OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — For now, only an umpire’s call on whether a home run really is a home run will be subject to video review at the College World Series.
NCAA vice president for football and baseball Dennis Poppe said Tuesday that officials would have to think long and hard about adding other situations that could be reviewed.
Division I baseball leaders for several years have discussed the possibility of using instant replay, Poppe said, but didn’t take action until after a home run was wrongly ruled a double at last year’s CWS.
“There’s an example of where instant replay could have corrected that,” Poppe said. “Fortunately, it didn’t impact the game. But you don’t want human error or the inability to see something to influence the game and the effort the kids put forth. You’ve got to make sure it’s as fair and square as can be.”
Umpires at the CWS, which starts Friday, will be limited to reviewing whether a batted ball has cleared the fence, gone foul or if a fan has interfered.
“Let’s walk before we run,” Poppe said. “Let’s make sure we have down the crucial issues, and there probably is no more crucial issue than the home run — whether it’s good or bad.”
Last year, in an 8-4 win over Texas, Florida’s Brian Johnson hit a ball that bounced back into play after striking the railing above the yellow line atop the right-center wall. The NCAA umpire coordinator said after the game that the hit should have been ruled a home run and that the umpires’ decision to hold Johnson at second base was wrong.
“All that matters last year is we won the game,” Johnson said Tuesday, adding that he heard a couple days ago that instant replay would be used this year.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, whose team is back in Omaha as the No. 1 national seed, said anything that can help the umpires get the call right is a good thing.
“That’s no knock on not getting the call last year,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s what makes this sport so good: there’s decisions sometimes in the game that aren’t right and you’ve got to battle through those decisions.”
Instant replay couldn’t be used in the regular season or regionals because not all games are televised, Poppe said. Though super regionals are televised, some stadiums don’t have easily accessible areas where umpires can review video.
ESPN provides more than a dozen camera angles at the CWS, and 2-year-old TD Ameritrade Park easily accommodates a review area.
UCLA coach John Savage, whose Bruins are the No. 2 seed, said he wouldn’t want the use of instant replay expanded beyond home-run calls.
“We shouldn’t use it 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.”
The use of instant replay will be left to the discretion of the umpire crew chief and must occur before the next pitch or play. There won’t be a formal “coaches challenge” opportunity, though under college rules coaches are able to request a conference among umpires.
If instant replay is used, the umpire who made the disputed call and the crew chief would go to a designated area to review video. At least one umpire would remain on the field.
During a review, the defensive team players would be required to maintain their positions and other players and coaches would have to stay in the dugout. There is no time limit, but lengthy reviews are discouraged and would be considered possible evidence that there is no indisputable video evidence to change a call.
The crew chief makes the final decision on whether a call stands or is reversed.
Ray Tanner, coach of two-time defending national champion South Carolina, joked that he wants to have a challenge flag to throw onto the field like football coaches who want a play reviewed.
“We’ve grown a lot in this game and, lo and behold, we’re doing video review in college baseball,” Tanner said. “That’s outstanding.”
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