Suspension of Play – normal game situations

Any umpire may suspend the game for a legitimate reason, as outlined in the rule book. Use the signal in the CCA Manual. It is important for the calling umpire to use the appropriate emphasis, both signal and verbal, for the situation. The emphasis may range from the ordinary to the loud/strong (look at me, this is important). As the saying goes, we do not want to be seen or heard, nor insert ourselves into the game, until it is absolutely necessary to do so. Some examples: a dead ball is called but all participants do not acknowledge it; when it is necessary to protect a player with a significant injury.

This article will cover the situations which require a stoppage of the game under normal circumstances. These halts will usually be short in nature. Read the companion article Inclement Weather or Unforeseen Circumstances for information on situations which cause a complete stop to a game.

Suspending play

Start of game, between innings, during pitching changes

Defense is LIMITED TO (which means nothing else is allowed)
o Warm-up pitches from circle to home plate for not more than 5 pitches or 4 pitches and 1 throw to 1b or any combination that is limited to 5 throws from the pitcher. If Media Format is being used, the teams are allowed a maximum of 2 minutes between innings
o Throwing and catching with 1 ball among not more than 4 players and the pitcher in the infield
o Warm-up running in the foul-territory portion of the outfield
o Coaches or team members may not be near home plate or behind the backstop

Offense is LIMITED TO (which means nothing else is allowed)
o Warm-up swings on the field of play by
o The batter who is in foul territory outside the batter’s box
o On-deck batter in her team’s on-deck circle
o Warm-up running in the foul-territory portion of the outfield
o Base runners may lead off their respective bases during pitching warm-ups
o Coaches or team members may not be near home plate or behind the backstop

Note: no signal or verbal is needed at the end of the inning. But be aware of situations which might cause the ball to remain live although there is an apparent third out (dropped third strike and BR does not proceed immediately to first base, possible appeal…).

Batter or pitcher actions

Pitcher is ready to pitch but the batter, catcher or umpires are not ready. The plate umpire should hold up one hand (the only time that the umpire may use one hand for a suspension of play).
o The ball is dead
o No other play shall be allowed until the umpire lowers the hand, signifying “Play ball.”

When a batter or pitcher steps out of position for legitimate reason, the plate umpire should immediately give the dead ball signal and verbal while stepping out from behind the catcher.

Substitution Administration

o Warm-ups between players already on the field can occur if done in a way that does not delay play
o Substitutes may not participate in on-field warm-ups
o Warm-up pitches are not allowed unless a request to an umpire is made and approved.

Injury Administration

Play should be suspended immediately without regard to timing when spectator or participant safety is compromised (for example, lightning detected within the danger zone, serious injury to a participant or if a player’s footing or grip on the bat or ball is obviously compromised (see article Inclement Weather or Unforeseen Circumstances).
o Base runners are not restricted to their bases during the suspension of play for team personnel to attend to an injury.
o 11.2, A.R. Softball Whys #1, page 13
Ejection Administration
o Base runners are not restricted to their bases during the administration of an ejection
o R. 6.11.2^, Softball Whys #1, page 13

Protest Administration

o Base runners are not restricted to their bases during the resolution of a protest
o 11.2, A.R. Softball Whys #1, page 13

Do NOT Suspend Play

o Before a play has completed except to administer to a significant injury
o For obvious tactics to delay a game
• After the pitcher has started her pitch
• After a base on balls until the BR has stopped on first base and each other runner forced to advance has stopped at her next base

During suspension of play

It is easy to forget that what happens while play is stopped is just as important as what happens during active play. An official who views timeouts or the time between plays as dead time is asking for trouble. Here are things you need to do before play resumes after a stoppage.

Make eye contact with your partners

Just because you’re ready to go, it doesn’t mean those you’re working with are in the same state of preparedness. They may be tying a shoe, addressing a equipment problem, talking to a coach or player or just plain daydreaming. Restarting the game before everyone’s ready can result in having to redo the restart, which makes you look less than professional.

You should also make sure game-related auxiliary personnel (e.g. scorers) are in place and ready to go as well.

Consider the game situation

Understanding what strategy the teams may employ when play resumes helps you plot your positioning ahead of time. The score, juncture of the game and other factors should all be noted and analyzed. Knowing which rules may come into play when the action resumes will prevent you from being surprised when a situation arises.

Sweep the field with your eyes

Did any team personnel or field crew leave equipment, coach materials or debris behind on the playing surface. Make a quick but thorough visual scan of the area to be sure it’s safe to proceed. If the game was stopped because a player was bleeding, be sure that any affected areas are properly cleaned. If the rules of the sport cover situations in which players have blood on their uniforms, ensure that the uniform is either free of blood or changed.

Check the players – offense and defense

Do not allow a team to put itself at a disadvantage by restarting play with fewer than the required number of players. By the same token, if the rules of the game allow you to help a team correct a situation in which it has too many or too few players, take advantage of the rule.

This is also a good time to casually look over the players and their equipment. Is all required equipment present and being worn properly? Preventive officiating before the play saves you from having to be the unpopular “uniform police” who assesses what many perceive to be a nitpicky penalty once play resumes.

Resuming the game after a suspension of play

By rule, after a suspension of play, the plate umpire should signal and verbalize “Play ball.” Although the rule book indicates that the pitcher should be on the pitcher’s plate with the ball in her possession, the catcher is in her box, and all base runners have reoccupied their bases before the umpire does this, it is common practice to signal and verbalize it when the plate umpire determines the game should resume. The signal should include a point toward the pitcher a verbal. Most of the time this is non-demonstrative and only heard by the catcher and batter.