Steve Krah
Steve Krah
Baseball has been sports reporter Steve Krah's passion since childhood. In Season Tickets, there will be plenty of stories from the diamond, but that's not all. Look for stories about athletic happenings and personalties of all kinds.

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Reporter Steve Krah covers sports for the Elkhart Truth.

Should baseball eliminate the homeplate collision?

Posted on Dec. 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 13, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.

Major League Baseball is considering changing the rules to take away the home plate collision, a play some see as exciting and others as dangerous.

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was run over by Florida Marlins runner Scott Cousins early in 2011 and the young star was badly hurt and was lost for the rest of the season.

While MLB is sorting out the language of what a rule change, the question is: Should the play stay or go?

The reactions are mixed.

"If it takes away injuries that is a good thing, but I would rather get rid of the DH rule," says Shawn Summe, a former catcher at Penn High School and Bethel College and current head coach at Ave Maria (Fla.) University. "Thinking back to the Buster Posey injury two years ago, we lost out on watching a really good young player for a whole year essentially."

Zach Benko, head baseball coach at NorthWood High School, was a catcher in high school and college and was involved in his share of plate encounters.

Benko says he is all for keeping players safe and he supports those kind of safety-based rules at the high school and college level.

But, as a traditionalist, he would leave MLB the way it is.

"I'm not a fan of it," says Benko of eliminating the runner vs. catcher from MLB. "I equate it to the all the (contact-limiting) rules being made in the NFL.

"These guys get paid millions of dollars because not many people can do what they do and what they do is dangerous."

For Benko, taking away such plays from MLB is taking away the purity and appeal of the game.

"They are changing the product," says Benko. "They are changing what they have to offer the fans. As a consumer of professional sports, maybe the price should change, too."

Eric Nielsen, a former standout catcher at Elkhart Memorial High School and Purdue University who went on to coach in high school, finds himself on both sides of the coin.

"I have mixed feelings about it," says Nielsen. "I totally agree with the safety side of it. The other side of me thinks: Where is this going to stop in sports? Collisions at the plate are just part of the game, it always has been.

"It's never safer for the catcher, but that's why he wears gear.

"It's one of those things in baseball that should be left alone."

There have been too many changes in recent years to suit Nielsen.

"The game is starting losing it's character a little bit," says Nielsen. "You can't blow it out of proportion like where we are heading."

Steve Kajzer is the vice president for baseball umpires in the St. Joseph Valley Officials Association. In 2013, he worked 136 games at various levels, mostly high school.

Kajzer notes that the National Federation of State High School Associations and, therefore, the IHSAA, adhere to the rule that the catcher has to have the ball in his hand or glove and be making an attempt to make a tag to block the plate.

"It used to be if play was imminent (the ball was in the air coming from the fielder), you could block the plate," says Kajzer. "I like the rule."

If a high school catcher blocks the plate without the ball, it is called obstruction and the runner is awarded the run. In all his years, Kajzer says he has never called obstruction in a high school game.

Of course, obstruction is something we saw at third base in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.

"It's safety first," says Kajzer, noting that high school football has adopted the rule that when a kickoff returner catches the ball in the end zone, the ball is whistled dead to avoid collisions.

One of the worst plate collisions witnessed by Kajzer came in an men's league game.

"The catcher is standing there with the ball and the runner is two-thirds of the way down the line - if that. The runner lowers his shoulder and knocks the catcher into the glass. That's uncalled for. You've got a guy who has to get up in the morning and go to work to support his family."

Seth Zartman, the head baseball coach at Bethel, notes that the "imminent" throw rule applies in college and he instructs his catchers to catch and block in one motion for a bang-bang play at the plate.

"We coach our guys to get down a hair early," says Zartman. "It's a fine line."

Zartman says the baserunner has to slide if the catcher is trying to make a play and that he has seen the umpire rule obstruction for and against his team.

The Crossroads League, of which Bethel is a member, has a rule that calls for an ejection for a player barreling over a catcher.

Zartman favors the MLB move toward safety.

"They are bigger and stronger," says Zartman. "Those guys are tanks. It's a good thing to have that rule in place to avoid serious injury."


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