What Is The Look Back Rule

What Is The Look Back Rule by Gary Leland

What Is The Look Back Rule By Gary Leland

The Look Back Rule When Runners Are on Base

One rule that usually comes into play in fastpitch softball is the look back rule when runners are on base. What is the rationale behind this? When does this rule take place? Does this have something to do with the pitcher looking back at the any runner on base? What is the penalty when such rule has been violated? – All these and more as we look into the elements, aspects, and consequences governing the look back rule.

Look Back Rule Defined
According to the ASA fastpitch softball rule book, the look back rule specifies that when the pitcher has control of the ball inside the pitcher’s circle and does not attempt to make a play on any runner, then all runners who are on base must stay on the base.

On the other hand, any runner off the base must either go back to the previous base or advance to the next base without any hesitation. This means that if the runner off base, while on his way to any base either stops or changes direction, then he will be called out.

The look back rule is somehow a misnomer because there is no requirement for the pitcher to “look back” whatsoever.

Elements of the Look Back Rule
The look back rule only takes place if:

1. The pitcher has control of the ball.
2. There is no attempt on the part of the pitcher to make a play.

What does control of the ball mean?
This means that first, the pitcher must have the ball in her hand or the glove; second, the pitcher must be inside the pitcher’s circle or that the feet must at least touch the lines of the radius. The pitcher’s circle is the 8-foot radius marked around the pitcher’s plate or rubber.

What if the ball is in the glove but on the ground?
This would not be considered as having control of the ball. The same does not apply if the ball is placed between the legs or under the arm.

What is a play?
The pitcher is said to make a play when he makes a throw that triggers a runner to react, upon the judgment of the umpire. This also applies even if the pitcher only fakes a throw or threats to make a throw. As a rule, a play on one runner is already considered a play on the rest of the runners.

Why the look back rule?
The look back rule has been established in order to speed up the game. It compels the runner to stay on the base in order for the next pitch to be thrown. Otherwise, the players from both teams may play the cat-and-mouse game and if they do this every time, then it would certainly be time-consuming and would only distract people from the game.

Does the look back rule apply to the batter-runner?
The look back rule also applies to the batter-runner (including base-on-balls, dropped third strike, and hit). However, take note that such rule will only take effect the moment the batter-runner touches 1st base. There are certain scenarios to consider as well.

Important note: The batter-runner is only allowed to stop once.

If the batter-runner makes a stop on 1st base, then he should not leave the base. If he takes two steps off 1st base, he is called out.

Why two steps?
This is in order for the umpire to make a clear call and do away with the guessing game.

If the batter-runner rounds 1st base…
If the batter-runner rounds 1st base (meaning he cuts 1st base and immediately heads to 2nd base), he is allowed to stop only once at any point between 1st base and 2nd base. Then he must either immediately return to previous base or advance to the next without stopping or change of direction.

If the batter-runner overruns 1st base…

If the batter-runner overruns first base towards right field, turns left, and stops, then the player must either return to 1st base or advance to 2nd base. If he moves to 1st base and is tagged, he is not called out. Conversely, if the player advances to 2nd base and is tagged, then he is called out.

If the batter-runner overruns 1st base towards right field and turns right, then she is committed to 1st base. Therefore, he must return to 1st base without stopping or changing direction; otherwise, he is out.

If the batter-runner overruns 1st base towards right field, turns left; and heads toward 2nd base and then stops, the player is committed to 2nd base. Hence, he must attempt to reach 2nd base without stopping or changing direction; otherwise, he is called out.

What is the penalty for violating the look back rule on base runners?

The following consequences apply to any violation of the look back rule:

The umpire calls a dead ball. The runner is out.
If there are two or more runners off the base, note that only one runner is called out. A dead ball is called; and the rest of the runners must return to the last base they were on.

The look back rule is designed to allow fair play in a softball game. With this said, any unnecessary distraction from the game is prevented and thus, this preserves the true essence of the game.

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