SITUATION: 4/24/2012 - The “AAA” pitcher made a wild pitch that passed the catcher and the ball went to the backstop. The runners at first, second, and third stole and the batter remained in the batter’s box and interfered with the throw at home plate from the catcher to the pitcher at the plate by not moving out of the batter’s box. In fact, the “AAA” batter was like a deer in the headlights and he actually jumped in front of the pitcher at the last moment (out of fear) and totally ruined the play.
What was the right call? Did it matter if there were no outs, 1 out, or 2 outs when the offensive interference occurs? Does the batter have the responsibility to get out of the way of the play?
THE RUNNER 708g - A runner is out when he attempts to score on a play in which the batter interfered with the play at home base before there are two outs. With two out, the interference puts the batter out and no score counts.
THE BATTER 606c - A batter is out for illegal action when he interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movements that hinder’s the catcher’s play at home base. EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if a runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference.
MLB COMMENTARY - Rule 6.06(c) Comment: If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call “interference.” The batter is out and the ball is dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference.
If, however, the catcher makes the play and the runner is attempting to advance is put out, it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and the runner is out--not the batter. Any other runners on the base at the time may advance as the ruling is there is no actual interference if the runner is retired. In that case the play proceeds just as if no violation had been called.
RULING - First, the call is different depending on the number of outs:
ZERO OR ONE OUT - The runner is out and the batter is still at the plate. Other runners are reset.
TWO OUTS - The batter is out and the run is NOT scored. End of inning.
HOW TO MAKE THE CALL - The umpire should be out of the path of the catcher tossing the ball to the pitcher attempting to make the tag play at home. The play should be allowed to proceed to see if the runner stealing home can be put out. If he is out, then the ball is live as though no interference occurred. If the runner is safe, and the batter “interfered,” then the umpire should immediately call “INTERFERENCE” and the ball/play is dead. Before two outs the runner is out and the other base runners are reset to their last legally touched base before the offensive interference, and the batter continues his turn at the plate. With two outs the batter is called out and the run is not scored.
NOTE: In the OYB competition leagues (AA/Majors/Pony) the umpire is NOT responsible to tell the batter to get out of the way. In our instructional leagues (A/AAA) I have found it best to remind the batter when the runner is at second that he needs to clear out of the way if there is a play at home. This gives him time to process the reminder long before it happens. I will even tell them to clear out of the way as the play is happening by saying “Batter, clear out of the way!” In most cases, due to inexperience the batter is NOT intentionally trying to get in the way and interfere.
HOW I BLEW THE CALL - There was one out at the time of the play at home with the bases loaded. The runner was safe, and I immediately called the play dead. I called the batter out and reset the runners back to their original base. I was partially right in that I did call the play dead and I got the runers now at third and second back to first and second. I mistakenly called the batter out and reset the runner that scored back to third base. This gave the offending team the advantage of still having 3 runners on base with 2 outs.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE CALLED - I should have called the play dead, the runner out, reset the other two runners, and let the batter continue his turn at the plate.