What is this Hidden Ball Trick in Baseball?
The short and long of this hidden ball trick is that it’s a strategy used during a baseball game to out one of the baserunners. However, to make this strategy happen, a lot of separate components need to coincide.
One of these components that is the most important is the teamwork needed to pull this strategy off. Another component that is a must is the cooperation of the umpire crew since they need to see the hidden ball trick in action to record its success.
Let us break down the hidden ball trick play step by step. It starts when one play has ended and before the next play starts.
A fielder will fake a throw to the pitcher, and the pitcher will return to the mound while acting like he caught the throw. All the while, the fielder returns to position and waits for the baserunner to leave the plate to tag him.
Rules to maintain for baseball hidden ball trick:
- The ball must be in play. If an umpire calls time out before the tag, the out won’t count.
- The pitcher has permission to be around the area of the pitcher’s plate without any penalty.
- The pitcher cannot be on or straddling the pitching plate. This is a balk or an illegal motion.
- The pitcher cannot deceive the runner by putting the resin bag in his mitt. This is another balk or an illegal motion.
- The umpire must see the play in motion to make the call. So referees always need to know where the ball is.
- Fielders are not allowed to place the ball inside their uniform pockets, side and or back ones.
- While not a balk or an illegal move, it is generally not accepted and has a one-base penalty.
Different groups with distinct meanings:
➢ Official Baseball Rules(OBR)
If there is a runner(s), it’s taken as a balk or illegal motion when the pitcher, without a ball in hand, steps onto the pitcher’s plate or feints a pitch off the plate.
➢ National Federation of State High School Association(NFHS)
It’s taken as a balk or illegal motion when a runner(s) on base and the pitcher, while not on the plate, does an action similar to his pitch, or gets on the plate or places himself within five feet of the plate without a ball.
➢ National Collegiate Atheltic Association(NCAA)
A pitcher must stand with both feet or foot in the mound’s circle area without a ball in his possession during a hidden ball trick attempt.
➢ Little League
Only applicable for the intermediate Division/Junior/ Senior/ Big League. The balk or illegal move happens when a pitcher attempts to step onto the plate without a ball in possession.
Hidden Ball Trick works the best when
I have seen my own share of hidden ball tricks both in-stadium and on the television. While it is something gratifying to see, it isn’t that common in the major leagues. However, even in 2021, it is slowly gaining popularity due to advancements in videography.
Here is a brief snippet of some hidden ball tricks from some games in recent years.
Now let’s watch a single hidden ball trick for analysis. Watching many of these tricks is fun, but a single play will help us dissect the process. For our case, let’s watch the hidden ball trick Trine University used to win the Division III Women’s College World Series in 2019. Ncaa published an article on 5 January 2019. Let’s start to watch the video
Now let’s take what happened in the video piece by piece. First on, the pitcher throws towards the batter, but it’s only a strick. During this, the runner on second tries for the third and gets a lead. The catcher throws the ball back at the pitcher, who shoots it to the second baseman. But it’s only pretending.
The pretend throw goes long as the shortstop, second basemen, and the center fielder all go down on the ground to get the pretend thrown ball. Seeing the failed catch, the runner on second goes for the third.
And BAM, the pitcher with the ball in hand, tags the runner for the win. The fake dives of the three-player helped to sell the pretend throw. Now that was an adequately hidden ball trick.
Well, that hidden ball trick was more than just a good strategy; it was the winning strategy. I mean, I was at the edge of my seat with the play. The pretend throw followed with the fake dives had the entire audience fooled myself included.