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Safe in the Batters Box?

Mar 14, 2008
Runners on second and third. The pitch is low and outside and passes the catcher. The scramble is on and the catcher recovers the ball quickly to find the third base runner half way to home plate. Catcher makes a throw to third as runner retreats only to have the ball bounce off the batters bat which is on his shoulder.

The hundred dollar question here is did the batter commit interference? There are several answers to this daunting question.

First, was the Batter still in the batters box? The batter is not required to leave the batters box on a passed ball unless a teammate is attempting to steal a base, then the batter is required to move out of the defenses way. So, in part 1 of this play, the batter moved correctly and there is no interference.

Has the Batter moved out of the batters box? In our scenario his teammate is attempting to steal home plate, but then retreats after the catcher recovers quickly. So, on the retreat is the batter to return to the batters box? No, the batter should stay where the ended up on the initial play of the passed ball and steal attempt.

Did the Batter move to serve an intentional purpose? If it is obvious, which I believe would be difficult if not impossible to distinguish, that the batter aligned himself to force the defender to work around his position to make the throw to third. It is unlikely that this can be determined, but if so, then yes, it is interference.

Was the Batter responding to instructions from the Umpire? Particularly in little league where players, bless their hearts, follow instructions from the Umpire without giving it a second thought, Umpires often give instructions as a good intentioned part of the learning process.

Unfortunately, any Umpire giving any instruction removes the player being instructed from any liability or penalty arising from that instruction. During the course of any game, Coaches are to instruct and Umpires are to rule on what the Players do.

If we change our scenario slightly, the runner at third has a good lead, but does not attempt to steal home plate and is walking back to the base with his back to the catcher.

With the Batter still in the batters box, there would be no interference as the Batter is protected by being in the box.

Should the Batter leave the box, then his has committed interference as there was no play at home plate and the Batter had no reason to leave the batters box.

If the Batter following the Umpires instructions, then there is no interference as the Umpire is interfering with the game.

Was the batter intentionally getting in the way of the defender, then yes, it would be interference. What is most important to remember is that the call on the field is up to the Umpire. They can only call what they witness. To argue what they witness does nothing but waste time and frustration everyone.

What you can argue are the rules and how they are applied to an event the Umpire witnessed. For a complete call, the Umpire must have taken note that the runner attempted to advance on the passed ball. This is the critical moment of the decision as it results in two significantly different decisions.

Players must also be aware of their responsibilities. In our fist scenario, as the runner made an attempt then the Batter moved correctly. The latter found the Batter at fault.
About the Author
Mr. Dowdy is an Official Distributor for NW Kelley USA Baseball you can also click over to Hirsch Group for more tips/articles or even Hirsch Group Blog for current events.
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