SCENARIO: In the 8-10 year old“AA” division, there was 1 out with runners on 2nd and 3rd base. The batter hit a line drive bouncer directly down the third base line in fair territory. The 3rd base runner was standing in fair territory and he turned directly towards home and took the hit right to his lower chest area. The third baseman was standing just a bit behind the runner about 4 feet towards second base. He was coming towards the hit ball and he would not have had a chance at making a catch on the sharp hit ball. What should have been the call?
UMPIRE CONFESSION - This was the first time I had seen this play this season and so many things ran through my mind. To the casual fan this probably looks like an easy call, but there are so many variables that come into play. It takes two experienced umpires on the field to get it completely right due to the variables that need to be considered. I got most of my call right, but I still get an error for the nearly right call. Let’s take a look at the rules...
5.09 The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—
(f) A fair ball touches a runner or an umpire on fair territory before it touches an infielder including the pitcher, or touches an umpire before it has passed an infielder other than the pitcher; runners advance, if forced.
If a fair ball goes through, or by, an infielder, no other infielder has a chance to make a play on the ball and the ball touches a runner immediately behind the infielder that the ball went through, or by, the ball is in play and the umpire shall not declare the runner out. If a fair ball touches a runner after being deflected by an infielder, the ball is in play and the umpire shall not declare the runner out;
Rule 5.09(f) Comment: If a fair ball touches an umpire working in the infield after it has bounded past, or over, the pitcher, it is a dead ball. If a batted ball is deflected by a fielder in fair territory and hits a runner or an umpire while still in flight and then caught by an infielder it shall not be a catch, but the ball shall remain in play.
7.08 Any runner is out when—
(f) He is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out;
Rule 7.08(f) Comment: If two runners are touched by the same fair ball, only the first one is out because the ball is instantly dead. If runner is touched by an Infield Fly when he is not touching his base, both runner and batter are out.
RULING ON THE FIELD - ERROR - The plate umpire immediately called the play dead and the runner out. The offensive coach thought this was an injustice because he felt the young runner should receive grace because he was trying to get out of the way of the hit ball. The batter turned runner was awarded first base, and the runner on second was awarded third base.
UMPIRE ERROR - The runner that started at 2nd base should have been put back to second base.
VARIABLES - The following had to be considered...
- POSITION OF RUNNER - Was the runner standing in fair territory or foul territory? Was the runner standing in front of the third baseman or behind the third baseman?
- POSITION OF DEFENSIVE PLAYERS -Where was the 3rd baseman and shortstop when the runner was hit?
- POSITION OF OTHER RUNNERS - It is important to know where the base runners were at the start of the play.
- RUNNER IN FOUL TERRITORY - If the runner had been positioned in foul territory, then it would have been ruled a foul ball. Coaches should teach their young runners to have their left foot on the foul side corner of the bag with their torso and right foot also in foul territory. In divisions where leading off is allowed, then have the runner leading off on the foul side of the base line. It is dangerous and foolish to have the third base runner standing in fair territory when the batter is hitting the pitch.
- 3RD BASEMAN IS IN FRONT OF RUNNER (BUNT POSITION) - If the3rd baseman was plying up in front of the runner and the shortstop in no way had a play on the ball, then the ball would be deemed live after hitting the runner on fair territory at 3rd base.
- 3RD BASEMAN IN FRONT OF RUNNER, BUT SHORTSTOP HAD A PLAY - On a slower hit ball with a quick shortstop, it is possible that the deeper playing shortstop could make a play. The rules say that the runner hit by the hit would be called out.
- RUNNER STANDING ON BASE WHEN HIT BY HIT - A big myth in baseball is that “the runner is safe if standing upon the base when hit by a hit ball.” If the runner was hit with the ball either not having passed the infielder first, or no other infielder being able to make a play on the ball, then the runner is out.
OFFICIAL RULING - The umpire almost made the correct call. Baseball rules provide that a runner is out when he is struck by a batted ball, provided the ball was not touched by a fielder first. The runner going from second to third should have been returned to second base, but was placed at third with the batter turned runner at first base. Later in the game the umpire explained his error to both coaches so that they would know how it should be ruled in the future. This is a game of learning, and everybody on and around the field learned a thing or two during this ball game.