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Often Misunderstood Rules of Baseball


Definitions of Terms.

When a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught.  It is not a foul tip unless caught and any foul tip that is caught is a strike, and the ball is in play. It is not a catch if it is a rebound, unless the ball has first touched the catcher’s glove or hand. 


Runners need not "tag up" on a foul tip.  They may steal on a foul tip.  If a so-called tip is not caught, it becomes an ordinary foul.  Runners then return to their bases.

  • The most important part of this definition is "and the ball is in play".  Unlike a foul ball, which becomes dead as soon as it hits the ground or leaves the field of play, a foul tip is always a live ball.  Runners are not required to return to their original bases and may advance at their own risk.
  • The umpire uses a hand signal (right hand swiped of the left two or three times) to indicate a foul tip.  This will be followed by the signal for the strike.  Because the ball is alive and runners can advance they don't say "Foul Tip" because hearing "Foul" could stop the action.


The following rules define the "dropped third strike" situation.

6.05 A batter is out when—(b) A third strike is legally caught by the catcher;Rule 6.05(b) Comment: “Legally caught” means in the catcher’s glove before the ball touches theground. It is not legal if the ball lodges in his clothing or paraphernalia; or if it touches the umpire and is caught by the catcher on the rebound.  If a foul tip first strikes the catcher’s glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher’s glove or hand first.(c) A third strike is not caught by the catcher when first base is occupied before two areout;6.09 The batter becomes a runner when—(b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base isunoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out;The important parts of these rules are:1.  The ball must be "not legally caught" for the the batter to become a runner with 3 strikes.2.  If less than 2 are out then first base must be unoccupied for the batter to become a runner with 3 strikes.A Cool Way To Use This Rule:- With 2 out and the bases loaded a third strike that is not legally caught causes the batter to become a runner.  All other runners are forced to advance so the third out can be made by the catcher by:1.  Tagging the batter-runner2.  Throwing to 1st, 2nd, 3rd or by tagging home plate to put out a forced runner.



The infield fly rule is perhaps the most misunderstood rule in baseball. Understandably, the rule can be a little confusing since it is ultimately left to the discretion of the umpire as to when it is applied. Designed to ensure good sportsmanship and fair play during the course of a game, the rule deals with those strategies that undermine the game and create unfair (if not altogether shady) advantages.

Added in 1895, the rule was established to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping pop-up fly balls and then using the strategy to force out runners who were on base but unable to run while the ball was in the air. The addition of the infield fly rule was seen as a way to promote talent and skill rather than the use of technicalities.


For the infield fly rule to be invoked, there must be fewer than two outs and there must be a force play at third base (bases loaded or at least runners on first and second base). Without these two requirements, the rule will not be applied. The infield fly rule is not in effect if there is a runner on first base only.

Basically, any fair fly ball that could have been caught by an infielder with ordinary effort is covered by the rule, regardless of where the ball was caught. The ball does not need to be caught by an infielder, nor must it be caught in the infield. In fact, the ball does not need to be caught at all. Once the umpire makes the call, the batter is out. If an infielder moves into the outfield to catch the ball or if an outfielder moves into the infield area and ultimately catches the ball in flight, the rule applies at the umpire’s discretion. The infield fly rule does not apply to line drives or bunts.

The main thing to remember is that the rule is a judgment call made by the umpire. If the umpire determines that a player can make the catch with ordinary effort, then the rule can be applied. The umpire is required to yell “Infield fly, if fair” and will typically raise one arm straight up to signal to everyone that the rule is in effect. If the umpire believes the catch is a sure thing, he can call the play as an infield fly and declare the batter out, even if the ball was not caught.

On a caught infield fly, runners must re-touch (or “tag up”) in order to advance to the next base. This portion of the rule applies the same as with any catch. If the infield fly falls to fair ground untouched, or is touched and dropped, runners do not need to tag-up. However, since the batter is out, the force play on the other runners is removed.


5.10 The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls "Time".  The umpire-in-chief shall call "Time" --

(c)  When an accident incapacitates a player or an umpire;

(1)  If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play.

7.09  It is interference by a batter or a runner when --

(h)  In the judgement of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

(i)  With a runner on third base, the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder;

The runner is out and the ball is dead.



with 2013 Rule Change

The balk is likely the single greatest source of consternation for youth players and amateur coaches.  It is also sometimes misunderstood and misapplied by young/amateur umpires.  We'll try to unravel the mysteries of the balk on this page.

In spirit the balk rule is designed to limit the ability of a pitcher to deceive runners.  Rule 8.05 is fairly long and detailed and covers just about every conceivable type of deception.  


When an illegal act by the pitcher with a runner or runners on base, entitling all runners to advance one base.
If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when ---
It's important to remember that most, if not all, of these rules apply only when the pitcher is in contact with the rubber.

(a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;

Comment:  If a lefthanded or righthanded pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the pitcher's rubber, he is required to pitch to the batter except to throw to second base on a pick-off play.

(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints (fakes) a throw to first base and fails to complete the throw;

If you step toward first base from the rubber then you have to make the throw.  It is illegal to fake a throw to first base.

(c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;

The pitcher must step toward a base with his free foot before throwing or faking a throw to that base.
Comment:  Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base.  If a pitcher turns or spins off his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk.

The following paragraph from the rulebook is a 'Hot Mess'.  It is worded in a confusing manner but essentially lays out the "fake to third / throw to first move that we all see from time to time.  This move was made illegal by MLB starting in 2013.

A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base, and is required to throw (except to second base) because he steps. It is a balk if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher steps toward third and does not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. It is legal for a pitcher to feint a throw to second base. 

