This thread just started on Rec.sport.officiating. I realized that
many of the people who would be most affected by this proposed rule
change would not be officials but players, and thus many read only
this group rather than r.s.o. Since I failed to cross-post my initial
reply, I have copied over part of Mike's message as well as my
response. So please pardon me r.s.o readers who have already seen
If other people have opinions concerning this issue, then please
cross-post your message both to rec.sport.softball and to
rec.sport.officiating, and email a copy to Mike Kirchner,
forward them to Tony Walsh of ASA National Staff.
> Just finished up the ASA Men's B FP National held over the Labor Day
> weekend in Kissimmee, FL. The UIC was Tony Walsh, an Instructor at
> the Advanced National School as well as a National Staff member. He
> also is on a committee that looks at new rules. Something that has
> been considered on and off again is a change to the pitching rule
> for Men's FP. What is being considered is a change to require the
> men to start with both feet in contact with the pitching plate, no
> backward step, and no leap - only a drag as allowed for women. The
> intent is to get to a rule that is simply stated, easily understood,
> and straight-forward to enforce.
I would be surprised if Tony were any type of supporter of this rule
change, especially since in this case he has some power to help
prevent it! I remember his response last year when ISC decided to
change their rule and asked his opinion on it. ISC was merely
removing the pitcher's ability to slide his foot back on the ***
(which ASA allows, provided that contact is maintained) when taking
the step to the rear. The forward movement and delivery was still the
same. Tony said he thought that was a bad change; that the men
wouldn't like it because as he said "they just want to play ball."
ISC went through with it any way. Apparently Tony was right and ISC
was wrong, because when the umpires enforced the more restrictive
pitching rule at the ISC World tournament, people were pissed!
To identify myself with respect to this rule change, I am a fastpitch
umpire. Through 28 August I have umpired 138 men's fastpitch and 83
girls' fastpitch games in 1997. I am also a fastpitch pitcher. I
have worked hard to learn to throw legally by ASA standards. So as an
umpire and a player, if implemented, this rule change would affect
both my vocational and avocational involvement in the sport.
As to this proposed rule change, I say don't do it! At least not as
you have suggested above.
To let you know where I will be going in this message, I will argue as
strongly as I can against requiring male players to start with both
feet in contact with the *** and eliminating the step to the rear;
I belive that is a needlessly unnatural restriction to the pitching
motion. (I don't even support it for women, but that is beyond my
purview here.) In principle, I could accept the elimination of the
leap in men's ball, but I will argue that there should be a
demonstrated need for any change -- a deomonstrated need beyond merely
being simple for umpires to understand and enforce. I will argue that
the the overall effect of this rule change, if implemented, would be
to dampen enjoyment of the game from many men's perspective, perhaps
even to the extent that ASA-sanctioned men's fastpitch would be
I will start with my perspective on how this rule change would affect
The step to the rear is an absolutely natural element to the pitch --
why do you think that baseball pitchers use the windup position rather
than the stretch position if no one is on base? It is simply because
the backward and forward step give a more complete delivery than
merely pushing off of the *** as a baseball pitcher does in the
stretch -- or as softball pitchers do under the female pitching rule.
Starting with the feet side by side on the ***, while it can
certainly be learned, is physically ridiculous. The sole purpose for
such a restriction that I can imagine is to limit the amount of
forward momentum that the pitcher can obtain with his body. Since
runners can't lead off and steal until the pitch is released, there is
no "time" element like there is for the stretch position in baseball.
If people are concerned that men throw too hard in fastpitch and would
like to see physical constraints to slow the ball down, there is
already an outlet available for them: it's called Modified Pitch. The
current fastpitch restriction that the pivot foot maintain contact
with the pitching plate is sufficient to control the amount of forward
momentum that can be gained, while still allowing for a natural pitch
delivery. So if the reason for this proposed rule change is to slow
down the pitch, then the rule is unnecessary. The modified pitch game
can accomplish that without changing fastpitch; we should leave the
natural delivery afforded in the male fastpitch rule intact.
