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Scenario: With 1 out and a runner on third-base, the batter hits a sacrificial fly ball to right field, enabling the runner to head for home.

Traditionally, the runner sits on third until the fly is caught, then begins his run home, starting from a dead-stop.

It appears the runner would be faster if he took a few steps down the third base line, away from Home, and begins his run at a full sprint, moments before the fly-ball is caught. He'd tag up on third just after the catch, and already be moving at full speed towards home. That is far faster than starting at third from a dead stop.

I cannot find anything in the MLB Rules prohibiting this, but I don't see it done.

Is this idea legal? Is it faster? Or am I missing something?

  • What about this scenario from the defensive standpoint. Could the outfielder intentionally bobble the ball while running forward at the same time? Sort of like playing volleyball with himself. Eventually he would reach the infield. Then he can finally catch and control the ball. At this point the runner on third won't run because he is too likely to get thrown out. Is the legal? – Thread7 Oct 28 '15 at 20:17
  • There are specific rules against Infield players intentionally dropping or bobbling the ball in an attempt to create a double-play scenario. I don't know of any rules prohibiting the outfielders from doing that, but it would seem ridiculous. – abelenky Oct 28 '15 at 20:20
  • You are right. It would seem ridiculous. But in a tie ball game if the runner on third was confused about when he could tag up and leave, it is possible that he would not want to chance being thrown out and stay on third base. – Thread7 Oct 29 '15 at 14:44
  • @Thread7: See the DiMaggio Rule. JD would make a catch and bounce the ball up and down in his glove as he ran into the infield. Changed rule to only require tag-up after * first* touch... – DJohnM Nov 2 '15 at 0:39
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According to UmpiresMedia.com, getting a “head start” is considered illegal in professional baseball. Actually, it is listed in the rules you linked

Rule 5.09(c)(1) Comment (Rule 7.10(a) Comment): “Retouch,” in this rule, means to tag up and start from a contact with the base after the ball is caught. A runner is not permitted to take a flying start from a position in back of his base.

  • Ah! I was skipping over the Comments when checking the rules, and missed that part. Thanks. – abelenky Oct 28 '15 at 17:24
  • It would also be running outside of the basepaths... – Joe Oct 28 '15 at 18:04
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    @Joe: The only prohibitions I see in the rules against leaving the base paths is if the runner is trying avoid a tag, or mistakenly believes he is out. I don't think either would apply in this scenario. – abelenky Oct 28 '15 at 18:18
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    @joe I'm not so sure, you see some players take a very wide turn at third that would be in the same basepath as the OP is describing. – jwillis0720 Dec 26 '15 at 6:35
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    Incidentally, this rule was invented in response to Eddie Stanky of the Brooklyn Dodgers doing this all the time. As a manager, other rules were invented in response to his creative ways of trying to gain the advantage - see wiki – dgo Jan 19 '17 at 2:59

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