New steal rule draws mixed reviews from slow-pitch player on Okinawa
FUTENMA MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Okinawa — Kevin Healy wasted no time taking advantage of a new Amateur Softball Association rule permitting stealing in all levels of men’s slow-pitch games.
In the very first inning of the first game of a five-team open tournament, in which the rule was implemented on Okinawa for the first time, Healy walked and promptly stole second on a pitch that went past the catcher.
He eventually scored, sparking a 36-4 rout by the Misfits over MACS-4 on Friday night.
“Golden Spikes award,” Healy said jokingly the next day, before the Misfits won the tournament by beating Dirtbags 13-12. “I’m Rickey Henderson. I’m going to grab the base the next time.”
The rule says runners may advance one base after a pitch crosses the front edge of home plate — in effect, allowing stealing, which had only been permitted in fast-pitch and men’s majors-level slow-pitch before this year.
“I think it’s better,” said Healy, who plays for Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in the annual Marine Forces Pacific Regional tournament, which selects six players to attend the All-Marine tryout camp. “They’ll have stealing there, so we might as well get used to it here.”
Far East Officials Association chief umpire Ron Williams said the rule will apply to all levels of adult ball on Okinawa except the intramural league at Kadena Air Base.
The three Pacific interservice Grand Slams on Okinawa will also use the stealing rule, Williams said.
Korea apparently will not implement the rule for now.
Bennie Jackson of 34th Support Group at Yongsan Garrison and Korea Sports Officials Association Commissioner Chi-hyon Kim said the rule would not be used for post- or company-level play or in the region’s first Grand Slam, the Pacificwide Open tournament, during the Memorial Day weekend at Yongsan.
Of the dozen or so stolen bases in the Futenma tournament, 95 percent came via pitches that bounced past the catcher, Williams said.
“I only saw three straight steals the whole weekend,” he said.
That led some participants to question the reason for the rule.
“If we wanted to play baseball, we’d play baseball,” said Healy’s Misfits coach, Kip Hogan. “Legitmate steals are going to be nonexistent. They’re all coming off passed balls here.”