OMAHA, Neb. — The use of video replay will be expanded at next month’s College World Series to give umpires the ability to take a second look at a ball hit down an outfield line to determine if it’s fair or foul.
Last year, instant replay was approved at the CWS for the first time and matched the major leagues’ rules for use. The only plays eligible involved apparent home runs, and the situation never arose.
This year, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee is going one step further.
Instant replay won’t be used in NCAA regionals or super regionals because not all stadiums are equipped equally for video technology. Multiple camera angles and a designated video-review room are available at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, and indisputable video evidence would be necessary to overturn a call made on the field.
“In layman’s terms, the games are so important, you want to get the right call,” NCAA vice president of championships Dennis Poppe said. “When there’s a comfort level and capability, why not?”
In cases where runners are on base and a foul call is changed to fair after a review, the umpire crew chief will consult with his partners and place the runners where he thinks they would have ended up had the call been correct initially. That means it’s possible the crew chief would be required to make an educated guess at how many runners would advance home — a decision that could decide the national championship.
NCAA national umpire coordinator Gene McArtor said giving the crew chief the ability to place base runners was a “major talking point” on the rules committee.
“But I think people fail to understand that happens in other plays in baseball now,” he said. “If you have interference of some kind, the umpire places the runners where he thought they would be. It’s not exactly new. It’s just an extension of that.”
Half a dozen coaches declined to comment on the expanded video-review rule or did not return phone messages. Asked about coaches’ feedback he’s received, McArtor said: “I think they’re fine with it. The proof will be in the pudding when it happens.”
McArtor described what would happen if bases were loaded, a ball was hit into the left-field corner and the third-base umpire’s initial foul call was overturned.
“The crew chief will place the runners where he thinks they would have ended up,” McArtor said. “The primary guidance we’ve given is that they should be conservative in that placement of runners. It would be probably pretty easy to say that the ball down the line would have been a double, so two runs score and there are runners on second and third. It would not be as easy to say it might have been a triple.”
In a similar situation, with runners on first and second, would anyone be awarded home if the ball landed in front of the left fielder?
“If you don’t have a good confidence level there,” McArtor said, “it might be a case where you just move them up one base.”
A simpler scenario occurs if a fair-ball call is changed to foul: the runners would return to the base they previously occupied.
“Kind of a do-over,” McArtor said.
Replay applies only on line calls where the ball lands on the fly beyond first or third base. A ball that bounces in front of the base and goes over the bag is not reviewable.
Infield line calls aren’t subject to review, McArtor said, because it would be impossible to judge where runners would end up.
“If you change that to fair when a third baseman quits on the ball, how do you know he wouldn’t have thrown (the runner) out at first base?” McArtor said. “Once an umpire would call foul ball on it and the defense stops playing on it, those are the balls that the defense might have been able to get outs on.”
Major League Baseball is considering expanding replay, possibly as soon as next year, to include fair and foul calls and balls that are caught or trapped.
McArtor said he expects the further expansion of video review to be considered at future College World Series. He said the rules committee chose to make outfield line calls eligible for review because there had been a couple of instances in recent years where wrong calls in those situations helped determine the outcome of CWS games.
“There are certainly a lot of plays that come up,” McArtor said, “and there always is a decision to be made on how far you want to carry instant replay in order to get things right versus being a distraction to the game.”
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