(d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints (fakes) a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;

It's a balk to fake or step/throw to an unoccupied base except when, for example:  3rd base is unoccupied and with the pitcher on the rubber a runner breaks from second for third.  The pitcher may legally step from the rubber toward third and throw to 'make a play'.  You have to be careful with this since if the runner only makes a hard fake at the steal and then stops it will be considered a balk for throwing to an unoccupied base.

(e)  The pitcher makes an illegal pitch;

This is the most complicated part of the balk rule and takes us to Rule 8.01.

(f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter;

This does not even seem possible but must have happened at some point since this provision was added.

(g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher's plate;
(h)  The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;
(i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher's plate or while off the plate, he feints (fakes) a pitch;
(j)  The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base;
(k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball;
(l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher's box;
(m) The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop;

This is probably the most often called balk.


If, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a steal, the catcher or any other player steps on, or in front of home base without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk, the batter shall be awarded first base on the interference and the ball is dead.

  • The pitcher does not have to step off the rubber to throw to a base.  It is actually disadvantageous to do so since any throw that goes out of play after stepping off would result in a two base award for all runners.  The penalty for throwing out of play from the rubber is a one base award for all runners.
  • The pitcher may throw to a base from the rubber from the windup position.
  • The pitcher may fake a throw to second from the rubber, but not to first or third.  This may be done from the windup or set position.
  • A jump turn is legal and considered being in contact with the rubber.
  • The pitcher may place his hands in a different set location before each pitch.
  • The pitcher must come to a set before pitching to a batter but not before throwing to a base.
  • The pitcher may not set twice before the pitch.
  • A stretch move prior to the set is optional.
  • The pitcher must disengage the rubber with his pivot foot first.
  • The pitcher must step in the direction of the throw and before the release of the throw.

Once the pitcher is on the rubber he may do one of three things:

  • Throw to a base
  • Deliver a pitch
  • Disengage the rubber


The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
This means that when a balk is called the ball is not dead until the play ends.  You see this most often when a balk is called under 8.05(m) and the pitch is delivered to the batter because the balk call comes so late.  It's a free "swing for the fence" for the batter and no risk stealing for all runners because unless the batter makes first and all runners advance, the balk penalty will be enforced.


This is one that is sometimes called by inexperienced or overzealous umpires.  They typically call it on a first or third baseman who is holding a runner with a foot out of fair territory.  Only section a) of rule 4.03 carries the balk penalty.  This can be imposed when a catcher leaves the catcher's box before the pitcher releases the ball during an intentional walk.  The balk remedy is not available to the umpire when this rule is violated by other fielders. The umpire should call time and instruct the offending fielder to stay in fair territory and this should only be done if a manager complains about it.  The only penalty that can be imposed for violation of this rule would be to eject a player who refuses to comply with the directive.

When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.
(a) The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play except that when the batter is being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher?s box until the ball leaves the pitcher?s hand.
(b) The pitcher, while in the act of delivering the ball to the batter, shall take his legal position;
(c) Except the pitcher and the catcher, any fielder may station himself anywhere in fair territory;
(d) Except the batter, or a runner attempting to score, no offensive player shall cross the catcher?s lines when the ball is in play.


RULE 6.08(b) 
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 he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless:

(1)  The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or
(2)  The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.

When the batter is touched by a pitched ball which does not entitle him to first base, the ball is dead and no runner may advance."

5.09(a) The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when a pitched ball touches a batter, or his clothing, while in his legal batting position;  runners, if forced, advance;

6.05 A batter is out when—
(f) He attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him;

***Note:  This means the the "dropped third strike" does not apply in this situation.***

  • If you are hit by a pitch in the strike zone then it is a strike with no award of 1st base.
  • If you are hit by a pitch that you swing at (or is deemed a swing on appeal) then it is a strike with no award of 1st base.
  • Your hands are NOT "part of the bat".  Being hit on the hands is being hit by a pitch.
  • You must attempt to evade the pitch.
  • Hit on the clothing counts the same as being hit on the body.




Obstruction refers to a fielder who hinders a runner. It is a penalty against the DEFENSE.
Interference usually refers to an act by the OFFENSIVE team that impacts the defense making a play.
There is no need to elaborate further here because of the great article linked below:
Great Article on Obstruction & Interference

Less frequents types of INTERFERENCE:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the team at bat who are participating in the game, or a base coach, any of whom interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball; or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference. 

Rule 3.15 Comment: For interference with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball by members of the team at bat or base coaches, who are excepted in Rule 3.15, see Rule 7.11. See also Rules 5.09(b), 5.09(f) and 6.08(d), which cover interference by an umpire, and Rule 7.08(b), which covers interference by a runner. 
The question of intentional or unintentional interference shall be decided on the basis of the person’s action. For example: a bat boy, ball attendant, policeman, etc., who tries to avoid being touched by a thrown or batted ball but still is touched by the ball would be involved in unintentional interference. If, however, he kicks the ball or picks it up or pushes it, that is considered intentional interference, regardless of what his thought may have been.

PLAY: Batter hits ball to shortstop, who fields ball but throws wild past first baseman. The coach at first base, to avoid being hit by the ball, falls to the ground and the first baseman on his way to retrieve the wild thrown ball, runs into the coach. The batter-runner finally ends up on third base. Whether the umpire should call interference on the part of the coach is up to the judgment of the umpire and if the umpire felt that the coach did all he could to avoid interfering with the play, no interference need be called. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the coach was attempting to make it appear that he was trying not to interfere, the umpire should rule interference.
3.16  When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.

Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short
distance from home plate.
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