The umpire's answers below are brief explanations of the relevant rules of play that answer the questions that have been submitted. For the full rule that relates to the question, please see the full rules as listed in the "Applicable Rules" column of the table below. 

Question

The Umpire's Answer

Applicable Rules

After ball 4 is called, and the batter has taken his walk, is the ball still live? And if so, can the batter/runner then advance from first base at their own risk if, for example, the catcher takes too long to retrieve the ball, or overthrows the pitcher?

In a word: yes!

For all leagues (except the minors where there are no balls and no walks because it is coach pitch), the ball is live and runners (including the batter) may advance past the base they are awarded at their own risk. Runners not awarded a base may advance at their own risk too.

Rules 7.05 (h) and 7.05 (i) in the Official Baseball Rules and Little League Rules and IAB rule amendments 11.07.05 (Minors), 12.07.05 (Juveniles), and 13.07.05 (Cadets and Juniors).

Follow up question: Would your answer have been different if the ball four pitch had left the field of play (gone into the stands or crossed an agreed-upon out-of-play line on a field without a backstop)?

Yes. If ball four goes out of play, then the ball is dead. Each runner (including the batter-runner) is awarded one base from the last base occupied at the time of the pitch. Since at the time of the pitch the batter was occupying home base, the batter-runner may not advance any farther on the play than first base. The other runners are awarded one base.

Rules 7.05 (h) and 7.05 (i) in the Official Baseball Rules and Little League Rules and IAB rule amendments 11.07.05 (Minors), 12.07.05 (Juveniles), and 13.07.05 (Cadets and Juniors).

Please can you  fully clarify the "runner must slide" rule, whether and how it exists and should be applied.

There is no "must slide rule" in any of the leagues. Instead, there is an "illegal/malicious contact" rule. If there is an illegal collision, the runner is out. If the umpire judges that the collision occurred maliciously (i.e., with intent to injure), the runner is not only out, but he is also ejected from the game. This rule protects defensive players from being injured by being crashed into when attempting a play on a runner.

In brief, when a runner is advancing to or retreating from a base, he must not crash into the fielder who either (1) has the ball and is waiting for the tag, or (2) is in the act of catching a thrown ball in an attempt to tag out a runner. To avoid the collision, runners have the option of sliding, going around (as long as they do not leave the baseline), side-stepping, stopping, retreating, or otherwise avoiding the collision.

This does not mean that legal collisions do not happen - they do, and a few examples are in the rule. For instance, if the ball is thrown to the plate from the outfield and is coming in near the second base area when the contact with the catcher occurs, the catcher was not in the act of catching the ball. However, if the ball is in the dirt area of the plate, then the umpire could judge this to be in the act of catching the ball and declare the runner out.

Minor League Rule 11.07.18, Juvenile League Rule 12.07.18, and Cadet and Junior League Rule 13.07.14 are all identical. Premier League Rule 14.07.14, with one minor exception, is also identical to the other leagues' rules.

In the game our team played, the opposing coach challenged the count against our batters several times; ‎and the umpire changed the count twice - including once calling a walked batter back to the plate.

Is it permissible to challenge the count (e.g., telling the ump the count is 2-2 when he says it's 3-1)? ‎Should the umpire change his count upon such a complaint (even if he may be wrong)? I thought balls ‎and strikes are not appealable calls.

Challenging the count is OK especially if the umpire has the wrong count. Arguing balls and strikes is a different story all together and is not permitted. In the Juvenile League, where the IAB has a rule taking a ball off the count when a strike is called and the batter has not swung at it, and providing that there is indeed a ball on the count, it can get confusing for the umpires as well. The counter does not click backwards. Do not confuse this with judgment calls, which may not be argued and are not subject to appeal or protest.

Of course, the umpire will only change the count (including calling back a player who has erroneously been awarded first base on balls) if indeed he has made a mistake. Getting the calls correct, especially rule calls, is important.

 

Does a tag have to be on the runner's body, or does tagging clothes qualify? For example, what if you hit the sleeve without actually touching the arm?

The PERSON of a player or an umpire is any part of his body, his clothing or his equipment. Therefore, if a player was tagged on his sleeve, he is out.

NOTE: Under an Approved Ruling appearing in our Premier, Junior, Cadet, Juvenile, and Minor League Playing Rules, tzitzit are not considered to be part of a players "person". Therefore, a batter is not considered to have been "hit by the pitch", nor is a runner considered "tagged" if the only thing that is touched are the player's tzitzit.

Rule 2.00

In a Cadet League game, with two outs and the bases loaded, a batter batted out of turn. The defensive team waited until after one pitch, a ball, and then appealed to the umpire that the offensive team had batted out of turn. After determining that the batter had batted out of turn, the umpire called the correct batter out. The following inning, the batter who had batted out of turn lead off. Was the call on the field correct?

The call on the field was incorrect.

When a coach appeals an illegal batter during his time at bat (or if the offensive coach realizes it in the middle of the at bat) the legal batter replaces the illegal batter and resumes the count. There is no penalty.

The best time to appeal is after the time at bat is completed and before the next pitch or attempted play is made. In that case all advancement on the bases due to the batter becoming a runner are nullified (all advancements not due to the batter becoming a runner are allowed) and the original batter who was supposed to be up is out. The next batter would be the batter who next appears in the order unless he is on base, in which case we skip over him and go to the next.

Once the first pitch is made to the next batter (or a play is attempted), there can be no appeal, and the illegal batter will be considered to be the legal batter. The next batter will be whoever comes after him on the line-up, unless he is on base in which case he is skipped over.

 
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