By Scott Erwin
Being Off the Base or
Leaving the Base Too Soon
In the last few days a question was
posed by the Minor managers regarding base runners, so I thought I would
discuss this with you in order for you to watch for these circumstances and
apply the rules correctly regarding base runners.
The question was
What happens if a runner is off the base when the pitcher delivers a
pitch? There is no difference between being off the base and
leaving early. Rule 7.13 says that When the pitcher is in contact
with the pitching plate and in possession of the ball, and the catcher is in
the catchers box ready to receive delivery of the ball (not necessarily
squatting, just in the catchers box), base runners shall not leave their
bases until the ball has been delivered and reaches the batter.
runner is some distance from the base and threatening to go to the next base,
the pitcher may not quickly run to the rubber with the expectation that the
runner has to go back to the last base. The defense must make a play on that
runner, either tag him, or chase him back to the previous base.
runner(s) are dancing off the base and the pitcher is faking
throws to the base to try to get the runners to go back, do not allow
this activity to go on very long. Call time and reset the runners
and defense. Have all runners return to their bases, the pitcher go to the
rubber, the catcher get in his box, point to the pitcher and call
play. If the runner(s) are off their base or they leave the base
before the pitched ball reaches the batter, the runner(s) have left early. They
cannot come back and re-tag. The runner(s) cannot correct a leaving
early infraction. Drop your red flag and wait to see if the ball is hit,
the runner is thrown out or successfully steals the next base. Then apply Rule
7.13 (a) (b) and (c) to fit the situation.
Purpose Of The Infield Fly
Have you ever wondered why there is an
Infield Fly Rule in baseball and softball? The Infield Fly Rule is
one of the oldest rules in the game making its first appearance in baseball
rules in 1895. In that year it was in effect with one out. In 1901, the rule
was amended to the exact form we use today.
With runners on first and
second, or the bases loaded, AND with less than two outs, if the batter hits a
fly ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, the batter is
out. If it were not for that rule, wily infielders could try for an easy double
play by letting the ball drop untouched to the ground, then throwing for a
force out at third base, with the relay catching another runner before he
reaches his base.
Knowing the rule isnt enough. Umpires must
follow proper mechanics when making the call. In fact, this is one of the few
instances where some of the field mechanics are incorporated into the actual
rules language. When the ball has reached its highest point, the umpire says
Infield Fly, the batter is out. The umpire should not rush to
judgment. On windy days, a ball that starts out as an infield fly might end up
deep in the outfield. Or, a ball that seems headed for the outfield might end
up being easily caught by an infielder. Remember, the runners will be hanging
around near the bases anyway. Since the purpose of the rule is not to give the
defense a cheap out, and to prevent the offense from hitting into a cheap
double play, wait until youre certain the ball can be caught with
ordinary effort. If the fly is coming down near the foul line, the umpires must
say: Infield Fly, the batter is out, if fair. Generally speaking,
any umpire can determine the status of any potential infield fly and his
partner should echo the call and signal after his partner has made his
What Is An Infield Fly?
any rule will cause problems, its the Infield Fly Rule. There are so many
wrong interpretations, misunderstandings, etc. with this rule. In the first
place, the only place to check the definition of the rule is in the Little
League Rule Book. Chat rooms, Wikipedia, etc. can all be crazy with their
If there are runners on first and second, or first,
second and third with less than two out, there is an infield fly possibility.
If the batter then hits a fair fly ball (not a line drive or bunt) that COULD
be caught by a defensive player stationed in the infield with ORDINARY EFFORT,
an Infield Fly should be called. Keep in mind, ordinary effort can
be very different between a 9 year-old and an 18 year-old. One way to think of
it is, Is the fielder comfortable under the ball? If so,
youve got ordinary effort.
The umpire must watch the ball and the
fielders, and decide if the batted ball qualifies as an Infield Fly. If so,
when the ball reaches the apex of its flight, its highest point, the umpire
should point at the ball, and shout, Infield Fly, the batter is
out! If the ball is close to the foul line, say Infield Fly, if
fair! (Any umpire may call it.) The umpires have to watch the ball, watch
the reaction of the fielders, back and forth until the ball is at the apex,
then make a decision.
