If the umpires decide to use video to review a home run at this year’s College World Series, it would be a first for those involved.
There haven’t been any trial runs. No hands-on experimentation.
The NCAA baseball rules committee last summer approved the use of instant replay to more accurately analyze disputable home run calls during the CWS, which officials expect to be a smooth and hasty process that may not even be needed.
“We’ll see how it works,” said Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president of football and baseball. “I can tell you every umpire wants to make sure they got the call right. A home run, that’s a big play. They want to make sure they get it right.”
It’s up to the umpires to call for a video review — the coaches can ask only for an on-field conference. And it has to be a potential home run — fair or foul, ground-rule double or homer, fan interference or not (mirroring the Major League Baseball model).
The umpires would halt the game before the next pitch. At least one would remain on the field while the rest of the crew watches a replay on a TV screen inside the stadium’s control room, located just off the playing field inside a tunnel. There’s no time limit, but evidence to overturn the ruling on the field must be indisputable.
Poppe said umpires and coaches have been supportive of the rule change, which the sport’s decision-makers had been discussing before a home run was incorrectly ruled a double during TD Ameritrade Park’s inaugural year at the 2011 CWS.
Florida’s Brian Johnson hit a ball that cleared the yellow line on top of the right field wall but bounced back on to the playing field after ricocheting off a metal fence. The Gators won the game, beating Texas 8-4, but an NCAA umpire coordinator admitted afterward that the umpires mistakenly kept Johnson at second base.
NCAA officials considered altering TD Ameritrade’s outfield fencing, a short chain-link barrier that’s designed to keep fans from hanging over the wall. Different shades. Different material. Maybe some sort of netting?
“We thought, ‘We can do all this stuff, but let’s just get it right,’” Poppe said. “If you use instant replay, you can make sure you get it right. ... We were already thinking about instant replay. And that’s a specific example of what can be avoided. Let’s solve the problem.”
Certain ballpark-specific logistical issues — such as a convenient location for the replay TV — kept the NCAA from implementing a similar video review process during regional and super-regional rounds. ESPN will have 17 cameras at TD Ameritrade Park during the CWS, according to an NCAA release.
Johnson has no complaints. The Gator junior didn’t know until a few days ago that his double — er, home run — last year helped hasten the desire for change.
Pretty cool, he told local reporters Tuesday.
“All that mattered last year is we won the game,” Johnson said.
The limited use of instant replay in this year’s CWS won’t completely extinguish controversy, though.
The rules committee did consider expanding the scenarios in which umpires could use video to get a second-look, and it’s possible that more potential replay situations could be considered in the future, Poppe said.
UCLA coach John Savage told the Associated Press that he’d prefer no more tweaks were made.
“We shouldn’t use (replay) for balls and strikes or safe or out,” he said. “If we used it for everything, it would slow the game down too much. But I think the way they want to use it is fair, and in the end they all want to get it right.”
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