Playing by the rules is just one of the jewels of the game

SIDELINES

April 16, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

The adage that rules are made to be broken may be true, but sometimes breaking them can haunt you.

Chesapeake High's baseball team knows this well after one of its players broke a rule, and it might have cost the Cougars an eight-inning 3-2 decision to second-ranked Arundel Wednesday.

Senior right-hander Chris Ryder was ejected after warming up for a crucial situation in the top of the eighth inning at Chesapeake. Ryder was brought in with the score 2-2 to replace Jason White, who had just given up a lead-off single to Mike Cozzone.

Ryder was wearing jewelry, and that's illegal under the National Federation of State High School Associations rule book, and after a team warning, all subsequent violators automatically are ejected. One of the Chesapeake players already had drawn the team warning, so Ryder was ejected before he got to throw a pitch.

Arundel DH J. P. Noon spotted Ryder's chain and advised coach Bernie Walter who asked plate umpire Warren Shadle to enforce the rule. That set off a group of Chesapeake parents.

"Is that the only way you can win, Bernie?" shouted one of the Cougar fans who got pretty nasty.

Well, of course, what occurred was important to the outcome, and despite what some of the fans think,there was nothing unethical or unsportsmanlike on Walter's part.

The National Federation added the no jewelry rule for all high school sports about 10 years ago after a girls basketball player wearing hoop earrings practically had her ear ripped off. An opposing player going up for a rebound hooked a finger in another girl's earring, and a nasty injury occurred.

Chesapeake's classy coach Jim Simms was disappointed, but he was not angry with Walter because he realized a rule had been broken and had to be enforced. Simms realizes it could have happened the other way around, and when two good high school teams tangle, any edge you can gain is to your advantage.

The bottom line is that it's a rule, and the rule book is there to govern the games.

Simms brought White back, and the junior left-hander, who is a competitor, was willing to give it another shot, knowing full well that he didn't have much left.

"I was tired in the sixth inning and told Mr. Simms I would try it," said White, who was pitching the biggest game of his life.

The Cougars left-hander wasn't pitching; he was merely throwing it up there on his second attempt as he yielded two singles, the second by Mike Fairbanks producing the game-winning run.

White had pitched a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts to beat Queen Anne's, 3-0, the week before and after seeing limited action on the varsity as a sophomore took the mound Wednesday to face the second-ranked team in the metro area.

"White was outstanding," Walter said.

Walter has been around long enough to recognize a dogfight and a tough pitcher to be reckoned with. It probably went unnoticed by most of the fans and parents, but Walter showed his respect for White's ability in the third inning.

With one out, Chesapeake catcher Kenny Moore drilled a triple ** over center fielder Jimmy Taylor's head. Courtesy runner Justin Wilde took Moore's place on third, and Walter summoned his infield to play up on the grass.

Arundel had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a botched pickoff attempt and in most cases would have been willing to play back in the infield rather than risk further damage.

Teams like Arundel will stay back in the infield and more or less concede the run. They might play halfway up and on a ground ball take a look at the runner on third, but make sure they get an out even if it means giving up a run.

Normally the teams draw their infield up late in the game when the tying or winning run is on third and play back early in the game. The reasoning is that a routine ground-ball out can go through a drawn-up infield, score a run and compound matters by giving the other club another base runner.

"With the way White was throwing, I expected a close game, and that's why we had the infield up that early," said Walter, whose hunch was right on.

As it turns out, Wildcats third baseman Brian Sands couldn't handle Norm Stephenson's smash near the bag, and Chesapeake tied the score.

Arundel starter Brandon Agamennone escaped without further damage and went on to duel White until the sixth when Tim Giles came to the rescue and retired the last eight Cougars in a row.

It's a shame that the jewelry rule had an effect on the outcome, because we never will know if Ryder could have gotten the Wildcats out.

Interestingly, Ryder was making his first appearance of the season after breaking his left ankle in a pickup basketball game more than three weeks ago and having his cast removed the day of the Arundel game. He had good velocity warming up, but never got to face a hitter.

If a rule is on the books, it is supposed to be followed. Give Walter credit for his intensity and immediately recognizing a violation. Why have a rule book if you're not going to play by the rules?

What happened Wednesday should be a lesson to every player -- be attentive, stay in the game and realize that invoking rules is not nit-picking; it's a vital part of the game.

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