SITUATION - While umpiring a recent Orem Youth Baseball AAA game, the batter hit the ball up the middle to center field and the batter-runner ran straight through first base and then curved into the field instead of outward into foul territory. He stopped on the field and immediately came back to first base where the center fielder had thrown the ball over to first and the runner was tagged before reaching back to first base? The defensive team logic was that the runner had peeled off towards the field and was therefore live and taggable. Is the runner out? Can you overrun first base and turn inward without being live to be tagged out? At what point do you become live and taggable?
ALSO - If there were errors on the field does the runner who overran first base have to come back and touch first base before running to second Base? And can a batter who receives a walk safely overrun first base?
RULES - The Official Rules of Major League Baseball cover this situation where a base runner overruns first base in section 7.08(c).
7.08 Any runner is out when—
(c) He is tagged, when the ball is alive, while off his base. EXCEPTION: A batter-runner cannot be tagged out after overrunning or over sliding first base if he returns immediately to the base;
OFFICIAL RULING - The rules do not specify which way a runner must turn after overrunning first base. The key point to the rule is that the batter-runner "returns immediately to the base. If there is any attempt to go towards second base, then he is considered not returning immediately and he is a live cottontail bunny with 9 boys with .22 rifles trying to shoot their dinner. This usually happens on an overthrow type of play and the moment the batter-runner makes a jerk or move to even fake a run to second he is considered live and taggable for an out.
While umpiring in the AAA division we see lots of strange plays, usually due to player inexperience. On this particular night the runner turning towards the field was doing so completely out of inexperience and there was no hint of an attempt to advance towards second. He was allowed to safely return to first, time was called, and we had the coach take a moment to teach his player.
PLEASE NOTE: Let’s say that the runner peeled off towards the right, saw an overthrow and from 6 feet out in foul territory he made a direct move towards second and then headed back towards first, then he would be taggable the moment he made his motion towards second base.
DOES THE BATTER-RUNNER HAVE TO RETOUCH FIRST BASE BEFORE ADVANCING? No. At any point after overrunning first base he can then make a direct move and run towards second base.
CAN THE BATTER OVERRUN 1ST BASE WHEN AWARDED A BASE-ON-BALLS (WALK)? The statements regarding the base-on-balls are not definitive in the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. The general consensus is that a base-on-balls is an awarded base that only provides you protection to that base and no further. Therefore, the moment you pass the awarded base you are both live and taggable. However, MLB 7.08c says
EXCEPTION: A batter-runner cannot be tagged out after overrunning or over sliding first base if he returns immediately to the base;
So until MLB, Pony, or OYB better defines this scenario, then I am of the opinion that the exception clause above entitles a runner to overrun first base without penalty as long as he directly returns to the base and does not make any attempt to go towards second base.
NFHS INTERPRETATION - The National Federation of High School rule book is very clear that a base-on-balls is considered a live-ball base award and therefore the runner is protected to the base awarded and no further. If the runner runs through the base, they are at-risk of being tagged out once they've touched and leave the awarded base.