TAKING A SIGN (also called TAKING A SIGNAL and TAKING THE SIGNAL)
It is difficult to find a rule in the NCAA softball rule book that has been modified more than Rule 10.2. Looking at the last 4 publications of the NCAA Softball Rule book (covering the 2014-2021 seasons) one finds that Rule 10.2 was changed each time the rule book was published. Why can’t we get this right? Why do we even have this rule? What action of the players or coaches is this rule designed to control?
Let’s review the changes over time.
Rule 10.2 listed in the 2014/2015 rule book states, in part, . . . while in this (pitching) position the pitcher must take (or simulate taking) a signal from the catcher . . . pitcher’s hands must come together . . . for not more than five seconds. (Page 100)
In the 2016/2017 rule book, this same rule states, in part, . . . while in this (pitching ) position, the pitcher shall pause to take or simulate taking a signal from the catcher. (Page 100)
For the next two seasons, 2018 and 2019, Rule 10.2 stated, in part, . . .while in this (pitching) position. . . the pitcher shall pause for a noticeable stop of at least two seconds to take or simulate taking a signal. The signal need not come from the catcher. (Page 80).
For the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Rule 10.2 is modified again to read, in part, . . . while in the pitching position and taking the signal, the pitcher must take or appear to take a signal. The signal need not come from the catcher. (Page 82).
Just look at the changes: first, the pitcher must take or simulate taking a signal from the catcher. Next, she has to pause for 2 seconds but the signal need not come from the catcher. Then, the pitcher must take or simulate taking a signal, which need not come from the catcher and the pause is no longer mentioned.
If one looks at the central idea behind these modifications, the reason for the rule is clear. Look at the words used: take or simulate taking a signal, pause, noticeable stop. These clearly show the intent of the rule is to prevent the pitcher from stepping onto the pitching rubber and immediately beginning her motion.
To meet the requirements of Rule 10.2 for the 2021 season, HP must require the pitcher to take a sign (or simulate taking a sign). That is a judgement that HP makes and just like any other judgement call the decision by the calling umpire is final. So if you are working a game behind the plate and you judge that the pitcher did not take a sign (or simulate taking one), call the illegal pitch, enforce the penalty (ball on the batter), and move on. If the coach raises a question, it will give you the opportunity to correct the action by the pitcher.