Will Replay Come to the Sun Belt – From the Bird’s Nest
I have to admit, I've never been a fan of replay.
Especially when it pertains to baseball.
But after witnessing what happened at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park Sunday, I'm at least listening to what replay advocates have to say.
In the seventh inning of Sunday's game between Louisiana and Wright State, Cajuns' outfielder Daniel Lahare appeared to hit a two run homer to give the Cajuns a 4-3 lead. Replays showed the call made by the first base umpire was correct. He had vacated his position and run down the right field line and had the best look at the play.
But, after second year Raiders' coach Jeff Mercer asked the umpire to check with his crew, the call was reversed and runners were placed on second and third. The Cajuns failed to score in the inning. No explanation was ever given as to why the reversal was made. The ruling resulted in the ejection of head coach Tony Robichaux.
Then in the ninth after Wright State had added an insurance run, Kole McKinnon hit a drive to left field that appeared to hit off the top of the wall. It was ruled a home run and there was no meeting of the umpires despite Mercer's request.
A third call, this one at home plate which resulted in a Wright State player being called out also appeared to have been a missed call.
Under college baseball's new replay rule, enacted by three major conferences prior to last season, all three calls could have been reviewed. A fourth, a play at first base which ended the game, would not have been reviewable.
There's only one problem. The Sun Belt doesn't have replay...yet.
The NCAA approved replay system is not as far reaching as that of Major League Baseball and is still in its infancy in the college baseball's regular season after being used in the College World Series since 2012. It was used for the first time in the 2016 College World Series in a game between Coastal Carolina and Florida.
Last season, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 used the replay system on an experimental basis. This year, the NCAA has modified the replay rule to where coaches will get two challenges per game, regardless of whether or not the call was overturned. In addition, umpires could initiate a replay without a coach's challenge.
So, is it something that is coming to the Sun Belt Conference?
Associate Commissioner John McElwain says, if it happens, it would have to be conference-wide, not on a team-by team basis.
And, that could be a potential sticking point.
While the conference would pay for the equipment, the individual schools would be responsible for installation and maintenance. Which should be no problem for places like Russo Park, Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, Eddie Stanky Field in Mobile and perhaps some others.
But there are also places in the league that put little money into baseball and its facilities and that may be...no, certainly would be, an issue, at least for a while. Umpires would need a place to observe replay without having to go up flights of stairs and the like.
Like just about everything else, coaches would have to want it, AD's would have to sign off on it and the league would have to approve it. I wouldn't think it would be something that could come down at least for a couple of years. And, I'm sure other conferences, not only the Sun Belt, want a little more information about how it's working in those leagues where replay has been initiated.
Sunday I got on the umpires for some of their calls, and certainly the home run called that was reversed. But I had a monitor in my booth which showed the men in blue reversed a call that was initially correct. And, we may never find out why.
I know what umpires go through. I tried that years ago. I did it for about six years before realizing I'd contribute more to the game by talking about it rather than being on the field.
We sometimes...well...frequently give the umpires hell.
Perhaps it's time to look into giving them some help.