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Rule 2.00, 6.05(k, m), 6.06(c), 7.08(b, f), 7.09, 7.11

The following topic is not a particular play. It is a general subject.

After 18 years of umpiring and 8 years of training umpires; I'm convinced that interference is the toughest call to make, the most misunderstood and the cause of the most disputes. The email I have received has confirmed that view. I hope to clear up a few misconceptions here. Don't be anxious to call interference. You can't have interference unless a play is being made and someone hindered the play. Following is a list of critical items relating to interference.

INTERFERENCE is an act by the team at bat (notice it says "TEAM") which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. Note the "make a play" phrase.
There are instances where the runner or batter are given some latitude. A runner is not out when hit by a deflected batted ball, unless the umpire judges the runner intentionally was hit to hinder a play or another fielder had a play on the ball. A runner is not out for being hit with a thrown ball unless the act was intentional. The batter is not expected to evaporate while in the batter's box. If he could not reasonably avoid a play because he just swung or ducked a pitch, he is safe. He can be called for interference while inside the batter's box.
  1. There are no "safety zones" on the field. See rule 7.11 which states that the offense must vacate all space necessary for a fielder to make a play. You cannot have interference unless somebody is making a play. A play is a throw, attempted throw, or attempted tag of a runner or of a base for a force out.
    The batter's box, the coach's box, the running lane, the dugout and the base path are not automatic safety zones. An offensive team member MAY be called out for interference in some situations while occupying any of these spaces.
    The offensive team is NEVER allowed to interfere with the defensive team's ability to make a play. In most instances the umpire is required to make a judgment. Sometimes judgment of intent is required. Sometimes an act is clearly defined by the rules and no judgment is necessary.

  2. The ball is dead immediately in most cases. There are some exceptions. If the umpire or the batter interfere with the catcher attempting to make a throw to retire a runner, the ball is delayed dead. If the runner is put out, the interference is ignored. The ball becomes dead when the catcher's throw is caught or goes through the intended destination.

  3. Members of the offense must vacate any space necessary to allow the defensive player to make a play. This includes the batter's box, the coach's box, the dugout and the base path on a batted ball.
    The fielder's protection begins the moment the ball is hit. That protection continues as he completes his initial play. His protection ends if he misplays the batted ball and has to move to recover it. Contact with the fielder is not necessary for interference to be called.
  • BATTER's BOX - The batter MAY be charged with interference even though he is within the batter's box. This is a judgment call. In most cases he is given the benefit of doubt. However, if the ump judges that he intentionally interfered with a play or did not try to avoid interfering when he could have, he can be called out even though he is in the box. The batter is protected from an interference call for a short period of time. Once he has had time to react to what is happening in or near the box; he is no longer protected and must vacate the box if necessary for the catcher to make a play. He IS considered safe when he is within the box when touched by his own batted ball. He is considered to be in the box if one foot is touching the ground within the box when he is touched. Rule 6.06(c)

  • COACH's BOX - The coach's box must be vacated if a player needs that space to make a play. If the coach interferes with a player attempting to catch a foul-fly in the coach's box, the batter is out and the ball is dead. No runners may advance or score.

  • RUNNING LANE - A runner is not free from interference while in the lane, nor automatically guilty when out of the lane. If he is out of the lane he is in serious jeopardy of being called for interference, but it is not automatic. The rule states that he is out when out of the lane AND causes interference. If he is in the lane he could still cause interference, but it would have to be something obviously intentional (like grabbing the fielder's arm or glove, or deliberately touching a thrown ball). If the catcher does not make a throw because the runner is outside the lane; this is not interference. Interference with a thrown ball must be intentional. Like, deliberately making contact with it. Or in this case if the runner is hit by the throw while outside the lane and he had been outside the lane during his entire trek to first base. He is protected at the last step when he must move out of the lane to touch the base, if he was in the lane to begin with. If he is out of the lane the entire distance and is hit in the last step, interference probably should be called. This is a judgment call. Rule 6.05(k)

  • DUGOUT - Unless local ground rules define the dugout as a dead ball area, a player may enter the dugout to make a catch. If it's his own dugout, he can be held and prevented from falling by his own teammates, while attempting the catch. If he makes a catch and his momentum takes him into the dugout, the ball is live and he can make another play. If he falls down after a catch, or drops the ball after a catch, in an attempt to make a throw, the ball is dead and all runners are awarded one base from the time of the pitch. In Little League rules, all dugouts are deadball areas.

  • BASE PATH - The base path belongs to the runner EXCEPT when a fielder is in the path attempting to field a batted ball or when a fielder is in the path and in possession of the ball. After a runner has been put out (typically on a force play at second) he has NO rights to the base path. If R1 is put out at second by a long distance, he must duck or get out of the path. If he is hit with the throw while in the path, or makes contact with the fielder who is in the act of throwing, while on his feet, he is guilty. Since he is already out, the runner being played upon is called out. Rule 7.08(b), 7.09(L)

See also: Umpire's Helper

Submitted by:Jim Booth

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