Senior Scene - Run, geezer, run
By Jerry Grimm
Which old guy should run, and at which point does it make a difference? If there is one element that the seniors can tinker with, it is the running. In order to allow the most crippled up batter to take his cuts, they have devised a way to put him in the box for his whacks. It's like adding a tiny weight to a delicate scale each time a rule gets tweaked.
A major component of senior softball is the multiple rules, which have been adopted to facilitate their game. Senior ball has the softball world scratching their heads and realising that this oldster's game is still defining itself. The more people that come aboard to enjoy it, the more refined the rules become to accommodate the growth. Senior ball wins hands down in the special rules category for the sheer numbers and the deeper intricacies of their game's fine points.
We have spoken previously of several foundational rule changes necessary in the senior game, but the most recent one to crop up is the courtesy runner for batters. As it becomes more popular, it needs a close inspection. It is designed for the 60+ and upper divisions; the higher the age division, the more applicable and appreciated it becomes. Because it has taken the courtesy runner concept to the furthest degree, there are two controversies surrounding it. Initially, it can get intricate deciding where to draw the starting line for the courtesy runner, as well as the on-going debate as to who is the right person to do the running for the batter.
The courtesy runner rule is said to have originated within the 70+ division, where there is a need to allow players, who could not run a lick, an opportunity to continue batting. Without a courtesy runner, the oldest warriors could not bat at all, as their legs just cannot move much anymore even though they can still hit the ball just fine. If another runner could just take his place, beginning at the plate, then the hitter could do his thing and remain part of the game. Is this stretching the matter beyond the rules' endurance? As we say in our division, "If it keeps even one of our old-timers coming out, it's worth it!" Let's examine how this rule works.
Just what the courtesy runner does is line up behind home plate, off to the right a few feet of the left handed batter's box, down 10 feet on a line which comes through the third base line. Just imagine that he is standing about 4 feet behind the umpire and 3 feet to his right. At that point, a line can be drawn to indicate the proper beginning spot. This trajectory will put the C.R., just over 60 feet from the outside corner of the 1st base bag. He cannot run until the ball is hit. That seems fair.
Presently in ASA and most other organisations the C.R. for the batter must be anyone on the offensive team's roster. This general rule has always opened up the rabbits' cage and perhaps it would serve the game better if the runner were the last recorded out on that side, thus eliminating the probability of always inserting the speediest runner on the team. Since this addendum is not written in, the fine points are open to debate. Every manager instinctively picks his speedster for this spot. This causes the intent of the rule to suffer, as the team employing the rule is also somehow gaining an unfair advantage in obtaining a faster runner.
What is the solution? After observing many senior games using the C.R. rule for several years, the fairest and simplest answer is to employ the "last out" addendum. This method states that any C.R. is to be the offensive player who has made the last out recorded for their team. (This can be carried back to the previous inning if need be). And if for some legal reason this player cannot be the C.R., go to the next out recorded before this player. This random selection is the fairest way to even out the selection process required in choosing a courtesy runner. We are looking for fairness on both sides.
The general intent of the C.R. rule is to maintain the smooth flow of the game. Whenever there is opportunity to go beyond the pure and simple intent of a special rule, there is always a chance of spoiling it. Having the C.R. picked by a designated process eliminates the possible scheming of the offensive team and relieves the stress of having to make a nerve-wracking, split-second decision.
These decisions should be left up to the local managers and independent leagues and having the details worked out ahead of the playing season sure helps. Of course, different tournaments will have different rules governing the C.R. It's these little things that improve the senior game, and they don't want any benefit derived to lead to a point of manipulative, petit warfare. The purpose is to protect that injured or crippled runner from having to run, but the defense should also be protected from the opposition gaining some added unfair advantage.
Why do we strive over such slight adjustments, for so very few? Those of us in the 60+ divisions appreciate the extra care taken by our game to protect our wounded but playing comrades, who just couldn't be in the line-up with their wheels the way they are. Keeping these players in the game is the seniors' bottom line.
Seniors have a way of keeping after these attempts to thread the camel through the eye of a needle. Sometimes they succeed right off, other times they pull it back out and hack away. A lot of it has to do with common sense during the game itself. Throw in a little of the golden rule and maybe they can work some things out to everyone's satisfaction. So far, so good. Let's keep talking to each other and find ways to keep those things that really don't hurt anybody and promote the good, for even the few. Remember we are just looking for balance during our games. Everyone out there on the roster counts and that's a lesson that comes to life and is our life, during every game on a senior ball diamond!