Papi's dirty play uncalled for

Two proud programs battled in college baseball's spotlight on Tuesday night. Play had been clean and classy for both Vanderbilt and Virginia throughout the College World Series, that is until the ninth inning of Tuesday night's game when Mike Papi tainted what was a feeling of sportsmanship at the sacred grounds of the TD Ameritrade Park.

You see Papi had no chance to make a play. He was going to be out. Any little league player knows that two players can't be on the same base at one time. Whether the score was 2-1 or 18-2 in Virginia's favor there was no call what Papi did.

Instead of choosing to back off and take his tag and be out, he lowered his shoulders and bulls into the chest of a guy that weighs 50 pounds less than him. I know Papi's father is either proud of this display of poor sportsmanship or appalled. There is no in between. I just hope it's the second version I listed.

Here's some of what the NCAA says about malicious contact which I and many other believe is what Papi did.

If the contact is flagrant or malicious before the runner touches the plate, the runner shall be declared out and also ejected from the contest. The ball is immediately dead and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the interference. - NCAA Baseball Rules

I know the above rules state at "the plate" but the intent of the NCAA baseball rules are clear. They want to avoid violent collisions (and injuries) and the rules state that shortly before the above is listed in the rules.

"The rules committee is concerned about unnecessary and violent collisions with the catcher at home plate, and with infielders at all bases. The intent of this rule is to encourage base runners and defensive players to avoid such collisions whenever possible."

Papi wasn't ejected but I feel he should have been. But if he had been ejected he apparently wouldn't miss the next game because the NCAA doesn't do that for baseball like they do for football.

The rules should be fixed. What if Papi, who has probably read the rules before, knew that he had a free ticket to potentially injure Ty Campbell, one of Vandy's breakout players during the series? Papi was finishing with likely his last at bat. The rules state you can be ejected from the game for doing what he did but who cares when it's late in the ninth inning? And, again, baseball allows players to come back for the next game after being ejected. Unfortunately the big concussion scare hasn't reached NCAA baseball yet.

Again, I'm not saying that Papi meant to injure Campbell but it sure looked like it to me. Maybe he just made a spur of the moment bad decision and it looked a lot worse than he intended. The fact is though, he could have seriously injured Campbell with what appeared to be flagrant illegal contact. He should be punished to show young players watching around the country that dirty play like this will not be tolerated by the NCAA.

It's a shame that a player gets what is basically a free pass to potentially injure a player late in a game. I hope that Papi will learn from his mistake and I hope the NCAA will work to improve the rules in order to make it more punitive for players who commit reckless acts that might injure other players.

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