Little League is notorious for obscure and specific player safety rules. Rules that often confuse players, coaches and umpires because they are often unique to the league. We could spend days arguing the value and necessity of these rules and we’d never come to a resolution that everyone could agree on. But, it is a fact the Little League Baseball releases these rules and that Umpires must be the enforcers of these rules. One rule that has stood out a lot recently is Little League Rule 1.17 – playing safety rules for the league.
This section defines a safety rule that requires catchers to have a dangling throat protector. The dangling throat protector is just as it sounds. It’s a piece of plastic about 4-6 inches in length that dangles from the catchers mask and is intended to guard the throat of the player. The idea is that ball that would normally bounce off the ground and hit a player in the throat will glance off this extra layer of protections. Around various Leagues you’ll find players that don’t conform to this regulation. They’ll remove the protector or often tighten the straps to a point where the throat protector no longer dangles.
For the equipment to be properly attached, the dangling throat protector must be securely attached from one-fourth of an inch to three-fourths of an inch under the bottom frame of the catchers protective mask. The throat protector, when worn correctly, will swing freely from the mask. You don’t want the protector to get stuck in a position where it cannot protect the player and is rendered useless.
It’s important to understand why the dangling throat protector rule is in place. A frequent baseball and softball catcher injury occurs when a player his struck in the throat by a foul tip or wild pitch. An injury to the throat can be extremely damaging to anyone, especially young children. For this reason, Little League Baseball has come down with this strict rule. They greatly value child safety and always aim to be a leader in safety.
As an umpire, you must be prepared to enforce this rule, along with many others. With that in mind it’s also important to understand that others may not know or understand this rule and your job is to help them understand.