Contentious Call Causes Chaos for Canada in Olympic Qualifier

Image credit: Canada manager Ernie Whitt (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

It was the calm before the storm. 

During the bottom of the eighth inning at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, in World Baseball Softball Confederation Baseball Americas Qualifier tournament action between Team Canada and Team USA on Friday night, the field was nearly empty, the atmosphere was quiet, and confusion abounded. 

Defensively, some of the Canadian players had returned to their dugout, or near it. Close to their own bench, the Americans awaited a return to play. Members of the umpiring crew had departed with WBSC officials to work through an official protest submitted mid-inning by Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt

The play that caused the lengthy stoppage was a ball hit into right field by Team USA first baseman Triston Casas, with DH Logan Forsythe standing on first base and their team up two runs. The ball landed atop the right field wall, where it sat until Canadian right fielder Jesse Hodges took a leap, snagged it, and threw the ball back to the infield. An infield umpire simultaneously offered up his home run signal as Hodges dislodged the baseball and Forsythe paused at third.




After seeing the play unfold, Whitt asked the umpiring crew for a replay review on the home run call. It was granted, and after reviewing the play, the umpires placed Casas at second base but allowed Forsythe to score. The batted ball wasn’t a home run, and it wasn’t a ground-rule double, either.

Following further on-field discussions with the umpires and tournament officials, Whitt filled out and submitted the official paperwork to protest the play and the matchup.

“Obviously we knew the ball didn’t go out of the ballpark, so we asked for a video replay on it,” Whitt said. “They confirmed that it was not (a home run). So that means that they killed the ball as a double, and so that’s two bases. They said that the third base guy would have scored. I said he can’t score. If you ruled it a double, it’s two bases. And that was the whole gist of everything. 

“And if you go to the replay, the guy that was on first base was standing on third base at the time when the ball came into the infield. So, again, you can’t make a ruling that goes one way and then change it to go another way, in my opinion.”

Before the inning resumed, Whitt and the Canadian team were informed that the protest was denied, and both the ruling and the game would stand. After the lengthy pause of the review and subsequent protest, a pitching change, and an error for Team Canada, the Americans added six more runs on top of the one Forsythe would eventually score, and the Canadians eventually lost 10-1. 

“The video replay umpire, whoever that was, made the decision that it wasn’t a ground-rule double, but yet why did they put the guy on second base?” Whitt said of the denial of his protest. “Still no explanation, don’t quite understand it. At that point in time, it would have been two outs, guys on second and third, and a 3-1 ballgame. We’re still in that ballgame. Unfortunately I did what I felt I had to do as the manager of Baseball Canada.”

Why the play unfolded the way it did is still surrounded by some murkiness. Officially, it was not considered a ground-rule double for Casas, though the umpires placed him at second base after they returned to the field. Because Hodges did not wave to the umpiring crew to signal the ball was out of his reach, and instead jumped and grabbed it from atop the wall, it was determined that the ball remained in play. As such, Forsythe’s positioning was at the discretion of the replay official, who ruled that he would have scored on the play. 

“Dead-ball double, ground-rule double, I think is pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?” Whitt said. “They kill the ball and the play stops. And the runner that was on first base stopped at third base. He was not advancing past the base. He was standing there. If you go to replay, it will show that. But that’s something that we don’t have the option of seeing, only the replay umpire … has that option.”

The win for Team USA was its third straight in the Olympic qualifier, while Canada sustained its second consecutive loss. In their final tournament matchups, USA will face Venezuela and Canada will take on the Dominican Republic. Because of the way momentum swung and the eventual lopsided score, the Canadians took Friday’s loss particularly hard.

“It’s not a very good feeling losing by that much,” said Canadian outfielder Jacob Robson, who homered in the matchup for his team’s lone run. “But sometimes it happens in baseball. They hit a little bit, we had the long delay, it was a pretty close game before that, and they had a little rally there after the delay so it was a little bit deflating. That being said, we have a game tomorrow at 1 o’clock so we have a quick turnaround. We have to stay positive.”

Until the fiasco in the eighth inning, the game seemed well matched. Lefthander Ryan Kellogg got the start for the Canadian squad and threw three innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks. 

Veteran righty Chris Leroux relieved Kellogg and allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits, a walk and three hit batters over 4.1 innings. The delay for the review and protest caused a long enough layoff that Leroux was removed for Travis Seabrooke, who finished the game for Canada and allowed five unearned runs. 

“Ryan Kellogg and Chris Leroux did an outstanding job for us,” Whitt said. “They pitched tremendously, kept us in the ballgame. I can’t say enough about them. It was a pretty good ballgame until the umpires got in the way.”

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