I’ve been having an ongoing discussion regarding a pitcher throwing a pickoff to 3rd base, but the 3rd baseman is not covering the bag. In MLB rules, I have located information that indicates if the 3rd baseman is away from the bag as not being able to make a play on the runner, this is a balk. Keeping in mind, however, that in MLB rules, the pitcher must complete his throw to third (after they changed this so the 3rd-1st move is no longer legal).
However, my contention in HS rules is that 3rd base is treated the same as 2nd base, regarding pickoffs. You may fake a throw, and also may throw to a fielder who is not making a play on the runner. Therefore, you may throw to the 3rd baseman not attending the bag. Further, by definition, it is my contention that if it is not a balk if you fake a throw to third, then certainly it could not be a balk if you complete the throw, regardless of location of the fielder.
Curious as to your interpretations. Thanks for your time.
It’s funny that you would bring this up. I had a coach ask me about the very same thing. I concur with your interpretation. Since it is legal by NFHS rules to “feint” to third, it is legal to throw to a fielder who is not in position to make a play. I do not think all states interpret this the same way, and you should check with your home state rules interpreter for clarification.
In our state, the pitcher can, indeed, feint to third, but, if he turns and throws to first, he must disengage first, or it is a balk.
If I were you, I would keep doing it the way I was doing it until someone in a position of authority told me to do it differently. You will get some flack from different coaches, and even some umpires, but, when you are Umpire in Chief, it’s your game, and your call – be consistent, and be confident. Never assume any coach, player, or even another umpire knows the rules better than you do, and never assume you know them well enough not to continue studying.