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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed areed@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:17 PM

With a Friendship Christian runner on first base Monday night, Rik Vanmali was called for a balk, sending the Commander runner to second base.

Mt. Juliet Christian coach Chris Schrock looked around and said, “That wasn’t a balk”.

He calmly asked for time and walked out to the base umpire between the mound and second base. For about 90 seconds, the two men calmly talked about what had just occurred.

Then the umpire conferred with his home plate partner while Schrock went to the mound to talk to Vanmali on his way back to the first-base dugout.

The ump then sent the runner back to first base and went over to Friendship coach John McNeal in the third-base coaching box to explain his reversal.

Chances are, McNeal agreed with the reversal. His first-base coach, Shaun Caven, could be heard saying to the effect, “That wasn’t a balk”, while Schrock was talking to the umpire. In any event, McNeal barely nodded his head while otherwise not moving a muscle.

And that was that. No ranting or raving. No kicking dirt. No getting all red in the umpire’s face. No throwing bases. The runner, Joseph McNamee, got to second moments later the old fashioned way, by stealing it himself.

McNeal himself was on the other end of a similar situation 17 years ago when Watertown was at FCS.

A Purple Tiger slid home with an apparent run. When the dust had settled, McNeal walked to the umpire, had a calm conversation and by the time he was returning to the dugout, the arbiter was waving the runner back to third base.

I recall Mikey McClain was the pitcher. I don’t remember the runner or the rule in question. I do remember the reversal made the score 1-0 instead of 2-0, and that was the final score.

I also remember Watertown coach Jim Swafford flying into a rage and getting ejected from the contest. He watched the Purple Tigers’ final baseball victory over the Commanders [and I believe only the second in the 25 or so seasons the local rivals had played each other] whooping and hollering from the parking lot which overlooks the field [the clubhouse and Commander Pride Shop buildings hadn’t yet been built in 1997.

Swafford’s reaction shouldn’t have been surprising. He not only admitted to me afterward he wasn’t aware of the rule in question, but he had also been thrown out of Watertown’s second football game of the season the previous fall.

Per TSSAA rules, Swafford had to sit out the next football contest [and later two baseball games]. He’s the only coach I can think of who missed his first coaching victory in football [or any other sport] because he was sitting out a suspension.

McNeal, whose blown up at officials in other situations [he drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in football not too many years ago], and Schrock, who spent five years at the knee of Cumberland legend Woody Hunt [who drew his share of technical fouls as a young basketball coach and still gets his two cents worth in with umpires, who sometime send him in the other direction all the way out of the ballpark], won their arguments with umpires by not arguing.

Imagine if Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or even Bobby Cox [who, though not as demonstrative as the other two still passed both to earn the career record for ejections] had calmly talked to the men in blue instead. Keep cool instead of boiling up the blood pressure.

There’s the old saying ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’.

It worked for McNeal in 1997 and for Schrock this past Monday evening.

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