SCENARIO: The batter swings and hits the ball straight down onto the plate. The ball rebounds high in the air and he takes off a few steps towards first. The catcher steps forward and catches the ball over the plate. Hearing nothing from the umpire the runner starts to run again and the catcher throws down to first base.
QUESTION: Is the batter runner out? Is the ball live? When the hit ball goes down and strikes the plate is it a foul ball and dead, or live and fair? Does it make any difference where the catcher is standing when he catches the ball?
JUDGMENTS: Did the ball hit the plate or did it strike the earth in foul territory? Did the catcher touch the ball while it was in fair or foul territory?
A FAIR BALL is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base, or that touches first, second or third base, or that first falls on fair territory on or beyond first base or third base, or that, while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player, or that, while over fair territory, passes out of the playing field in flight.
A fair fly shall be judged according to the relative position of the ball and the foul line, including the foul pole, and not as to whether the fielder is on fair or foul territory at the time he touches the ball.
Rule 2.00 (Fair Ball) Comment: If a fly ball lands in the infield between home and first base, or home and third base, and then bounces to foul territory without touching a player or umpire and before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball; or if the ball settles on foul territory or is touched by a player on foul territory, it is a foul ball. If a fly ball lands on or beyond first or third base and then bounces to foul territory, it is a fair hit.
Clubs, increasingly, are erecting tall foul poles at the fence line with a wire netting extending along the side of the pole on fair territory above the fence to enable the umpires more accurately to judge fair and foul balls.
2.0 FOUL BALL - Definition of Terms
A FOUL BALL is a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base, or that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.
A foul fly shall be judged according to the relative position of the ball and the foul line, including the foul pole, and not as to whether the infielder is on foul or fair territory at the time he touches the ball.
Rule 2.00 (Foul Ball) Comment: A batted ball not touched by a fielder, which hits the pitchers rubber and rebounds into foul territory, between home and first, or between home and third base is a foul ball.
RULING ON THE FIELD: The ball was ruled live and the shocked batter runner was called out at first base because the catcher made the throw successfully to the first baseman before the batter runner reached first base.
The deciding factors were that the ball struck home plate and NOT foul territory, and in the umpire’s judgment the ball was caught/touched while over the plate in fair territory. The fact that the catcher’s feet were planted in foul territory behind the plate is not relevant. The MLB rules stress the position of the ball when it is touched. Had the catcher caught the ball behind the plate in foul territory, then it would have been ruled a foul ball and the batter would have returned to the batter’s box to complete his time at bat.