When managers come to the plate for the pre-game meeting, after introductions, the plate umpire should then take the line-up cards of both teams, beginning with the home team’s card. If one manager arrives at the plate much earlier than the other, the umpire should wait until both arrive before taking any line-ups, even if it is the home team that arrives first. If a coach or player has brought out the line-up card, the umpires should ensure they are aware as to who the manager of the team is. Line-up cards must be presented to the plate umpire at least in duplicate at the plate meeting. Umpires who allow a team to only bring a single line-up card to home plate for any reason (typically because they have exchanged line-ups prior to the game) leave themselves vulnerable to a situation later in the game where batting-out-of-order has occurred and the copy of the line-up in possession of the umpire is different than the one in possession of the team. While the plate umpire’s copy of the line-up shall always be considered the official record, this situation is obviously extremely preventable and would not be looked upon favourably.
The plate umpire should then audit the line-up cards before splitting them for obvious correctable errors (player listed twice, listing nine batters plus a pitcher with more or less than one designated hitter, listing a player who just pitched as the starting pitcher, filling out an incomplete card i.e. no subs, two players with the same last name but no first initial, etc). Obvious errors may be corrected. Always confirm the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) by name. Should a team not list a DH and/or EH, confirm with their manager (or designate at the plate) that they do not wish to use one in that game. Should an umpire point out to a manager that they made an error with the line-up prior to splitting the cards, the mistake may be rectified. It is completely acceptable to return the line-up card to the manager who erred while pointing out any of the errors listed above. Once the cards are split however, it is too late. Focus when checking the line-up cards and avoid unnecessary conversation.!
Players must be listed by at least surname, although both first and last names are preferred. If multiple players have the same surname, the team must provide at least a first initial. It is not acceptable for a team to provide a batting order card with only players’ first names listed. The use of jersey numbers and positions is recommended but ultimately optional, except that the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) must be specified. There is no requirement for players serving a suspension to be noted on the line-up.
Once the plate umpire has audited the line-ups for obvious errors, they shall keep the top copy for themselves. The next copy shall go to the opposing team, with any remaining copies being returned to the original team. It is not necessary for the plate umpire to sign the line-up before distributing it. The plate meeting would then proceed to discussion of the ground rules.
Please note that in leagues where teams are not required to provide the plate umpire with an official line-up card, at no time may batting out of order be appealed by either team.
Plate umpires should always ensure to keep any changes to the line-up in a simple, clear, and neat manner in the event line-up cards must be transferred to another umpire due to suspension of a game that must be resumed.
Below we have several examples of proper and improper line-up cards from various levels of baseball.
Line-up cards from a suspended game in the Midwest League. Note that both managers have listed all players by surname only. This is perfectly acceptable. Peoria’s manager has also elected to highlight the position of his DH and pitcher in the batting order. This is a courtesy and not required. As you can see, all substitutes are still eligible to enter the game.
Line-up cards from a suspended game in the Intercounty Baseball League. London has made one substitution (#97 Parris Austin entered the game in place of #6 Larry Balkwill in the sixth spot in the batting order) while Kitchener has made no substitutions.
Line-up card from a forfeited game in the IBL. Burlington’s manager failed to list any substitute players on the bottom of his line-up card. This error was noticed at the plate meeting, pointed out to the manager, and he was directed to add substitute players to the bottom of the line-up card. For whatever reason, he chose not to do so. Per IBL rules, a player must be listed as a reserve in order to be eligible to enter the game. When Burlington was unable to field a line-up with nine eligible players, the game was forfeited. Please note that the Official Rule regarding substitutes stipulates that reserve players are not required to be listed on the line-up card. However, a league, on it’s own authority, may supersede this rule and require a player to be listed on the line-up in order to be eligible. Notable leagues to require this include the IBL, New York-Penn League, and the Florida State League.
Line-up cards from a suspended Midget Tier One game. Both managers failed to fill out their line-ups correctly, listing players by first name only. These cards should have been returned to the managers at the plate meeting, so surnames could be added to all players. Note that Mississauga has no remaining players on the bench, as their substitute has entered the game and the original player in the line-up has re-entered for the substitute. Note also that Oakville is using a 9 player line-up with the pitcher batting and no substitutes. While Oakville’s manager listed only the position of his starting pitcher, there is no penalty for this. Only the starting pitcher, designated hitter, and extra hitter (if applicable) must be noted on a line-up card.