Normal Suspensions of Play

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 during a live ball.

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(note: this companion article has a section which explains how to handle the situation whereby the game conditions are not bad enough to stop the game but the batted ball is being returned to the infield wet).

Note: Granting a suspension of play for an offensive or defensive conference, or a player-to-player conference is discussed in a separate article Conferences – the Rules in the Rules Corner/The Game/Participants section of the Locker Room, as the regulations which govern them are extensive.

Suspending play

Start of game, between innings, during pitching changes

Defense is LIMITED TO (which means nothing else is allowed)
o Warm-up pitches – during the maximum 90 seconds at the start of the game and between innings, unlimited warm-up pitches from circle to home plate with a maximum of one throw to first base from the pitcher.
o Throwing and catching with 1 ball among not more than 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). If an injury occurs on offense or defense and the coach wants to check on the player, go with the coach or designate a base umpire to attend the meeting. Stay close. If the talk turns to game strategy, ask the coach if they want a conference. If they do not, instruct them to play ball. Base runners are not restricted to their bases during the suspension of play for team personnel to attend to an injury.

Procedure If Major Injury Due to Batted Ball
What should the umpires do if a game participant suffers a significant injury? This question arose at one of our Annual Meetings. The Training Staff asked the NCAA Softball Rules Editor and received this reply from Vickie Van Kleeck on 2/18/16: With all the bat testing protocols now and hopefully ridding ourselves of dangerous bats, we do not feel it is the umpires’ legal responsibility to confiscate bats and balls. You need to leave this to game management. I would advise making sure that bat was on their original list. If you are at a site that does bat testing, make sure it is a “stickered bat”. Umpires are the ones that adjudicate the game on the field. Let game management handle these types of issues.

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; use that “dead time”- be a great dead-ball umpire. Here are things you need to do before play resumes after a stoppage.

Make eye contact with your partners

Just because you are ready to go, it does not mean those you are working with are in the same state of preparedness. They may be tying a shoe, addressing an equipment problem, talking to a coach or player or just plain daydreaming. Restarting the game before everyone is 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 is safe to proceed. If your pre-game discussion on the tendency of teams identified any past “problems” between the teams, monitor dead time even more closely. 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.