Baseball Rules that People May Not Know


WHAT IS A FOUL-TIP AND HOW IS IT TREATED

There is nothing "FOUL" about a foul-tip. It is a strike and the ball is alive. A foul-tip is the same as a swing and a miss. To be a foul-tip, by rule, the ball must go sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher's hand or glove AND BE CAUGHT. Confusion arises on this because people commonly call any ball that is tipped or nicked a foul-tip. It is not a foul-tip, by rule, unless the nicked or tipped ball is caught. If it is not caught, it is simply a foul-ball. A foul-ball is a dead ball. A foul-tip (a legally caught nick) is a live ball strike, just like a swing and a miss.

RULE MYTH

If the ball nicks the bat and goes sharp and direct to the catcher's hand or glove and is caught, this is a foul-tip by definition. A foul-tip is a strike and the ball is alive. it is the same as a swing-and-miss. If the ball is not caught, it is a foul ball. If the nicked pitch first hits the catcher somewhere other than the hand or glove, it is not a foul-tip, it is a foul ball.

The Natural

WHAT HAPPENS IF A BATTER OVERRUNS 1B ON A WALK OR A HIT?

To simplify this; a batter-runner who is advancing to first base after ball four is treated no different than one who has hit a fair ball except that he cannot be put out BEFORE reaching first base. The ball is live and the runner may advance beyond first at his own risk. The batter-runner in any case; hit or walk, is NOT REQUIRED to turn to the right when returning to first base. The runner is liable to be put out when tagged IF IN THE UMPIRE'S JUDGMENT, the runner MADE AN ATTEMPT to advance to second base. Simply turning to the left into fair territory is NOT automatically an attempt. If he reaches the base safely and stops on the base and then steps off the base, he is out when tagged. You are allowed to overrun the base if your momentum takes you down the foul line past the base. Reaching the base without the need to overrun down the foul line and then stepping off, puts you in jeopardy of being tagged out. Over-running means to run directly down the foul line. This is allowed on a walk or a hit. If the runner on a walk or a hit turns left AND in the umpire's judgment, makes an attempt to advance, the runner is liable to be put out.

WHAT DEFINES A CHECK SWING?

"He broke his wrists", "The bat went past the front of the plate." Many people believe those two statements are written in the rules or are written as official interpretations of a strike. THEY ARE NOT.

A strike by definition is "a pitch that is struck at by the batter and is missed." It is purely a judgment made by the umpire as to whether the batter "struck at" the pitch. Breaking the wrists or the bat moving beyond the front of the plate or the batter's body, are factors that the umpire may use to make the judgment. Factors is all they are; not definitions.

It is not automatically a strike when a batter holds the bat over the plate preparing to bunt and does not pull it back when the pitch goes by. The same judgment applies. Did the batter "strike at" the pitch? It is not automatically a strike when a batter is ducking an inside pitch and he spins around and the bat crosses the plate. The umpire must judge if he was avoiding the pitch or striking at it.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A BATTER HITS A PITCH WITHOUT SWINGING?

Anytime a pitch hits the bat, it is a batted ball, whether the batter was intentionally swinging or not. Even if he is ducking pitch. If the ball hits the bat it is a batted ball. If the ball goes fair the batter better run to first. If it goes foul, it is a foul ball.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A BATTER THROWS A BAT DURING A SWING?

Young players quite often let go of the bat during or after a swing and sometimes hit another player. There is no rule that covers this situation. It is a safety issue and may be handled under the authority of rule 9.01(c) which gives the umpire authority to rule on anything not specifically covered in the rules.

Quite often I hear that umpires call the batter out for doing this. Sometimes it is after a warning and sometimes without. This is not correct. The defense hasn't earned an out. The batter should be called out, only if the throwing of the bat interfered with an attempted play by the defense. The Official Little League policy that I was given from Eastern Region is: After the first occurrence, inform the player and the manager that if this or any other player lets go of the bat again, he will be removed from the game. He may remain on the bench, he just can't play anymore in that game.

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE A FAIR BALL FROM A FOUL BALL?

Home plate is in fair territory and is treated like the ground. There is nothing special about it.

There is nothing special about the pitcher's rubber. It is part of the ground. If a ball hits it and bounces foul before passing first or third it is a foul ball.

Home plate and all the bases are in fair territory. Any batted ball that touches first, second or third is a fair ball. A ball that settles on home plate is a fair ball. A ball that hits home plate first is NOT a FOUL ball.

Two different criteria apply to judging fair or foul balls: •Balls that FIRST touch the ground or a player in the OUTFIELD and •Balls that FIRST touch the ground or a player in the INFIELD.

