Official Baseball Rule 6.02 (c): If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out.
Pretty Sure when he gets tossed he didn’t scream “Thank You!”
Vinnie Catricala had probably never heard of this rule, as is probably the case for many professional baseball players, since it comes into play even fewer times than successful hidden ball tricks, unassisted triple plays, and batting out-of-order all put together. Unfortunately for Catricala, third-baseman for the Midland RockHounds, the Oakland Athletics’ double-A affiliate in the Texas League, umpire Ron Teague had heard of this rule.
Corpus Christi pitcher Nick Tropeano hurled a breaking pitch toward home plate, a pitch that Catricala watched, assuming that it was a ball. Ron Teague thought otherwise, calling the slider a strike. Catricala, like any frustrated 24-year-old ballplayer, voiced his displeasure with Teague’s decision.
It was then that Catricala elected to make the decision that would ultimately seal his fate in the records of professional baseball: he stepped out of the batter’s box.
Rule 6.02 contains more verbiage, specifically some “exceptions” to the “automatic strike” penalty for leaving the box; Catricala didn’t meet any of those exceptions. Ron Teague told the Midland third-baseman to get back in the box, an order which was refused. Teague told him again. Vinnie refused again. Teague called a strike.
Logic would dictate that, after seeing that the umpire isn’t afraid to call that first pitch-less strike, a batter would stop acting like a fool and elect to get in the box, but logic apparently isn’t Catricala’s strong suit. Vinnie stood outside the box and continued to gripe at Ron Teague, who simply, calmly, called strike three. The whole ordeal took 9.4 seconds.
Far too often, baseball players are given too much leeway to voice displeasures and traipse around ballfields like they own the place. Too many batters moan and complain at umpires, with the umpires taking little to no action to stop these unsportsmanlike acts. Kudos to Ron Teague for putting his foot down and invoking a little-known, little-used rule to make sure that Vinnie Catricala knew exactly who was in charge of the game.
(Editors Note: Bernie, you’re part of the AFR Family, but no one has ever said, “Honey get the kids, C.B. Bucknor is umping tonight!)
The only thing that could have made it better would have been if the batter was baseball’s “great complainer”, Nationals’ man-child Bryce Harper. I would have paid a large sum of money to see that.
The Rules Guy is a baseball rules aficionado from Tallahassee, Florida. He has umpired amateur, semi-pro, and professional baseball, and has never called someone out on “automatic strikes”, though he’s come close. He encourages you to remember that, just because your coordination may not be the best, you can still grab your sack of equipment, pick up your balls, and go have some fun.