The mysterious art of ‘unwritten rules’

Posted June 6, 2009

The mysterious art of ‘unwritten rules’

It’s what some people in hockey call “The Code.” 

In baseball, it’s the “unwritten rules” that WE THINK everyone knows about, but yet, somewhere along the line the waters get murky and muddy – especially in the Powerline Baseball League. 

Swiping bases, sending runners home, swinging for the fences and heckling the other team are all not inherently against the rules, but they could indeed start a brawl on any given night. 

Heckling is a no-no that everyone pretty much stays away from. It might come out by mistake, or from an ultra maroon, but it’s pretty classless even for the lowliest of Powerline scrubs. 

No one gets too mad if you park a few in a 10- or 20-run ball game. You just go up to hit and get on base, and well, if you hit one out, shame on the belly itching pitcher. 

Now the tricky one. Base running. 

This seems to be the activity that has the potential to cause the most angst – and is also the most debated. 

It was seen a couple games ago when Armena played in Tofield, where young players who are just out of midgets and have been in lowly slumps to start the season, bust out and get excited to finally run the bases. They run through stop signs to get a triple. They steal a base in a game that’s out of reach. 

“It’s OK if you want to hit the next guy,” you hear murmuring out of the dugout to the pitcher.

Rightly so. 

But at the same time, determining exactly when the game is out of reach, and when not to steal a base becomes much greyer when you’re only up by 10 or 11 runs with a young, inexperienced, mentally fragile team that honestly may give up double-digits in an inning. Add in a 15-run mercy rule, the possibility of playoffs coming down to runs for and against, and now the gray area is bigger than Prince Fielder’s midsection. 

…the blind eye is usually ignorance, not arrogance.

But even then, it’s not like the veterans of any team would encourage those type of activities. However, you begin to see why you might want to keep pouring it on, if you were so inclined. 

Not everyone, especially in recreation baseball, is in tune with these “unwritten rules” either. Maybe it’s the culture of hockey that brings it out so much here, and maybe it’s the nature of this rural league, but those “unwritten rules” have been acknowledged and embraced by many. Many others have turned a blind eye. 

But the blind eye is usually ignorance, not arrogance. That was the case in the most recent Armena game. 

It’s the guy who hasn’t played much ball in his lifetime, or has been out of the game for a few years sliding hard into home. It’s the young kid who’s just too excited to notice the friction building from an earlier play, and the totality of the night. It’s the same guy who would never put all the variables together, in why it’s OK to steal another night, while he shouldn’t steal tonight – when it appears to him to be the exact same situation. He’s just playing for fun, you see. 

The Powerline Baseball League is quite lucky now. Many of the players who have been here for 10 or 15 years know these “unwritten rules” and show tremendous class. They pass their knowledge and sportsmanship down to the younger crop of players. No need to try and list names, you know who they are. It’s who we younger-older group learned from. 

However, in the late 90s, certain players, most of which have parted ways, did not get it. They ran down catchers, they swore at umps and they definitely did not care about respecting the league or game. 

It’s for this reason, we continue to teach, continue to preach, but at the same time continue to learn and debate each situation amongst ourselves. It’s a never-ending art project that will continue to be molded for many generations to come.

Posted on June 6, 2009 by Jason Buzzell

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