Getting hot over Texas softball

I hate the term “viral” in regards to internet sensations, but a softball game from Texas is making news all over the country this week.

Seen it yet? In a 4A championship game between Needville and Huffman Hargrave, the Needville catcher throws an elbow at two unsuspecting runners trying to cross home plate. Both runners are caught off-guard and go sprawling to the dirt before they can touch the plate.

The footage of these incidents, seemingly taken from the vantage point of the third-base dugout, has sparked plenty of comments from viewers on various websites, including the TV station KPRC in Houston.

For those who haven’t watched it yet, Huffman Hargrave has runners on base when a ball is hit to the outfield.

As the runner rounds third and heads for home, the Needville catcher stands right at the edge of the chalk line in front of the plate. Without even turning her head toward the runner, the catcher sends out an elbow and knocks the runner down.

The second incident looks exactly like the first. In neither case was there even a throw to the plate. There is no reason for the catcher to even be in the way of the runner, much less dish out punishment.

Despite complaints from the Huffman Hargrave coach and many fans in attendance, the catcher was not tossed from the game.

“I think it fired them up to score some more runs, win the game and come out as champions,” Huffman athletic director Mike McEachern told the TV station. Huffman Hargrave won the game 6-4.

It makes me happy to hear that Huffman Hargrave won. I don’t like the idea of such a poor sport bragging to her friends about a win after such a game.

For those who watch baseball on TV, let me clarify one difference. In prep baseball and softball, home plate collisions are not allowed. Period. The catcher cannot block the plate — unless she gets in the way as part of making the catch. I have seen this rule stretched far too often.

At one game at Surry Central, one of the Lady Eagles tried to slide into home, but slammed into the shin guard of the catcher who was blocking the plate with her protected leg.

This is not what the rulemakers had in mind when they allowed players to catch the ball even if it meant getting in the runner’s way.

And the rules certainly don’t apply to throwing an elbow at a passing runner.

As disturbing as it is to see such blatant poor sportsmanship, it is worse that three officials all missed the action in both incidents.

In a regular-season game, there are only two officials at the games. One behind home plate and one in the field.

During championship games, there are three officials on the field, meaning the home plate umpire has fewer responsibilities during live-ball play.

In the video clip, it is very clear that the umpire is nowhere near home plate when the elbows are thrown.

He has come out from behind the plate and wandered up the third-base line to see what is going on in the outfield and on the bases. The umpire has no idea if the runners touched home plate or not, which has to be his primary responsibility on such a scoring play.

How can the home plate umpire not be watching home plate?

In sports, there is always a lot of adrenaline flowing, and people do get angry at times, especially when their team is losing in a championship game.

However, it’s up to the officials to police such actions, both to prevent it from happening and to punish the offenders when it does happen.

While the catcher’s actions are deplorable, it’s the umpire who draws my anger.

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