I ran a poll recently on my Facebook page – The RI Baseball Experience – to gain input from local RI baseball minds. The question was “Should a coach be allowed to assist in the game by warming up their pitch, giving the player an opportunity for additional coaching and mentoring? Or, should the players on the bench continue to step up and help their team while their starting catcher is getting ready to go in?” This is in reference to Little League® rule 3.09, which paraphrased states “Rule 3.09 – Manager or coaches must not warm up a pitcher at home plate or in the bullpen or elsewhere at any time. They may, however, stand by to observe a pitcher during warm-up in the bullpen.”
Several comments were made about the subject including:
“I have always found Rule 3.09 to be strange. The first half of the rule forbids participating managers/coaches from sitting in the stands or interacting with spectators. The second half of the rule is then the part quoted above. How these two relate to be included within the same rule is strange. Oh, and I think not letting a coach warm up a pitcher, especially in the younger divisions, is just dumb.”
“the rule is outdated. With smaller rosters and slower pace of play anything to get game moving. Young catchers take forever to get dressed“
“How about we focus on the kids health its little league if a kid needs help putting on gear because he was on base or at bat or just slow allow him to get help. This should not take away from a child that is pitching and needs to stay loose. The game is dragged out if we have to wait for the catcher at this level. Let the pitcher warm up so his arm is not going from 0-100 in a few pitches. The coaches can rush the catcher if he is having issues during practice so he becomes more efficient during the games”
A few great points are raised here. First, the pace of play in Coach Pitch and AAA divisions can be an issue for some leagues. With the younger kids having longer at bats due to the ball/strike reset rule or just younger pitchers having difficulty throwing strikes, the pace of some games is slow and methodical and does not do much for the engagement of players and fans. I liked the comments above about rushing in practice so they are prepared in games. That is a positive and proactive way to coach. Second thought is the rosters are shrinking, so there are less substitutes on the bench. Typically, if a catcher is coming off the base paths after the third out is recorded, the coach will allow a substitute player to warm up the pitcher while the catcher gets his/her gear on. But, what if you only have 9 players? In the past, I have elected to have the pitcher play catch with the third basemen. But, that is not pitching practice. It is playing catch. Playing catch is not pitching practice.
I have seen some teams and leagues adopt their own substitute runner or special pinch runner rule for their league. This rule must be voted on and included in your league’s charter to be valid and must be presented to the umpires and opposing team prior to the game starting. A special pinch runner rule allows the catcher to be removed from the base paths if there are 2 outs, so he/she can get the catcher’s gear on. Rule 7.14 in Little League®’s 2018 rule book does not allow for this substitution however – “a player, whose name is on the team’s batting order may not become a substitute runner for another member of the team. “Courtesy runner” is not permitted.” So, if you do not have a league approved, league administrator approved rule to present to an umpire, you may not use a “courtesy runner” in a game. This is a rule which I think should be amended at the national level.
So, the results of my Facebook poll were overwhelming in favor of allowing coaches to help warm up pitchers. 30 votes were cast. 24 said Yes to Coaches Helping. 6 said No, that the players should be the only ones to warm up the pitcher. Thank you to everyone who voted and thank you to all who commented on this subject.
Stay tuned for more Facebook polls on my Facebook page – The RI Baseaball Experience.