This is the final week to submit applications for the 13th Sun for Anne Arundel All-County Academic Athletic Team. The deadline is Friday with the team of 10 boys and 10 girls to be selected next weekend.
Applications can be delivered to the Sun's Pasadena office at 8131 Ritchie Highway, Suite E until 5 p.m. Friday to be considered.
TC The team honors the county's top student-athletes.
Because of the late deadline this year, only two recommendation letters are necessary.
All high school students who reside in Anne Arundel County are eligible and the 20 selected will be honored at the annual Anne Arundel Trade Council Spring Membership dinner on May 11 at the BWI Marriott.
For more information, call my 24-Hour Sportsline, (410) 647-2499.
Batter in the box
I know some fans have wondered on more than one occasion this spring what is going when an umpire has called a strike without a pitch being thrown.
It's the result of the National Federation of State High School Associations' new speed-up rule. Basically, the hitter has to keep at least one foot in the batter's box and can't keep stepping out.
"It's designed to speed up the game and college games were significantly faster last year," said Arundel coach Bernie Walter, who is in his 22nd season.
"All the other speed-up rules [such as a courtesy runner for the catcher] never made much of a difference in terms of speeding the games up as this new rule has. The games are being played in less time."
Jack Kramp, the Anne Arundel Baseball Umpires Chief, disagrees somewhat.
"It's a pain . . . . and most of our guys don't think it's made that big a difference in time," said Kramp, who doesn't like assessing a strike if a batter violates the rule.
The batter has to keep at least one foot in the box with the following exceptions: swinging at a pitch, forced out by a pitch, ,, attempting a drag bunt, the defensive team feints or attempts a play at any base, the pitcher leaves the dirt area of the mound more than five feet from the pitching rubber.
A batter also can leave the box during a timeout by either team or the catcher leaving his box to fix equipment or to go after a ball.
Other than those exceptions, the umpire is bound to call a strike on the batter for stepping out of the box. There have been games where players have received a third strike and called out for a violation.
The rule eliminates the age-old tactic of taking off for first base on a 3-1 pitch in an attempt to convince the umpire a close pitch was a ball.
There have been times when such a maneuver has twisted the arm of uncertain umpires and occasions where certain umpires consider the batter showing them up.
"It hurt us a couple times early in the season, but the kids don't seem to mind the rule and have gotten used to it," said North County coach Don Usewick.
"When you are involved in the game, you really don't pay any mind to how long it is. It doesn't seem like the games have been any faster, so I don't know if it has had that much effect."
I think some of the games have gone faster, but some have dragged. I haven't covered any near three-hour games as I had last year a few times.
Most of the high school games commence at 3:45 p.m. and the ones I've attended this spring generally have lasted under 2 1/2 hours. We may be saving about 10 to 15 minutes, but I'm not sure that is worth penalizing a batter a strike.
"I don't like the penalty and most of our umpires don't," said Kramp. "It should be up to the umpire to keep the game moving."
The rule is well intended. But the penalty is not only out of the box, but rather in left field.