A ball that first touches the ground, or a player or an umpire in the outfield, is judged to be fair or foul based upon the relationship between the ball and the line at the instant the ball touches the ground, player or umpire. The location of the player or umpire's body or feet have nothing to do with the judgment. It's where the ball is in relation to the ground. The outfield is fair and foul territory beyond first or third base.

A ball that first touches the ground in the infield (in fair or foul territory) before first or third base, is not judged to be fair or foul until it stops or is touched by a player or an umpire or bounds beyond first or third base, or touches first or third base, or passes over first or third base. If it hits the ground on the home plate side of first or third and passes over the base on its way to the outfield; it is a fair ball. It may first touch the ground in foul territory and it is still not judged fair or foul until it stops or is touched or goes beyond first or third base. Example: ball touches the ground behind home plate, does not touch the catcher and spins into fair ground and stops. This is a FAIR ball.

A fair or foul ball shall be judged according to the relative position of the ball and the foul line, and not as to whether the fielder is on fair or foul territory at the time he touches the ball.

The instant the ball is touched you draw an imaginary vertical line from the ball to the ground. If the imaginary line touches foul territory, it is a foul ball, if fair territory, it is a fair ball. The position of the fielder's feet or body is of no consequence.

The ball may roll back and forth (within the infield) between fair and foul territory an unlimited number of times, and it is not declared fair or foul until it stops or is touched. Where the ball is when it is touched determines the judgment, not where the fielder is. The infield is both fair and foul territory within first and third base.

A pitch that hits the batter's bat is a batted ball. It doesn't matter whether he was swinging at the pitch or ducking away from it. The ball is judged fair or foul based on what happens to it after it hits the bat, based on the previously stated explanations.

CAN TEAMMATES OR COACHES TOUCH A BASE RUNNER AFTER A HR?

Several people have related plays in which the batter or a runner was called out for "high-fiving" or otherwise touching a teammate while rounding the bases after a homerun that was hit over the fence.

As long as all runners legally touch the bases while advancing to home, they can touch anybody they wish. The batter could be carried around the bases on the shoulders of his teammates as long as he comes down and touches each base as he reaches it and provided he is not physically assisted in returning to touch a missed base.

After the umpire calls "Play" the ball is alive and in play and remains alive and in play until for legal cause, or at the umpire's call of "Time" suspending play, the ball becomes dead. While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field).

Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance (a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire's judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel; Touching all bases legally, means touching them in order and not missing any bases, and not passing a preceding runner or being passed by a following runner. Rule 7.09(I) assistance by a coach only applies if the coach physically assists the runner by stopping him from touching the next base so he can correct the missing of a previous base. Interference is the act of interfering with a play. No play can occur when the ball is dead. The ball is dead when a homerun is hit over the fence.

WHAT IF A PITCH HITS THE GROUND BEFORE XING THE PLATE?

A PITCH is a ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher. Nowhere does it say anything about how it was delivered. A pitcher can roll the ball on the ground or throw it straight up in the air. If it travels across the foul lines, it is a pitch. Any rule that makes any statement about a pitch is referring to this definition. Therefore, if a pitch touches the ground before reaching the plate, it is by definition a pitch. The batter may hit it, and the hit is legal. If he is touched by it and was trying to avoid it, he is awarded first base. If he swings and misses it, it is a strike.

The only thing a pitch that touches the ground can never be; is a CALLED strike or a caught third strike. Both of these must be in-flight pitches.

WHAT IS A FORCE PLAY & HOW DOES THE 3rd OUT AFFECT SCORING

A run scores when a runner touches home plate before the third out is made, EXCEPT that no run can score when the third out is the result of a force play, or when the batter is put out before reaching first base. Many people believe that a FORCE OUT is any play where you can put out a runner simply by touching a base. This is NOT correct. Many people think that when you tag the runner instead of stepping on the base that the runner was forced to; that this is not a force-play. This is also NOT correct.

A FORCE PLAY is in effect anytime a runner is forced to leave his base because the batter became a runner. It doesn't matter how the runner is put out; a tag, an appeal or stepping on the base; in all three cases the out is a FORCE PLAY.

There are three types of plays where touching the base is all that is required.

  1. When a runner must advance because the batter became a runner. (This is always a FORCE play)

  2. When an appeal is made that a runner missed a base while advancing or retreating. (This could be a FORCE PLAY if the base being appealed is one to which the runner was forced to advance. Otherwise it is not.