As soon as the umpire says Infield
Fly, the batter is out and the force is removed from the runners. Of
course, thats the purpose of the rule, to keep the defense from getting a
cheap double play. The runners do not have to run if the umpire says,
Infield Fly, the batter is out!
Now the call of
Infield Fly only affects the batter-runner. The batter-runner is
immediately out which removes the force, regardless of whether the ball is
caught or not. The other runners are subject to the rules regarding tagging up
just as if the ball had been hit into the outfield. If its caught, they
must tag up before they advance. If its not caught, they do not have to
tag. Dont think of the Infield Fly as a catch because it is
not. The ball has just been ruled an Infield Fly which makes the batter-runner
out instantly, but the ball may, or may not be caught. Whether its caught
or not, does NOT affect the Infield Fly call. Check Rule 2.00, Catch
definition. This applies to an infield fly situation, too.
remember a few other things:
- The ball stays alive during an Infield Fly play.
Its not dead, so runners off base may be tagged, etc
- An infield fly is a fair fly ball which CAN be
caught by an infielder with ordinary effort. That doesnt mean it HAS to
be caught by an infielder Imagine a shortstop playing deep, backing up onto the
outfield grass to catch a fly with, in the umpires judgment, ordinary
effort. The umpire points up and calls, Infield Fly, the batter is out!
But the left fielder charges in, and calls off the shortstop and catches the
ball, or doesnt catch it, either way. That is STILL an infield fly by
- If the umpire calls Infield Fly, the batter
is out! or Infield Fly, if fair, and the ball drops untouched
and rolls foul; it is NOT an Infield Fly, just a foul ball. If it lands
untouched foul, and rolls fair, its an infield fly
- Last, but not least, dont get confused with
Rule 6.05k, the Intentional Drop. If you read that rule, you will see the
differences between it and an Infield Fly. The Infield Fly rule always takes
precedence (Besides, youll almost never see these kids intentionally drop
a fly ball, they have a hard enough time catching them!)
Infield Fly Rule Special
Interference By A Base Coach
- Infield Fly strikes runner on base
If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is
not out; although the batter is out if the ball is fair. And, if the Infield
Fly touches a runner while on the base in fair territory before touching or
passing an infielder, the ball is dead and no runner may advance. See Rule
- Infield Fly strikes runner not on
base If a runner is touched by an Infield Fly while not touching a base
(provided the ball has not touched or passed and infielder), both the runner
and the batter are out, and the ball is dead. See Rule 7.08(f). Example:
Infield Fly is declared. Runner from first unintentionally interferes with 2nd
baseman, who is attempting to catch the fly ball. Ruling: On an Infield Fly,
the ball is alive and in play. Therefore, the runner is out for interference
and the batter-runner is out under the Infield Fly. Other runners return to the
base occupied at the time of the interference.
- Runner Interferes while In contact
with base If a runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he
hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a battered ball, the runner
shall not be called out unless, in the umpires judgment, such hindrance,
whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire
declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With
less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and the batter out.
With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out. See Rule 7.08(b).
The interference rule came into play recently in the Major League
Baseball playoffs. So, now is a good time to talk about a type of interference
you dont see very often - Its when a base coach reaches out to
physically assist the runner. The rule is: Rule 7.09 It is interference
by a batter or runner when, in the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at
third base or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists
the runner in returning to or leaving third or first base.
Question: How can a base coach at third or first base
physically assist the runner at that base?
Answer: A base coach at first or third base could grab a
runner to stop him from running past the base; or he could place his hand on
the back of the runner and give him a push when the fly ball is caught to get
the runner started in a tag-up and advance attempt; a base coach at first or
third base could step in front of a runner to get him to stop. These are just a
few of the ways coaches could physically assist runners.
Penalty: The runner that is assisted is called out
immediately and the ball is dead if there is a play being made on that runner.
Otherwise, the runner that is assisted is called out and the ball is dead after
the action is completed (delayed dead ball). However, high-five-ing
a runner during a home run trot, for example, would not be interference.
