Little League World Series tries replay
Implementation prompted by disputed home run in 2005
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Major League Baseball is weighing whether to use instant replay this season, but the big leaguers might want to look closely at how it is being implemented at the Little League World Series, before deciding to adopt it.
The observations can start on Friday.
Officials at the Little League World Series will make instant replay available to umpires, though its use is considered "experimental" for now.
Discussion of replay heated up after an umpire's call affected a game during the 2005 Little League World Series, said Stephen D. Keener, Little League president.
"That's what prompted us to start looking at it," he said.
As Keener recalled, a Little League team from Maitland, Fla., was playing a team from Vista, Calif., which was holding 2-0 lead in the third or fourth inning.
With two runners on for Maitland, one of the players hit a ball down the left-field line. The ball looked liked it might have hit the top of the fence or bounced off the foul pole, before ricocheting back onto the playing field. The left-field umpire ruled the ball had hit the top of the fence and landed back onto the field, which meant the ball was in play.
Instead of a three-run homer, the batter ended up on second base with a double and one run scored.
"They should have been ahead, 3-2," Keener said of the Florida team. "It should have been ruled a home run."
Even after the umpire discussed his call with his colleagues, the call stood. But on further review after the game, TV cameras showed the ball had hit above the fence, and clanged off the foul pole, which should have been ruled a home run.
"The poor umpire, when he saw the replay later, spent the rest of his time apologizing to the Florida team and anybody else," Keener said. "He felt so bad about it."
He said the discussion about using replay centered on giving Little League World Series umpires, all of whom volunteer, an additional tool to work with. To assist in that regard, Little League officials added a seventh umpire to the six-man teams, just to monitor the replays.
The seventh umpire's powers, however, will be limited. Keener said the umpires can only use instant replay for specific kinds of plays, such as: a batted ball that leaves the field of play at or near the outfield fence, or should have been ruled out of the field of play at or near the outfield fence.
Examples of these types of batted balls are a homer, a double by rule, a ball that goes under the outfield fence and fan interference at the outfield fence.
"We thought we had the technology available to us; all our games are televised," Keener said. "It's just another tool we're going to give our umpires."
He dismissed the notion that replay will slow the pace of the game. Keener said the discussion between the umpires and the Florida coach took 105 seconds.
"We put that play into our replay system and found they could have had the play resolved in 30 seconds," he said.
"We're not concerned about delaying the game."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.