  3. When an appeal is made that a runner did not retouch (tag-up) after a fly ball was caught. (This is NEVER A FORCE PLAY)

IS A RUNNER OUT IF HE IS HIT BY A BATTED BALL?

If a runner is hit by a batted ball he is out and no judgment of intent is required unless he is hit by a deflected ball, or the ball has already passed all infielders, in which case the umpire must decide if he intended to be hit to interfere, obstruct, impede, hinder or confuse the defense.

A runner must avoid a fielder attempting to field a BATTED BALL. If he does not he is guilty. He may run out of the baseline, if ecessary, if the fielder is fielding a batted ball. This is a fairly easy call. The fielder's protection begins the moment the ball is hit. That protection continues as he completes his initial play. His protection ends if he misplays the batted ball and has to move to recover it. Contact with the fielder is not necessary for interference to be called.

The runner is out when hit by a batted ball before it passes an infielder. If it passes one infielder and another fielder who is on the outfield side of the basepath had a possible play on the ball, the runner could still be called out. This is a judgment by the umpire.

If a runner is hit by a FAIR batted ball while he is in FAIR territory he is out with the above exceptions. This includes while he is standing on a base. The bases are in FAIR territory. If he is hit in fair territory, while on the base, before the ball has passed an infielder, he is out, except if he is hit by an infield-fly.

When a runner is called out for being hit by a fair batted ball, the batter gets first base. All other runners remain at the base they held at the time of the pitch, unless forced to advance by the batter being awarded first base.

CAN RUNNERS ADVANCE ON AN INFIELD FLY?

The only difference between an infield fly and any other fly is that the batter is out when it is declared, and the ball does not have to be caught. Because the batter is declared out the runners are no longer forced to run, but they may run if they wish, at the risk of being put out. If the ball is caught they must tag-up before running, the same as on any fly ball. If the ball is not caught they may run without tagging up, the same as on any fly ball.

If the umpires forget to call an obvious infield fly, the rule is assumed to have been called and the batter is still out.

If a fly ball first lands untouched on foul ground before first or third base and bounces untouched into fair territory, it is an infield fly because it is now a fair ball and the batter is out. If the fly ball first lands untouched in fair territory before first or third and bounces untouched into foul territory, it is just a foul ball.

The Infield Fly is a judgment by the umpire that the ball could be caught with ORDINARY EFFORT by a player who was stationed in the infield at the time of the pitch. It is not automatic just because it's a pop-up in the infield.

AT WHAT TIME CAN THE CATCHER BLOCK THE PLATE?

Obstruction is called when the defense hinders the runners ability to run the bases. There are two different applications of the rule. One causes an immediate dead ball and the other is delayed dead. If a play is being made on a runner who is obstructed, the ball is immediately dead. If no play is being made the ball is delayed dead. A play for purposes of this rule is when the ball is in-flight heading toward the base the runner is heading, an attempted tag, or when the runner is caught in a run-down. The rule book definition is:

"OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered "in the act of fielding a ball." It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner."

A fake tag is considered obstruction.

The fielder may stand in the base path without the ball, IF, the throw is almost to him and he needs to be there to catch the ball. However, he may not actually block the base until he has possession of the ball. Until he has possession of the ball he must give the runner some way to get to the base.

As with interference, obstruction is also a tough judgment call. Contact between the runner and fielder is not necessary to meet the definition. If a runner must slow down or alter his path to avoid a fielder who is not in possession of the ball or in the act of fielding, he has been obstructed.

If no play is being made on the runner at the time he is obstructed, the play continues. The tough part comes when the play stops. The umpire will award the runner the base to which the umpire believes he would have reached had he not been obstructed. For example: the batter hits a ball in the gap for what looks like an easy double. No play is being made on him. As he rounds first the fielder is in his path and they collide. The batter stops at first. The umpire will award the runner second base if he believes the runner would have made it there had he not been obstructed.

It does not matter where the obstruction occurs. If a runner is obstructed at first base and the umpire believes he could have made it to third base, he will be awarded third. The umpire must be the judge. If, in the umpire's judgment, a runner is slowed down by one step at first and then is thrown out by five steps at third, the out should stand.

An immediate dead ball obstruction is called when obstruction occurs while a play is being made on the runner. For example: a runner on first is attempting to reach third on a hit. He is obstructed by a fielder between second and third as the throw from the outfield is heading toward third. This is a play on the runner. The umpire should call "time" when the obstruction occurs and award the runner third base. Another example is a run-down play. It does not matter which way the runner is heading. If he is obstructed while being played upon in a run-down, he is awarded at least one base beyond the last base he held.