Why Does The Catchers Throat Protector Have To
It appears that over the course of this past season that
there has been a lot of confusion over Rule 1.17. The section that I am
referring to is the safety requirement that all catchers MUST have a
dangling type throat protector attached to the mask of the
catchers helmet. We have observed catchers helmets without any type
of dangling throat protector, as well as throat protectors secured
so tightly to the lower frame bar that they cannot move or dangle
to protect the catchers throat. We have observed them secured so that the
throat protector is sticking straight out at a 900 angle, providing no
protection for the catchers throat area.
All of these are totally
unacceptable. The dangling throat protector should be properly and
securely attached so that when the catcher looks up or his head is tilted
upward the throat protector will be able to remain down so that the
catchers throat area has some protection. A ball (from a foul or from a
pitch in the dirt) or even a bat could possibly come up under the
catchers helmet and cause a severe injury.
To be properly
attached, the dangling type throat protector should be securely
attached from one-fourth of an inch to no more than three-quarters of an inch
below the lowest bar or frame of the catchers mask. The throat protector
should swing freely and smoothly under the mask when tapped with a finger while
holding the catchers mask/helmet in the hand.
dangling style throat protector is required on any and all types of
catchers helmet/masks in all divisions of Little League Baseball and
Softball. So, whether you have the standard frame, the extended frame, the
hockey style, etc., the dangling throat protector is required. Yes,
even on the extended frame masks because when a catcher tilts his head
upward, the frame goes with it exposing the throat. That is, unless
there is a properly positioned dangling throat protector in place.
This is a mandatory safety requirement and MUST be strictly enforced at
all times by managers, coaches, league officials and umpires. There is NO
reason or excuse, (and we have heard them all) for not having a properly
attached dangling throat protector on all catchers
helmet/mask. The childrens safety and well being MUST always be foremost
in all that we do in Little League.
It is not worth the risk, so PLEASE
help us to make sure that every catchers helmet/mask in your
leagues equipment (whether league-purchased or parent-purchased0 has a
properly attached dangling style throat protector to protect the
children from injury and harm.
A note for the umpires
out there: It is not a requirement for the plate umpire to wear the
dangling throat protector, but it is very strongly recommended that
How Many Bases Do Runners Get On A Throw
Out Of Play? Rule 7.05(g)
On an overthrow that stays in play the
ball is alive and the runners advance as far as they want to, at their own
Overthrows go out of play and become dead when:
Once a ball is out of play, it stays dead even if it
bounces back into the field. So where do the runners go? If the overthrow
occurs on the first play by an infielder, every runner gets two bases from
where he was when the ball was pitched. This is the most common situation.
- The ball goes over the fence or over any line (real
or imaginary) defining the edge of the playing field
- The ball goes into a dugout or bench area
- The ball gets stuck in or goes through a fence or
Example: Bases are loaded, ground ball to an
infielder who throws the ball out of play. Two runs score, batter goes to
second, runner on first goes to third. If the overthrow is not on the first
play, or is by an outfielder, or the batter and every runner have advanced at
least one base before the throw is made, runners get two bases from where they
were when the throw was made. Any attempt to put a runner out (for example, a
missed tag) counts as a "play" whether successful or not. But dropping a fly
ball or line drive does not count as a "play" Note that the rule is "when the
throw was made" not "when the ball went out of play".
Example: Runner on second, no out. Ground ball to 3rd,
fielded by third baseman, who tags the runner and throws wild to first. If the
batter had not passed first when the third baseman threw the ball, the umpire
sends him to second. If the batter had passed first, the umpire sends him to
Example: No one on base, no out. Batter
hits ball to right, fielded by right fielder. The runner tries for two and the
right fielder throws to second, but the throw goes over second base and keeps
going; so does the runner. Eventually the ball rolls out of play behind third
base. Place the runner on third since when the throw left the fielders
hand, the runner still hadnt reached second. In practice this rule can
only make a difference for the batter and for a runner who started at first.
Runners who started on second and third always score on an overthrow out of
A fielder commits
obstruction when he impedes the progress of the runner while not in possession
of the ball or is not in the act of fielding the ball. If the obstructed runner
is being played upon, the ball is immediately dead. If the obstructed runner is
not being played upon, the ball is delayed-dead.
