Hickey: NCAA fun police don't belong anywhere near college baseball
In the most important game of the season, Indiana second baseman Tyler Cerny was nowhere to be found. And not in a figurative sense. Literally, Cerny wasn’t allowed in the ballpark Sunday.
It’s only fair to wonder what Cerny did to earn such a harsh punishment.
None of the above.
IU’s Tyler Cerny will not play in tonight’s regional championship game. He was ejected last night for bringing out the Crimson Chain to celebrate his teammates home run. It sucks that players are being limited when it comes to celebrating these big momentspic.twitter.com/FHAJW3nH8W
— Stephen Schoch (@bigdonkey47) June 4, 2023
Oh, the humanity. Will someone think of the children?
For those who watched the accompanying video and still have no idea what happened, Cerny left Indiana’s dugout to place a plastic chain with a gigantic IU logo attached — much in the style of Flava Flav’s clocks — around the neck of teammate Peter Serruto.
Serruto, the No. 9 hitter in Indiana’s lineup, had just given the Hoosiers the lead on a dramatic 3-run homer with 2 outs in the 7th inning of an NCAA regional game against Kentucky. Unquestionably, it was the biggest moment in the baseball careers of every player in the Indiana dugout.
And because Cerny was so excited that he left the dugout to festoon Serruto with Indiana’s home run trinket, he was in violation of NCAA rule 5-2-d.
The rule, which was approved by the baseball rules committee last summer, states:
After a home run, scoring play or at the end of a half inning, teams shall not bring celebratory props onto the field of play. Celebratory props must remain in the team dugout during competition.
Rationale: This is intended to minimize potential acts of unsportsmanlike conduct directed at opposing teams or players on the field of play.
The penalty for violating the rule is ejection. And there’s no bluffing your way back into the dugout in Groucho Marx glasses. Cerny was literally escorted off of the premises as the game was paused for his removal.
Since college baseball ejections come with a mandatory 1-game suspension, Cerny was out of the lineup for Indiana’s potential regional clincher Sunday. Which once again meant he wasn’t even allowed into the stadium.
And if this is how seriously the NCAA takes home run chains, there’s little doubt he would have been hit with trespassing charges had he attempted sneaking in.
Fortunately, Cerny’s absence was not a factor Sunday. Kentucky clobbered Hoosier pitching for 16 runs to force a winner-take-all game on Monday. Cerny’s glove and bat weren’t going to make up the 10-run gap with the Wildcats.
In fact, replacement Evan Goforth went deep on a fluke home run that seemed to signal what the baseball gods think of this ridiculous rule.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) June 4, 2023
Isn’t baseball supposed to be fun?
Did Cerny violate the letter of the rule, which has been a point of emphasis this season? Yes.
But the spirit of the rule is also quite clear. It is intended to minimize “acts of unsportsmanlike conduct directed at opposing teams or players on the field.”
Cerny was still on the dirt in front of the dugout and didn’t come anywhere close to the field of play. Serruto took a whopping 3 steps with the chain around him before he was securely in the dugout.
This wasn’t a batter standing in the box for 8 seconds to admire his homer. Or even chatter directed at the Kentucky dugout. No reasonable person could think there was an intent to show up the Wildcats.
But evidently home plate umpire Tim Cordill is a literalist. And given an umpire’s job description, that’s understandable, even if a bit annoying. The rule is probably more deserving of ire than the ump.
Baseball is fighting a battle to keep a younger generation paying attention. It’s why we’ve seen the Major Leagues adopt a pitch clock this year.
It seems counterintuitive for the NCAA to make the game stodgier. Part of what makes college baseball enjoyable is the inherent goofiness of it. You never see big leaguers jousting during a rain delay. The college game is full of those kinds of moments.
Common sense should be enough to suss out the difference between celebrating and taunting. And if it does cross the line into taunting?
Well, baseball has self-policed showboats for a couple centuries. If a team feels disrespected, someone can wear that disrespect in the ribs. Or ideally with a mere bailout into the dirt.
Obviously, no governing body is going to endorse such actions. But it’s gotten the job done for a while now.
And not to suggest his actions even came close to crossing the line, but here’s guessing Cerny would have gladly traded a fastball to the keister over his ejection and suspension. At least you can still sit in your own dugout with a bruised bottom.