SCENARIO: With a 1-1 count the Orem Youth Baseball Major League batter swung at a pitch and his bat hit the catcher’s glove. Should “Time” be immediately called and award the batter first base? What happens if the batter hits the ball and grounds out? Does it matter if runners are on base? What happens if he hits a double or a home run? What happens if he pops-up and scores a tagging up run? If the play were immediately called dead, then the batter would lose out on a great hit. So what is the umpire to do?
BASEBALL MYTH: When the catcher interferes the play is immediately called dead and the batter awarded first base.
TRUTH: The play stays live, the umpire points to first to alert the teams that there was interference, and the play is allowed to progress. At the plays conclusion the batting team’s coach must immediately decide if he wants the interference or let the play stand.
REALITY: This scenario seems so simple, yet the details are very complex because of the variables that can greatly affect the way the play is ruled. But in 90% of the cases, the catcher interferes with no resulting play to muddy up the waters. If there is no hit, and no steals in progress, then the interference is called and runner is awarded first base. It is the other 10% of the plays that require great understanding of the rules. Imagine the play where the coach is going for a suicide squeeze and the catcher sees it and comes forward and interferes with the batter while trying to catch the pitch and make the tag... That is a tough one for any umpire to figure out!!!
MLB RULES -The details are discussed in the 2013 Official Rules of MLB in section 6.08
Official Rules: 6.00 The Batter
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when --
(c) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.
Rule 6.08(c) Comment: If catchers interference is called with a play in progress the umpire will allow the play to continue because the manager may elect to take the play. If the batter-runner missed first base, or a runner misses his next base, he shall be considered as having reached the base, as stated in Note of Rule 7.04(d). Examples of plays the manager might elect to take:
1. Runner on third, one out, batter hits fly ball to the outfield on which the runner scores but catchers interference was called. The offensive manager may elect to take the run and have batter called out or have runner remain at third and batter awarded first base.
2. Runner on second base. Catcher interferes with batter as he bunts ball fairly sending runner to third base. The manager may rather have runner on third base with an out on the play than have runners on second and first.
If a runner is trying to score by a steal or squeeze from third base, note the additional penalty set forth in Rule 7.07.
If the catcher interferes with the batter before the pitcher delivers the ball, it shall not be considered interference on the batter under Rule 6.08(c). In such cases, the umpire shall call Time and the pitcher and batter start over from scratch.
Also to be considered from 1994 MLB’s Make The Right Call. This book is subtitled, “Major league baseball’s Official Rules and Interpretations plus League Umpires’ Guide and Instructions,” and it contains some very clear commentary explanations and scenarios to help us all better understand how to implement the MLB rules.
If the catcher (or any fielder) interferes with the batter, the batter is awarded first base. If, on such interference a runner trying to score by a steal or squeeze from third base, the ball is dead and the runner on third scores and the batter is awarded first base.
If the catcher interferes with the batter with no runners trying to score from third on a squeeze or a steal, then the ball is dead, batter is awarded first base and the runners forced to advance, do advance. Runners not attempting to steal or not forced to advance remain on the base they occupied at the time of the interference.
So the next time you find yourself watching a game and you see the catcher creeping up close to the batter and your worst fear comes true when the batter swings and catches the glove, then sit back and watch the thinking caps go into motion on the part of the umpires while both teams and their fans apply the loud and obnoxious pressure while they work it out. Then come back and re-read this information and see if they got it right.
WAIT A MINUTE... You thought you were done... HOLD THE PRESSES!!!... That book was written in 1994. What about the rule changes implemented in 2006. And what about the reference to 7.04(d)? And there was no mention of rule 7.07. I continued researching and found out that I had been through this same excercise a couple of years back and did an incredible write-up titled “Catcher’s Interference” where I take into account the other two rule references.
Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - www.TheHomeInspector.com