Obstruction: The act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
I enjoy running the bases. I don’t slide – I’ve decided that the risk/reward equation is too heavily weighted to the risk side – but otherwise, I'm fast on the bases and I mostly know what I'm doing.
There are some exceptions to that, and coach Felder (aka Tiny) doesn't hesitate to point them out. I haven't talked much about him, but he is awesome. I don't think he is ever quiet. He is always jawing about something. Sometimes he just makes things happen through sheer force of will.
In my first at-bat, I had a 3-2 count and swung at a ball that was too low. Seriously, I saw it bounce on the plate while my bat took a swipe at least a foot above that. Tiny, who was coaching third, came running in yelling "He fouled it, he fouled it!". I didn’t, but he was so insistent and convincing that the umpire said that yes, he had heard my bat tip the ball, so get back in the batters box. The next pitch was a foot over my head and I trotted to first. It was all Tiny.
Sometimes people get nicknames that are the opposite of some physical characteristic. Not Tiny. He is pretty short. During his playing days, he made up for it by pushing the boundaries. He was the kind of fielder who would try to get runners out when they weren't expecting it. A baserunner might find the ball coming into second for a play when *they* though they had hit a clean double. That kind of thing. He was also really quick.
It wasn't until he was in his twenties that he had instruction from a track coach who taught him proper form. How to pump his arms and how to keep his momentum all headed in one direction. His coach would tell him that running fast just happened if you pumped your arms faster and took longer strides. He stole a lot of bases after heeding that advice.
In our next game, we had runners at first and second. We are allowed to steal, but only once per inning, so you usually wait until you have runners at first and second so that you can move them both ahead simultaneously. I was the runner on first, so all I had to do was keep an eye on the runner at second. If he broke to third, I was supposed to break to second.
On the first pitch to the next batter, that's exactly what happened. I saw the runner take off for third and I go. I could see by the defense that there is not going to be a play at second, so I rounded the bag and looked for my third base coach. When I did, I saw Tiny waving his arms and yelling "Whatcha doing looking at me? Look at the ball! Don't look at me, I don't have the ball". Turns out the ball was thrown right over the third baseman's head and into left field. But I was so busy looking at Tiny that I hadn't noticed!
When these things happen in a game, the coaches always try to follow up when you come off the field. Tiny told me that my job was to know where the ball was, and use my judgement about going. And "Go" should be my default action. His job was simply to stop me.
In our last game of the day, I was again at first when a long fly ball was hit to left field. There was a runner ahead of me, so I rounded second expecting the other team to make a play at the plate. But the cutoff man had a different idea and drilled the ball to second. I dove back head-first ahead of the tag.
Then, I was buried. When second baseman tried to field the throw he ended up falling on top of me. Seriously, I was completely buried. All I could hear was Tiny yelling "Paul Deas, get UP and RUN" over and over. I have no idea where the ball is because, well, someone is laying on me and not really trying to get off.
I scrambled out from under the second baseman and headed to third where Tiny is NOT giving me a stop sign, so I turned and headed to home. All the way home, there was this crazy, screaming third base coach running along side me. He was just repeating "Pump those arm, faster, faster, pump those arms". All the way to home.
I headed to the dugout thinking "Hey, that's obstruction!” and knowing that a good umpire would have let me score either way! But the grin on my face was all to do with Tiny running alongside me yelling for me to pump my arms faster.