Fielder blocking runner’s view of release of the pitch (9.5.3.10) – Visual obstruction

This rule has created a lot of discussion. Below is the official interpretation from Dee Abrahamson, who at the time of her interpretations was the NCAA Softball Rules Editor. It is divided into individual sentences. Following each of these is information related to that part of the interpretation. This information is based on emails which John Bennett had with Dee about this rule and comment/questions
Dee interpretation in 10/18/13 document SOFTBALL WHYS- The word “intentionally” has been removed in most places in the NCAA softball rule book but it remains as part of rule 9.5.2.9 regarding a base runner seeing the release of the pitch. First basemen are adept at being in the way without ever looking over their shoulders, hence appearing non-intentional, but this is still prohibiting the base runner from seeing the pitch release. Shouldn’t this violation always have a consequence?
RULE FOUNDATION- Rule 9.5.3.10 INTERPRETATION : If the base runner is having difficulty seeing release of the pitch, the runner should ask the defensive player or the umpire to accommodate her ability to see.
Dee: The explanation says the player SHOULD ask the player or the umpire so she may choose the option that best suits her situation. Saying, “excuse me but I cannot see the pitcher, can you move a bit to your left or forward?” to a first baseman who you have played against ten or twelve times over the years might be easier or harder than someone you have never met. The option is there to be informal and take care of it yourself or be formal and bring the umpire into it.
What if the base coach tells the umpire the runner cannot see the pitcher?
Dee: Seems like bringing the first base coach into the conversation is just an unnecessary middle man. So the first base coach tells the umpire the runner cannot see the pitcher, the umpire tells the defender, the defender asks the umpire “which way does she need me to move”, the umpire passes the question on to the coach who asks the player. The player tells the coach “to her left”, the coach tells the umpire and the umpire tells the player. The player says “ok” which the umpire passes along to the coach who tells the player. It’ll work but seems like an unnecessary step that makes it all a bigger deal than it is.
(So the net of Dee’s answer is to tell the coach that if the runner is having a problem, the runner should ask the fielder to move. Do not let the coach get involved with this situation.)
This rule suggests that a runner should talk to a defensive player. Is this what we want to encourage?
The runner is not required to ask the defender to move. She can tough it out and let the defender stay or she can go through the umpire.
Dee INTERPRETATION : The umpire should intervene if he/she notices the base runner jockeying her position in order to see around the defender. If the defender complies, there is no issue but if it continues, then it is assumed to be intentional and will have a consequence.
This second sentence implies an umpire should do something just because the runner seems to be having difficulty. An umpire would prefer to not do anything until somebody points it out. The word “should” means we do not have to do this, and we do not want to take action on this unless asked by the runner.
Dee: This is for those who practice preventative umpiring…when you see a runner jockeying for position obviously unable to see, it makes sense that the umpire step in and not wait. But lots of umpires do not like to do anything until somebody points it out (as you mentioned) and that’s okay then to wait until it is brought to the umpire’s attention.
Dee INTERPRETATION: “Intentional” remains a part of the rule to prevent a base runner from “drawing the violation” by positioning herself behind an unsuspecting fielder and then innocently claiming not to be able to see. The softball why is really about why the word “intentionally” still is in this rule when it has been removed from most of the book. It was not meant to be an umpire mechanic and the rule itself does have the words “shall”.
Some guidelines
According to Dee Abrahamson, the defensive player has a right to establish her defensive position. If she re-adjusts, looking back at the R1 or 1B, then it could be intentional.
When a runner complains about the F3 blocking R1’s view
• Watch F3 to identify the complaint – is it:
o R1 cannot see the coach’s signals (no rule or penalty to cover this)
o Or R1 cannot see the release of the pitch
• Initially F3 may look back to the base to know where to position herself
• If F3, after initially positioning herself, looks back at R1 one or two times, there is a good chance she is intentionally positioning herself in that spot on the field to block R1’s view
• Other cues – F3 takes a certain position only when there is a runner on 1b, keeps looking back
• See if it happens a few times, then consider applying the rule
• If it happens more than once and the defensive coach complains tell the coach the defensive player needs to pick her spot on the field, so she does not block the runner”
• If she continues to do it – apply the rule