If a runner is obstructed attempting to get back to first on a pick-off play, the ball is dead and he is awarded second.

HOW TO PROTEST AND WHAT IS PROTESTABLE?

Judgment calls may not be protested. This means out/safe, fair/foul, ball/strike, obstruction/interference, hit batter, balk, etc. The game can only be protested when a rule has not been applied correctly.

Example: R1 and R3. R1 interferes with F4 attempting to field a grounder. The umpire calls R1 out for interference, but allows R3 to score.

This is incorrect. If, in the umpire's JUDGMENT interference occurred, the RULE states that the ball is dead and no runs may score or runners advance.

The judgment of whether it was interference or not, is NOT protestable. The fact that the umpire allowed the run to score IS protestable.

The batter attempts to bunt with less than two strikes and pops the ball up near the first base line. The back spin on the ball causes it to quickly roll into foul territory where it hits the batter runner who is attempting to get to first. The umpire calls the runner out. Was this correct or should it just be a foul ball and dead with the batter getting another chance?

Answer: He should not be called out unless the umpire judges that the runner intentionally did something to affect the course of the ball to gain an advantage for himself.

If that is his judgment, the play is NOT protestable. If he believes the rule states that the runner is out when touched by his own foul ball; he is incorrect and the play is protestable.

A protest must be made to the umpire-in-chief before the next pitch or play. In LL®, protests of the use of ineligible players may be made anytime prior to the last out of the game. When an ineligible player is discovered he is removed from the game and the opposing manager MAY protest or not at his discretion.

WHEN DOES THE GAME OFFICIALLY END?

Time Limits are not part of baseball, therefore there are no Official rules regarding the issue. Any league that opts to use time limits must specify in detail, their own rules to cover all situations.

Typically, the rule is written that no NEW inning may begin once the time limit has been reached. An inning ends the moment the third out is made. Therefore, if the third out is made one second before the time expires, a new inning could be started. If it occurs one second after the time limit has been reached; the game is over. If an inning is in progress when the time expires, the inning should be completed (or the half inning if the home team is ahead.) Usually only one extra inning is allowed if the game is tied at the end of an inning after time has expired.

These are the typical rules. Each league may determine it's own rules.

FIELDER OVER THE FENCE HOMERUN RULE MYTH

As long as the fielder is not touching the ground in dead ball territory when he catches the ball, it is a legal catch if he holds onto the ball and meets the definition of a catch. If the catch is not the third out and the fielder falls down in dead ball territory, all runners are awarded one base. If the fielder remains on his feet in dead ball territory after the catch, the ball is alive and he may make a play.

PITCHER NO HIT ON BOUNCED PITCH RULE MYTH

A pitch is a ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher. It doesn't matter how it gets to the batter. The batter may hit any pitch that is thrown.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED A LEGAL TAG OF THE BASE BY A FIELDER?

When a fielder tags a base to put a runner out on a force or appeal, he may touch the base with ANY part of his body. If he has the ball in his throwing hand he may touch the base with his glove, foot, knee, elbow, hair, nose, tongue or ANY part of his body. To put out a runner while the runner is not on a base, the runner must be tagged with the ball as stated below.

A TAG is the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching a runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball, while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove.

WHEN CAN AN UMPIRE BE CALLED FOR INTERFERENCE?

By rule, umpire's interference only applies when the umpire is hit by a fair batted ball BEFORE it has passed an infielder, or when he interferes with a catcher's throw in an attempt to retire a runner. Anything else that an umpire is involved in is a live ball and play continues. It is not umpire interference, it is umpire incompetence. He deserves to be yelled at, but the play stands.

If an umpire makes a mistake on a call and his action creates a dead ball situation. It is not advisable for him to reverse his call and try to assume what would have happened if he had not "killed" the play.

For example: if the batter hits a pitch and it hits the plate and then goes into fair territory. It is a fair ball by rule. However, if an incompetent umpire yells "foul ball" when it hits the plate, he should stay with that call. The same as if he made a bad judgment on a fair/foul ball that hit near the line. Once an umpire makes a call which creates a dead ball situation, he should not reverse the call, no matter how bad it was. He could reverse a call in which the original call was "fair", because you can put everyone back where they were before the call. But, when you kill a play, you can't guess as to what would have happened, had play continued.

BATTER FOOT TOUCHES THE PLATE RULE MYTH

To be out the batter's foot must be ENTIRELY outside the box when he contacts the pitch. There is no statement about touching the plate. The toe could be on the plate and the heel could be touching the line of the box, which means the foot is not entirely outside the box.


Last Updated: 05/02/2003