If the reason for this proposed rule change is umpires griping that it
is too hard for them to learn two pitching deliveries within fastpitch
(which would be ridiculous because already umpires have to choose
between four different types of pitch, i.e., fast, modified, slow, and
16-inch) then they can restrict themselves to female ball, and avoid
the confusion. Others of us who can handle the differences will take
care of the men's ball. Don't change the rule just to make it "easily
understood and straight-forward to enforce." That is a crock, and I
trust that most ASA umpires who do men's ball are considerably above
Reigning in the leap is more reasonable, to my mind. We are only
throwing from 46 feet away, so eliminating the leap is not inherently
unreasonable. But please don't insult us by saying that the purpose
is to get a rule that is easily understood and straight-forward to
enforce. How much pointless argumentation has their been about
whether a given girl is leaping because someone somewhere claims they
can see daylight under her shoes the instant she leaves the ***?
How many talented young ladies have become sophisticated enough to
drag forward, replant and throw (i.e., crow hop without ever becoming
airborn)? Plenty in both counts.
It seems to me, if you want easy to enforce then you go with a rule
that requires pitchers of either sex to throw from the ***. No
leaping; no pushing and dragging. When that pivot foot disengages the
*** it means that the ball is on its way to the batter, just like
it is in baseball. But, again, I suppose that is beyond my purview
My point remains: I believe that both a step to the rear and a step
forward with the non pivot foot should be allowed. That is the
natural motion for the pitch, and I don't belive it should needlessly
be changed. I am not as committed to keeping the leap legal, but I do
not think we should even make this type of change unless a compelling
need in demonstrated. We should not make a new rule just for the
With respect to the implementation of new restrictions, I would like
to draw our considerations beyond any given style of pitching, to the
sport of men's fastpitch itself. I trust that it takes no
argumentation to convince anyone reading this letter that men's
fastpitch is not exactly the fastest-growing sport in the nation right
now. And to the extent that it is growing (in terms of tournaments
drawing more teams) let's take an honest look at where it is growing.
Looking at the three principal governing bodies for men's fastpitch,
ASA, ISC, and NAFA, who's invitational, regional, and national
tournaments have been increasing over that past few years? While I
can't give you hard numbers, I can tell you that I am on a softball
diamond a heck of a lot, and from what I am hearing people are looking
for less restrictions on the way the play the sport, not more.
It seems to me that people are always talking about how great the
other (i.e., non-ASA) tournaments are. Many are quite ignorant and
say, for example, that ISC is the best because it allows pitchers to
throw any way they want. When I have pointed out that ISC had the
strictest pitching rule (excluding penalties for infractions), they
thought I was crazy. The bottom line as I see it is that their
perception was the the pitching rule was easier and therefore that the
tournaments were better.
However, I hardly think that ISC is the fastest growing venue for
men's fastpitch. From what I am hearing, that honor goes to NAFA. I
have heard many players lauding the fun of NAFA tournaments because of
the laxer pitching standard, which they feel is fairly offset by the
rules concerning runners stealing.
My point is not to pit one governing body against another. Indeed, I
am 100% committed to ASA, and not only will I continue to call and
play by the rules as the National Committee sets them down, but I will
also continue to actively support the development of ASA in any way
that I can.
My point is merely that I see men looking for an outlet to enjoy the
game of fastpitch without excessive restrictions hampering that
endeavor. Given that there is a competetive environment from a
governing body standpoint, teams have options of which tournaments
they will participate in. I feel that ASA adopting the proposed rule
change would hamper rather than enhance its ability to compete for
preeminance in men's fastpitch.
Getting back to the general decline in men's fastpitch, almost anyone
would recognize that the principle factor behind this decline is a
lack of young (male) pitchers coming up. Those of us who love the
sport are hoping for a resurgence in talent (and not ...
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