Ground Rules

April 10, 2013
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Have you ever wondered why umpires meet with the managers at home plate before a ball game? It is to exchange line-up cards, but it is also to go over the ground rules of each ball park. A park like Cincinnati’s is usually easy. There are no unusual nooks and crannies in this park so the rules are fairly standard. You always discuss the outfield fence to know just what is a home run and what is still ‘in play’ for a batted ball. Most new parks now have a yellow line to distinguish the home run from the ‘in play’ line. Then, there is the so-called foul pole which is really a fair pole because the part you look at is ‘in play’, and the screen is there to help the umpire call the play. The fun ground rules occur in a park like Wrigley Field in Chicago with the ivy on the walls, and what happens if a ball gets lost in the ivy. A smart outfielder will throw up his arms early and get the umpire to rule it a two-base hit. This prevents the runner from advancing while the player tries to locate the ball. It has been said some of the old timers use to hide balls in the ivy so they could quickly return a ball back to the infield. Other parks have jutted walls in the corners of the ball park that ricochet balls all over the place. Each park has a rule on when it is ‘in play’ and when it is ruled a ground-rule double. Other parks may have a screen that has a special rule if a ball hits it, and there are always rules for balls going into the dugout. This is what is supposed to be going on in these meetings. Some days it might be a peace meeting for what happened the night before.

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