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You have probably heard the old adage about “drawing a line in the sand.” This quote is a metaphor for setting protective boundaries. In other words, it says, “This is as far as I will go.”
Baseball has its own version of drawing a line, only these lines are typically drawn in the dirt, and they are literal lines.
There are a couple of different events that someone may be referring to when they mention baseball players drawing a line. One could get a player ejected from the game. The other is like a teaching tool.
Drawing a line in baseball most commonly refers to the hitter drawing a line in the dirt of where the pitch crossed home plate to contest a strike call. Sometimes players draw lines for points of reference for themselves.
One of these methods is more acceptable than the other, so let’s learn a little bit more about drawing a line in baseball and when you should and should not do it.
Why You Should Never Draw a Line in Baseball
Baseball is known for its unwritten rules. Umpires have some unwritten rules of their own. There are a few things that you cannot do or say to an umpire because it will result in immediate ejection. Drawing a line is on that list.
When a player argues a strike call with the home plate umpire and draws a line in the dirt to show where the pitch crossed home plate, umpires view this as an attempt to show them up, and most of them will immediately eject anyone who does this.
It is one thing to argue with the umpire, but to show him up takes the argument to another level of disrespect. Showing up the umpire is when a player makes it known to everyone in the park that he believes the umpire missed the call.
Drawing a line shows everyone in the park exactly where you thought the pitch crossed home plate therefore making the umpire feel disrespected.
Take this situation from a college baseball game between Michigan and Vanderbilt as an example. The umpire calls a strike on a pitch that the hitter clearly believes should have been called a ball. After the pitch, he takes his bat and very subtly draws a line just inside of his foot.
The umpire ejects the player immediately after he draws the line. Whether or not the player was doing this with the intention of showing up the umpire is unknown, but he was clearly displeased with the call, and the umpire believed that drawing the line was a sign of disrespect.
Here is a more blatant example of showing up the umpire by drawing a line. In this situation, the hitter believes the pitch was too far outside to be called a strike.
He looks back at the umpire, says something to him, and reaches his bat out to draw a line of where he thought the pitch crossed the plate. The umpire did not hesitate to eject the player from the game for his actions.
Some may argue that umpires should have thicker skin than to eject players for drawing a line. Others would say that umpires put up with enough already, and they should not tolerate any behavior that shows them up in front of the entire ballpark.
What Are Some Things That Result in Automatic Ejection in Baseball?
What umpires will allow coaches and players to say and do before being ejected varies. However, there are a few things that usually result in automatic ejection.
Using the word you, cursing at an umpire, kicking dirt, and putting your hands on an umpire are all things that are universally accepted as ejectable offenses.
Even most people in baseball don’t know that umpires feel very disrespected when players and coaches use the word you in an argument.
Saying, “That was a terrible call” may be acceptable, but saying, “You are terrible” reaches a new level of disrespect. Using the word you makes it personal to them, and they should not have to deal with personal attacks on their character.
Umpires understand that they make mistakes and may miss a call from time to time. As long as it is done respectfully, they usually allow coaches to voice their displeasure with the call.
They have less patience with players and assistant coaches, but anyone who uses the word you makes the argument too personal and usually spends the rest of the game in the clubhouse.
Have you ever wondered why coaches or players sometimes get ejected when, from the fan’s perspective, it looks as if they didn’t do or say much of anything? Well, odds are they said a choice word or two, and umpires rarely put up with that.
Cursing at an umpire is a way to quickly get ejected. In a Super Regional game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament between Tennessee and Notre Dame, one of Tennessee’s best players was ejected after looking back at the umpire and shaking his head at a strike call.
At first, it looked as if the umpire’s trigger was too quick. But the slow motion instant replay showed the player saying an expletive to the umpire, and therefore he was thrown out of the game. We will not provide the link to that video because it contains explicit content.
One of the most disrespectful things a player or coach can do to an umpire is kick dirt on him. That calls for an immediate ejection.
Lastly, a coach or player is never allowed to touch an umpire when arguing a call. Whether the contact is intended to be violent or not, when tempers are flaring, the worst thing anyone can do is put their hands on an umpire.
He will automatically eject anyone who touches him during an argument to prevent escalation and to protect himself.
It is also good to point out here that umpires have a much longer leash with head coaches and managers when it comes to questioning calls than they do with assistants or players. Some umpires do not even give warnings to players or assistants when they argue a call.
Even with that being said, head coaches and managers are still expected to be civil when they question calls by the umpire. Voicing displeasure is okay until it becomes disrespectful.
Why do Baseball Players Draw Lines as a Teaching Tool?
Sometimes, players need visual references to remind themselves to do something mechanically in their swing or their pitching motion.
Baseball players also draw lines in the dirt to serve as teaching tools to help them with something they struggle with in their mechanics.
Occasionally, you will see a hitter draw a line a little out in front of his foot and behind his heel. This is usually a reminder for the hitter to step toward the pitcher instead of stepping toward 3rd base. The line serves as a visual tool to try and stay in front of the line.
Sometimes hitters draw a line between their feet to try and make sure they stay square to the plate. Young hitters sometimes don’t pay attention to their feet and consequently stand either too open or too closed in their batting stance.
Drawing a straight line in the dirt between the front of the toes on each foot can help young hitters stay square in their batting stance.
Drawing lines can be beneficial for pitching mechanics as well. The most common reason for drawing a line on the pitching mound is for pitchers to try and maintain good direction toward home plate.
Like hitters, pitchers sometimes step more toward first base or third base when throwing the ball to home plate. Drawing a straight line between the rubber and home plate can keep them on line toward their target.
For many young pitchers, drawing one single line can create even more problems. It is difficult for even the most advanced pitchers to step on the same line every single pitch. This gives pitchers less room for failure. We want to give them more.
Instead, it sometimes is better to draw two straight lines toward home plate to create more of a lane. This allows the pitcher to stay in line toward home plate, but it gives them a larger surface area and doesn’t require them to be perfect.
Why do Baseball Players Write in the Dirt?
This is a question that you would have to ask each individual player who writes in the dirt because they all have different reasons.
Baseball players sometimes write in the dirt to share their religious views, honor a family member or friend, remind themselves of messages, and other various reasons.
The most common thing that baseball players write in the dirt have religious motivations. Players may draw a cross or maybe even a bible verse on the back of the mound or in the batter’s box.
Some players write the initials of a family member or friend who has passed away in order to remember and honor them.
Sometimes, players even write messages to themselves in the dirt. These messages may help them with something mentally or mechanically in the game.
At the end of the day, it is not uncommon to see baseball players writing in the dirt with their finger or the knob of their bat. They all have different reasons for doing it, and as long as their message isn’t offensive, they are certainly allowed to do so.
Is drawing a line in baseball illegal?
There is nothing illegal about drawing a line in baseball whether it is to show up an umpire or serve as a teaching tool. However, it is generally accepted that drawing a line to disagree with a strike call is disrespectful and will likely result in an ejection.
Can fans be ejected from a baseball game?
Yes, fans can be ejected from a baseball game. Umpires typically try to tune fans out, but when their behavior becomes disruptive to the game or threatening toward the umpire, then they may be ejected.
This happens most often (unfortunately) in youth games as fans are positioned closer to the umpires than in professional games. Still, it is best for fans to allow the head coaches to communicate with umpires on questionable calls.
Are players and coaches suspended after they are ejected?
Different leagues have different rules, but in most amateur leagues, coaches and players who are ejected may have to serve a suspension of at least one game. This rule is in place to discourage unsportsmanlike behavior toward umpires