Umpires must be aware that when a half-inning ends, it is not time to “take a break.” There is a lot happening on the field between innings. If the crew needs to hold a quick meeting for something germane to the game that must be discussed, this meeting must be quick and the crew should still be watching the field and players.
If the plate umpire is taking substitutions or otherwise involved, base umpires should be administering the time allowed between innings. We no longer need to be concerned with the number of warmup pitches, but one of the base umpires should be using a timing device to keep the between-inning break to a maximum of 90 seconds.
Another important umpire duty between innings is to watch for violations of the rules which govern what each of the teams are allowed to do during this time. The rules for positions of the teams are written clearly – “Shall limit on-field warmups at the start of the game, between innings, and during pitching changes to…”
The word “limit” although not bolded in the rule book as it is in the above paragraph, is an important part of these rules. As has been emphasized in interpretations and clarifications, the word “limit” means that no other activity is allowed on the field.
• a team positions a substitute player near the plate area to throw ground balls to the infield instead of the first baseperson doing it – illegal!
• three or four players swinging bats near their dugout – illegal!
Too often the violations to these rules have been ignored. There is a strong safety factor to these rules – they cannot be ignored nor considered as “not that important, let the players and coaches do what they want.”
Offensive team between innings
On-field warmups are limited to:
• Warmup swings on the field of play by the batter who is in foul territory provided they are outside the batter’s box; use common sense and preventive umpiring – if the batter is standing too close to the plate area, ask her to move back farther (safety and could be a minor attempt to intimidate the pitcher or catcher).
• Warmup swings by the on-deck batter in their team’s on-deck circle.
• Warmup running in the foul-territory portion of the outfield
• No coaches or uniformed team members may be near or behind home plate, or behind the backstop while the pitcher is throwing warmup pitches.
Defensive team between innings
• Not more than four players and the pitcher throwing and catching one ball in the infield.
• Any number of players in the outfield throwing and catching.
• Warmup running in the foul-territory portion of the outfield.
Case Book plays
1. Between innings or during a pitching change, the offensive team positions themselves along the foul line to “watch” the pitcher warm up.
2. Between innings or during a pitching change, the defensive team positions themselves along the foul line to prevent the offensive team from watching the pitcher warm up.
In both cases, the head coach will be warned the first time the players are illegally positioned and for the second violation, the head coach will be ejected. The rules allow the batter and on-deck batter to take warm-up swings in foul territory and on-deck circle. Other players may run in the foul-territory portion of the outfield. A coach can huddle or meet with players close to the dugout area as long as this does not delay the game.