - but it is the most plausible thing I could see in the rules.

After growing up and maturing some I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit this but when I played in college we had a "pick off" move that according to the rule above was a balk but we were NEVER called on it.  Runner on first or second and RHP totally ignores the runner after getting ball and walking around mound once.  Gets onto the rubber right foot then left foot.  Takes the sign and still hasn't looked at the runner.  He "starts" his deliver by raising his hands up and stepping back with his right foot and not his left foot (remember RHP).  So he's actually disengaged the rubber but has done so by simulating the pitch.  Runner sees this and takes off for next base and we get him out.  Not a single umpire nor opposing coach said anything about this but this was early 90's so not sure if the rule existed then or not but my guess is it did.

Coach,

I had the same thing happen to me in a JV game in my first year of umpiring high school ball.  The pitcher raised his hand up in the air and kind of wiped his chin with his shoulder as his arms came up and stepped off with his right foot at the same time.  The runner from first broke and was picked off.  I did not call a balk but the play haunts me to this day.  It has never happened again since but I always watch for it.  He got me.  The offensive team coach never said a word.  

coach2709 posted:

After growing up and maturing some I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit this but when I played in college we had a "pick off" move that according to the rule above was a balk but we were NEVER called on it.  Runner on first or second and RHP totally ignores the runner after getting ball and walking around mound once.  Gets onto the rubber right foot then left foot.  Takes the sign and still hasn't looked at the runner.  He "starts" his deliver by raising his hands up and stepping back with his right foot and not his left foot (remember RHP).  So he's actually disengaged the rubber but has done so by simulating the pitch.  Runner sees this and takes off for next base and we get him out.  Not a single umpire nor opposing coach said anything about this but this was early 90's so not sure if the rule existed then or not but my guess is it did.

I've seen that move used as low as 11u. Some umpires call it a balk and some do not. If the umpire seems inexperienced some kids will do it. 

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