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A guy steels second and slides perfectly such that his momentum takes him back upright standing calmly on second base. The throw was a bit of a bobble and the second baseman is fumbling around on the ground while the ball comes to rest right up against the plate and the runner's foot.

The runner – standing safe on-top of the base – reaches down and (almost, but stopped himself at the last second) reaches down and picks up the ball to toss it over to the second baseman or just hand it to him, instinctively, like any kid playing in the backyard would. No one else is on base.

Would he have been called out for interference even though there was about zero chance of him advancing or gaining any advantage from it? (If so, what is the enumerated rule that provides the wording and logic for this please.)

I know that if a batter hits a ball, the base is no sanctuary, and if hit a runner will be out for interference, but in that case there is actual interference involved.

Anyway, I saw a Padres runner almost do this a few days ago and just curious if he would have been called out.

(What about if the runner had called "time-out" first, and the second base umpire granted it. THEN reached down to toss the ball.)

The assumption is that there is ZERO trickery or mental gamesmanship of any kind involved – maybe like lending a hand to help a player get up after a fall. (Which is it's own unique question I suppose.)

3

If a runner is just helping fetch a ball he is not performing any type of misconduct. There is also no obstruction because what would be the obstruction? He is on a base - so he is safe to that bag. And the fielder doesn't have a play so again there is nothing to obstruct.

There is no rule to reference because there aren't rules for non-infractions. If I were umping the game and I thought the player was trying to help I would simply just yell and ask him not to touch the ball. If I thought he was trying to be a smartass or cause a disruption then I warn him then kick him out the next time.

This is clearly a dead ball situation. In baseball a dead ball situation isn't just timeouts. It is when there is no advantage for either team (think when would an umpire call time on his own). Even a player smacking a glove with a ball in it while standing on base and not trying to move to next base, that would be hard to argue as obstruction. Unsportsmanlike conduct yes but obstruction no.

Did find an example in rulebook:

  1. Offensive interference is an act by a member of the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play.

Note that interference may be caused by any member of the offensive team. A batter, runner, base coach, player in the dugout, or in the bullpen.

Note however, that the act of interference must be with a fielder "ATTEMPTING TO MAKE A PLAY."

Since in your example there were no plays to be made... then no interference/obstruction.

Addendum:

Rule 7.8:

Any runner is out when:

(B) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball

A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.

Note that all of the rules mention that the fielder must be making a PLAY. There is no PLAY if a runner is already safe to a bag and a fielder is watching the ball roll around.

Please visit baseball-rules.com for a full understanding - this is what I would send my new umps to when I chiefed.

On a side note: I have seen offensive players go grab a ball hundreds of times over the years. I have never even thought about calling interference on them. Most just do it instinctively because they would do it at a practice - and until you hit major league level you have spent much more time practicing than in games. This type of play is very very common in junior, high school, and college baseball.

Now if I am the defensive player if I am smart I act nonchalant and stick out my glove to ask for the ball. When he puts ball in my glove or flips it to me, I then slap a tag on him as quick as possible. I have seen this at least once (clear memory of one time in a game I umped and possibly more). If the runner doesn't ask for time and flips the ball to player, it is a live ball. It is still not interference or obstruction unless he was trying to take off to the next bag. The defensive player can slap a tag on him during this ball shagging and the player can be called out. Also as an umpire I would probably not grant a timeout to a player who has already stepped off the bag to shag a ball. He is not in a neutral situation so I would make him return to bag before granting this.

  • could you link the rulebook you're quoting? And also the larger section/page number? – wax eagle May 11 '15 at 12:24
  • @Coach-D - outstanding authoritative answer, thank you. Although.., reading that grey addendum above begs the question of a runner taking out the second baseman trying to intentionally disrupt the turn of a double-play. In every such case the runner is in violation of Rule 7.8, as worded, and looking briefly at the rulebook link you provided, other subsequent wording seems to support that. But, I know it's legal, and I suppose all that is for its own question, and best not addressed/resolved here. – ipso May 11 '15 at 22:29
  • @ipso - That is its own question that varies amongst skill level. In high school for example we would not allow some of the gamemanship that happens at the MLB level with runners taking out double play. However though the runner has the ability to take basically any path they want to a bag... So as long as their hand or toe or whatever can hit the bag... They are within their rights to do so. It even gets cloudier when runners don't slide. Again we will call interference much faster at lower levels but answers are subjective to exact plays. – Coach-D May 11 '15 at 22:46
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The first case, if a runner picks up a live ball, who is called out probably depends on what the play would have been. The most likely case is that the runner would indeed be out for interference.

