When you’re on deck

When you’re on deck and there’s runners on, be mindful of the runner coming home and if and when he should “stay up”, or “get down -slide”.

Always, the batter on deck stays away from the action, being careful not to interfere with the plate umpire, the catcher, or the catcher’s backup. The batter on deck should be mindful of the potential for a close play at home – signaling the base runner to either remain upright when crossing the plate to score, or to get down for the slide at home scoring. This is a skillful motion that shouldn’t be attempted by just any player in the on deck circle. There’s a host of reasons and perceptions that the on deck batter has to be groomed to understand and reasoned with. Amateur clubs rarely have time and the personnel to work this skill out properly. Two of the most important attributes of an on deck batter for this motion is calmness and perception to what’s going on in front of him.

In addition to what’s been said, there must be one signal and one signal only that’s used by all batters on deck, if and when these two signals are given – stay up or go down. Avoid creative animation with the body and arms, because this can only distract a base runner coming home to score. Sometimes creative animation can sometimes encourage the base runner to go out of the base path or miss scoring completely.

The only exception, in most cases, is when a base runner from third is trying to score while there’s a batter still in the box. But that topic is complex and not to be attempted by the amateur player in most cases. That motion requires a lot of team meetings and is subjective to each player’s attention span and a variety of other intangibles.

However, field conditions that pertain to the integrity of the surface area at and around home plate must be reviewed by the coaching staff prior to and during the game, governing such a call by the batter on deck. If the surface conditions at home plate are such that any slide could result in injuries – broken angles, fractures in the leg, and so forth, everyone should be on board with respect to coming into home plate on close plays.

The benefit of the on deck batter to the runner coming in to score is great.
The on deck batter can’t be involved in getting loose or preparing to bat. Preparation should take place when “in the hole” or “double deck” depending upon the terminology you are used to.

When on deck, one must be ready to sprint to the plate area on every pitch and do the job. Clear the bat from the area if it can be done without interfering. Get on the 3rd base line extended and signal “stay up” or “get down”. If signaling get down, signal which side would be best to avoid a tag.

I’ve always held my bat by the handle and the barrel in front of my chest. I raise it over my head to indicate the runner should cross standing up. I hold it down at my knees to indicate a slide is needed. Hold the bat down and to the left or right if the direction of the slide will give the runner an advantage.

The key to this working is getting line of sight with the runner and locking eyes. Be mindful of players backing up the play at the plate and of errant throws to avoid interference.

One thing you have to watch out for: with a runner on third, there’s the possibility of a squeeze play. Back in 1951, on September 17, the Cleveland Indians forgot all about that and loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning, hoping for a double play. It cost them the game, because Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio executed the most beautiful suicide squeeze anyone had ever seen, with DiMag scoring the winning run—he could have crawled to home plate, but he broke from third, running as fast as his aching legs would carry him, and scored standing up. You should have seen Bob Lemon! He was absolutely livid, and he grabbed his glove and the ball and fired both full force into the backstop screen and stormed off the mound cursing. To add injury to injury—it was Eddie Lopat’s 20th win of the season. Not a bad way to win twenty games, hm?