Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Show Me a Sign

For those of you who are fans of the diamond sports--baseball and softball--I hate to tell you that another traditional part of the game is going away.  Joining wood bats, stirups, pine tar, and everybody that plays a position bats on the scrap heap of history will soon be signs. 

There is a new trend in the lower levels of the games where coaches no longer flash signs to runners and the catcher no longer uses his or her fingers to signal the next pitch.  Baseball and softball are now adopting the football method of putting everything on a wristband.  The third base coach--usually the manager--consults his chart and calls out a series of numbers.  The batter and the runners look at their wrist bands and see if those numbers correspond to a hit and run, a steal, a bunt, a take or swing away.

Meanwhile, the other coach in the dugout calls out numbers telling the pitcher and catcher what pitch to throw and what location they should aim for.  If runners are on base, another set of numbers tells the fielders who should cover in case of a steal--or what base they should be throwing to.  Gone are the days of having to remember the "indicator sign" flashed by the third base coach.  And it has been years since catchers were allowed to call their own games--even at the Major League level--as every aspect of every sport now has to be micro-managed by the coach on the bench.

There was always a belief that catchers make the best managers, because from an early age they are involved in nearly every aspect of strategy--calling pitches, sequencing signs so that runners on second don't pick up what the next pitch is going to be and setting defenses.  Now, their only function is to make sure that every pitch doesn't go to the backstop.  They may as well be the kid in right field picking dandelions and watching birds.

Now I hate to tell coaches that rely on the numbers and wristbands method that because I often work home plate as an umpire, it takes me about four hitters before I figure out what their sequence is and I know what pitch is coming.  If batters were paying attention--instead of looking at their own wristbands--they would probably pick up on that as well--since it is being announced for everyone at the park to hear.

So the next time you drive by a ball diamond and everyone is looking at their arms, don't think we are trying to figure out how long we have before reaching time limit for the diamond.  This is just the new, dumb way to play the game.

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