On the dead ball play, the runner could probably pick up the ball, but it might irk everyone involved in a way that probably makes it imprudent.

On the first case, the exact rule would be 7.8 and 7.9.

7.8 (l) has something to say about the case here:

A play on him is being made and a member of his team (other than a runner) hinders a fielder’s attempt to field a thrown ball. See Rule 7.11. For interference by a runner, see Rule 7.08(b).

Specifically, if say it's a force play, and the second baseman drops the ball, but still has a play at first, if the runner picks up the ball, then the other runner would be out.

7.9(e) also has something to say about this:

Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;

This is basically a restatement of the previous rule I quoted, but it makes this case more explicit.

So the long story short is, if you're a runner and grab an in play ball when there is still a play available, both you and the runner will likely be called out.

I've checked the logical places for a rule to be discussed about what a runner could do during a dead ball, and neither section 5 nor section 7 specifically call out any particular rule to this effect. However, I could see it going against an "unwritten" type of rule of which baseball has many (I don't know that it explicitly does). Typically a violation of unwritten rules are considered etiquette violations rather than having in game consequences.

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Assuming that there was no-one else on base, my guess is the umpire would have to call him out. I reference rule 7.8 from the MLB rule book (link at the bottom of the post):

Rule 7.8:

Any runner is out when:

(B) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball

This situation falls under the first category (intentionally interfering with a thrown ball). Even though he doesn't gain an advantage, the rule does not provide an exception for that (and the comments under rule 7.8b are relevant to plays being attempted on a batted ball, and are not relevant to interference with a thrown ball).

The comments for rule 7.8b, however, do provide interesting comments on your second scenario, where "the base is no sanctuary" for a batted ball. The comments on rule 7.8b say the following:

A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.

If, however, the runner has contact with a legally occupied base when he hinders the fielder, he shall not be called out unless, in the umpire’s judgment, such hindrance, whether it occurs on fair or foul territory, is intentional. If the umpire declares the hindrance intentional, the following penalty shall apply: With less than two out, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter out. With two out, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

So if the ball was hit hard/fast enough that the player couldn't get out of the way, then it shouldn't be called intentional interference and the runner should be safe (if on a base). If the interference was intentional, then definitely out.

Rule 7.9j also says:

It is interference by a batter or runner when -

(J) He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball;

Again, the "intentional interference with a thrown ball" comes into play, just as in 7.8B. Rule 7.8 states the penalty for interference as:

The runner is out and the ball is dead.

So, this guy probably would have been out under the rules had he picked up the ball, even though no-one else was on and there was no advantage to be gained from it.

If the ball is called dead (or time is called - effectively the same) anyone can touch the ball. You'll often see batters pick up a ball that was fouled straight down and drops right in front of the plate, or base coaches pick up balls and toss them to the crowd or ball boy/girl for slow hit balls that have been called foul. No penalty.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2014/official_baseball_rules.pdf

  • This is incorrect. The fielder is not making a PLAY on the runner as the rule states. When I used to umpire we would see tons of obstruction examples. The first rule of calling obstruction is - "Was there a play being made?" Since the answer is no, this fails. All of the rules that you have copied even state that there is a play being made. You need to reference what is a play so you understand better in the future. – Coach-D May 11 '15 at 17:00
  • So 7.8b says "A runner is out when he intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." This references nothing about interfering with a play, just with a thrown ball. Rule 7.9j also just says "intentionally interferes with a thrown ball". The "attempting to make a play" portion (in the rules I quoted) seems to apply only to batted balls. I respectfully disagree. I do think that umpires are well within their rights to make a judgment call and not call a batter out in the described situation, but the reading of the rules on thrown balls do not seem to specify that a play has to be being attempted. – Duncan May 11 '15 at 20:04
  • please see my answer. I have umped for almost 30 years. This kind of play is 101 type of question/answer. This is so clear cut a non call there is no specific rule. The baseball-rules website give great insight to what an ump's thought process should be. – Coach-D May 11 '15 at 20:07

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