Rick Roder
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Baseball - Abandonment



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    I have recently become a regular contributor to Referee Magazine, the most widely read officiating magazine in the world. Here are the first few paragraphs from an article on a baseball rule known as "abandonment." Making baseball's rules interesting is a challenge, but I think this piece shows my ability to make the material informative and readable. The piece appeared in the August 2, 2002, issue of Referee, and the selection is reprinted with their permission.

    Abandonment: The Baserunner's Biggest Blunder
    By Rick Roder
    Copyright © 2002, Referee Magazine. All rights reserved.

    A runner's abandonment of his effort to run the bases might be baseball's equivalent of running out the back door of the house when the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Team is knocking at the front door with a fistful of balloons and a check written on a former road sign.

    Whether you are on the baseball field or in the neighborhood, you are going to want to know why the guy is headed for the dugout (or the woods, as the case may be). Abandonment is trickiest when you are unsure why a runner who is not yet out is leaving the bases. Abandonment is especially gooey when it occurs within a play involving several other rules.

    First, it is important to note that the rules differentiate between "abandonment" after a runner has acquired first, and the failure of the batter-runner to run to first base, which is not given a name. Let's deal with the batter-runner first.

    Luckily, there are only two plausible scenarios in which it is likely that a batter-runner won't run to first base. The first is rare: A batter receives ball four, but knowing there will be a pinch runner or courtesy runner, goes straight to the dugout as his replacement sprints to first base. That's not covered in any of the rulebooks. Referee recommends that an umpire instruct the batter to touch first. Time will then be called to allow the entry of the pinch or courtesy runner.

    Much more common is the play in which a batter becomes a batter-runner when, with first base unoccupied and less than two out, a third strike is not caught by the catcher. When that occurs with less than two outs, the batter-runner has until he enters his dugout or bench to right his wrong and run to first base. If the batter-runner steps into his dugout or bench area, he is declared out (NFHS 8-4-1i, NCAA 7-11u, pro 6.09b Cmt). Only the NFHS rules (8-4-1i, 8.1.1B) address what happens if that occurs with two outs. The batter-runner has until all the infielders leave fair territory to try for first base. Referee recommends the same ruling in games using NCAA and pro rules.


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© 2002 Rick Roder