It took nine seconds and one pitch for Midland Rock Hounds' third baseman Vinnie Catricala to strike out on Friday night. And it's one of the rarest things you'll see in baseball.
It happened during a Texas Double-A game between the Rock Hounds (Oakland A's) and Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros). During the 6th inning, Catricala faced down a pitch from Hooks pitcher Nick Tropeano. When the umpire called it a strike, Catricala took issue with it. He said something, stood in the batters box for a little bit, then took his time stepping out and stepping back in.
Home plate umpire Ron Teague didn't like that too much. So he decided to invoke a little-known rule and issue Catricala another strike for taking his time getting back into the box. When Catricala still didn't enter, Teague gave him another, ending the player's at-bat. When Catricala turned to argue, Teague threw him out of the game:
So what rule did Teague invoke to create this rare phenomenon? As Deadspin notes, here's rule 6.02 (c):
If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out
Comment: The umpire shall give the batter a reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box after the umpire has called a strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c) and before the umpire calls a successive strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c).
In case you're wondering, the site Craw Fish Boxes has details on the umpire (and more exact timing):
Nine point four seconds. That's how long it took to turn Vinnie Catricala into an historical footnote.
3.9 seconds after Catricala stepped out of the box, the umpire - Ron Teague, for those keeping score at home - invoked Rule 6.02 (c) and called an automatic strike. When Catricala didn't step back into the box, Teague rang him up. All told, he spent 9.4 seconds outside of the batter's box.
Is that a "reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box"? It's debatable. Ron Teague is a well-respected umpire. He teaches at The Umpire School. It seemed to be a bit of overkill to me, but he's certainly within his rights.
So the question is, did Teague give Catricala "reasonable opportunity"?
Yahoo's Mark Townsend weighs in:
My take: Everybody overreacted. I didn't think the original strike call was bad, but I feel like Catricala's reaction was fairly tame. Perhaps the fact that he stepped out right about the time Tropeano came set for his next delivery played a role in Teague's call, but he certainly needed a moment to collect himself. Also, if you're going to invoke a rule so few even knew existed, a little more leeway would seem appropriate.
Then again, it was kind of cool to actually see a one-pitch strikeout, so maybe I'm the one overreacting.
Either way, it's something you likely won't see anytime soon.