A fielder will be
guilty of obstruction if he denies access to a base without possession of the
ball. Previously, a fielder was allowed to block the base if he was in the act
of making a play. The most common bases for obstruction are home and 1st base.
An umpire may have to consider action occurring after obstruction in
determining a runners award or protection (or neither). An obstructed
runners protection or award can be revised each time something happens
that would change the award or protection.
Example: Runner 1 is stealing, and there is a base hit to
left-center field. The shortstop obstructs Runner 1 as he rounds second. At
this point the umpire determines that he will protect Runner 1 to third. But,
then the center fielder misses the ball. The umpire revises his judgment, and
will now protect Runner 1 at home. If a live ball has been thrown, but becomes
dead while in flight due to obstruction with a play, and such throw is wild and
goes out of play, then the overthrow becomes a factor in determining the award
given the obstructed runner.
Example: After a
line drive base hit into right-center field, the batter-runner rounds the base
widely and proceeds a considerable distance toward second. The right fielder,
seeing the batter-runners wide turn, wheels and throws to first
immediately after grabbing the ball. The batter-runner, scrambling back to
first, is obstructed by the first baseman that is unaware that the throw is
approaching. The umpire determines that obstruction with a play has
occurred, so the ball is dead, and the batter-runner must be awarded at least
second base. But the errant throw gets by the first base area and bounds into
the stands. This must be taken into consideration, since the throw was en route
(live) when the obstruction occurred. The umpire awards the batter-runner third
base on the overthrow.
Players Taking their Proper
Rule 4.03 provides that when the ball is put in play at
the start of, or during, a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be
in fair territory.
When the batter assumes a batting stance in the
batters box, he shall have both feet entirely within the batters
box; i.e. no part of either foot may extend beyond the outer edge of the lines
defining the box when the batter assumes a position in the box. There is no
penalty specified for violation other than the batter shall be instructed by
the umpire to stay within the batters box. If a player, after being
directed by the umpire, blatantly refuses to comply, he is subject to ejection.
See Rule 6.03. At this point the team manager/coach should be involved in the
Rule 6.02(c) provides that if the batter refuses to take a
position in the batters box during a time at bat, the umpire shall order
the pitcher to pitch and shall call Strike on each such pitch. On
such pitch, the ball remains live and in play (runners may advance at their own
risk). The batter may take a proper position after any such pitch and the
regular ball and strike count shall continue, but if the batter does not take
his proper position before three strikes are called, he shall be declared out.
Once the umpire has ordered the pitcher to pitch under this rule, the
batter is not allowed to step back in and quickly offer at the pitch. Under
this rule, once invoked, the penalty applies, and the umpire shall call the
pitch a strike. After the umpire has ordered the pitcher to pitch, should the
batter re-enter the box and hit such pitch, the ball is dead, a strike is
called and any advancement on the bases is nullified. At this point the team
manager/coach should be involved in the discussions.
Illegal Pitch (Major and Minors only)
What is a balk
in Juniors and above is an Illegal Pitch in Majors and below. Local
leagues, in particular the Minor Division, may choose to call only some of
these and/or call them as "No Pitch" (ball is dead, no runners can advance)
rather than balks.
Note: Failing to come to a stop during the Set
Position is not an illegal pitch in Majors. Using a windup from the Set
Position is OK, as well. An Illegal Pitch is described in Rule 8.05. Some of
the most common causes:
- The pitcher pitches without his foot on the
- The pitcher quick-pitches the batter
- The pitcher makes a stop-and-start motion (begins
his pitching motion, pauses, and then finishes it)
- The pitcher does not use one of the two legal
pitching positions, the Windup Position or the Set Position [8.01(a) and
- The pitch is a ball. [8.05]
- If the pitch hits the batter, it counts as an HP,
not an illegal pitch. [8.05(m), note]
- If the batter hits the ball: If the batter reaches
first safely and all runners advance at least one base, the illegal pitch is
ignored If not, the manager can take the play or the illegal pitch
- In the minors, the umpires may just call "No pitch"
and then take the time to explain the problem to the pitcher and his coach