See the companion article Here Comes the Pitch for the proper procedures after the hands separate.
As the pitcher steps onto the pitcher’s plate with the intent to throw the next pitch, she must have her hands apart with the ball in either her glove or her pitching hand. A minor addition to the legal pitching position in 2020 – the pitcher’s hips must be in line with 1b and 3b. The plate umpire should not allow the pitcher to be in the motion of bringing the hands together until she has both feet in the legal position required for a legal pitch. The rules for the positioning of her feet are clearly stated in the rule book and both plate and base umpire(s) must watch closely for any violations.
The pivot foot must be in contact with the plate; she is no longer required to have some part of the pivot foot on top of the plate. Any part of her foot in contact with the ground must be completely within the 24-inch length of the pitcher’s plate. The pivot foot may slide forward or across the plate provided contact with the plate is maintained. There is an exception: physical contact with the plate may be lost when the pitcher turns, twists or bends the pivot foot, as long as the pivot foot has not reduced the distance to home plate and remains in contact with the ground.
Interpretation: as the pitcher is taking the signal, she has her pivot foot such that the heel of the shoe is raised above the plane of the plate as the toe of the shoe is on the ground. No part of the pivot foot shoe is in contact with pitcher’s plate. Is this legal or is it an illegal pitch? This is illegal. Rule 10.1.1 is very clear – the pivot foot must be in contact with the pitcher’s plate.
The stride foot may be on or behind the plate as far back as desired. Any part of the stride foot in contact with the ground or pitcher’s plate must be completely within the 24-inch length. Once the pitcher takes the proper pitching position and initially sets the toe of her stride foot, she may not move that foot in any direction. Key points for the stride foot:
• She may not step, stride, or slide the stride foot backward, forward, sideways or off the ground after she initially sets it on the ground.
• Once the pitcher has established her stride foot, simply dropping or rocking onto her heel is not a violation.
Taking the Signal
The pitcher must take the pitching signal only from the required pitching position (on the pitcher’s plate). If the pitching signal comes from the catcher, it may be given only when the pitcher is in the pitching position on the pitcher’s plate. The penalty for not taking the pitching signal from the pitcher’s plate is an illegal pitch.
Taking the pitching signal from behind the pitcher’s plate from her signal arm band or the catcher is illegal since the pitcher is not in the pitching position. The result is an illegal pitch. A coach may give visual or verbal signals while the pitcher is not in the pitching position, however, when the pitcher assumes the pitching position, she must look at her signal arm band or the catcher to take or appear to take the signal.
The pitcher may not simply step into the pitching position, put her hands together and start the pitching motion. There must be timing consistent with taking the signal from an arm band or catcher. Failing to do so will result in an illegal pitch.
Key points for taking the signal:
• Pitcher must take the pitching signal only from the required pitching position (on the pitcher’s plate, hands apart).
• Hand signals/verbal may come from the dugout prior to the pitcher being on the pitcher’s plate
• However, armband information must be gathered by the pitcher while on the pitcher’s plate and in the pitching position.
• Pitching signals from the catcher may be given only when the pitcher is in the pitching position on the pitcher’s plate.
Calling an illegal pitch
Base or plate umpires may make these illegal pitch calls. Taking a defensive signal from a coach or catcher prior to stepping on the pitcher’s plate is allowed. However, the pitcher may not look at the signal arm band until she is in the pitching position. See the accompanying article in the Mechanics section for the illegal pitch mechanics and handling its subsequent options if the illegal pitch is not canceled.
How many signals can a pitcher take?
Case Book Play: The pitcher steps on the pitcher’s plate with both feet, her hands apart, and pauses as she gets the sign from the catcher. She then brings her hands together, looks to the catcher and receives additional signals from her. Does receiving these additional signals while on the pitcher’s plate result in an illegal pitch call?
RULING: The first part satisfies the requirements in 10.2 for taking the signal. She must pause with her hands together for not more than five seconds but the rule does not specify what else she can do during that time so yes, she can receive additional signals. Now if she keeps her hands together for more than 5 seconds, the plate umpire should call time and award a ball to the batter for a violation of rule 10-18, Time allowed between pitches.