I went to an MLB baseball game today and saw that after a team got 3 outs, everybody went to their dugouts and a countdown timer started at 2 minutes, 5 seconds (why not just a round two minutes, I don't know). It seemed like by the end of this, all the fielders were out and the batter was ready, so I presume it was a timer to get ready for the next half of the inning.

What happens if either the fielder or the batter take too long to get to get ready, i.e. the countdown timer runs out? Does the offending team get some sort of penalty?

  • 1
    The regulation may be a counter of exactly two minutes; the extra five seconds ensures that a timer which isn't perfectly accurate or started perfectly on time, can't be the basis of an argument that the time was not as much as permitted.
    – Nij
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 0:57
  • 5 seconds are there to accommodate 15-second commercials more easily. MLB earns a lot of money from broadcasting deals. The more time, the better, but it also needed to shorten pace of the games to keep the viewers and compromised the time.
    – user10632
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 5:20

2 Answers 2


I'm wondering what level of baseball you were watching. The regulations could be different for different leagues.

A timer like you describe is usually for the benefit of broadcasters to have a specific amount of time to break for commercials. The extra five seconds would let them rejoin after two minutes and not be in the middle of the first pitch.

The umpire will hold the game to not start before the time is up. Once done, the ump should control the pace of game as at any other point in an inning. If the players aren't ready, he'll go and try to move them along. There's no automatic penalty for not being ready.

Now if the ump feels that someone is trying to delay the game intentionally, he can force things to happen, but that isn't usually necessary.

In MLB, 5.07(c) specifies that when there are no runners on base, the pitcher should be delivering the pitch within 12 seconds of having the ball and being notified that it is in play. This rule is rarely invoked in the majors.

Pitcher Delays

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

5.04 (b) (4) (A) has the comment

If the batter intentionally leaves the batter’s box and delays play, and none of the exceptions listed in Rule 5.04(b)(4)(A)(i) through (viii) applies, the umpire shall issue a warning to the batter for the batter’s first violation of this Rule in a game. For a batter’s second or subsequent violations of this Rule in a game, the League President may issue an appropriate discipline.

Finally, this MLB Press release indicates that as of the 2015 season, the between-inning break is 2 minutes 5 seconds when games are televised locally and 2 minutes 25 seconds when televised nationally.

  • I was watching a Major League Baseball game in the US Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 13:47

It's not a difficult question.

What happens if either the fielder or the batter take too long to get to get ready, i.e. the countdown timer runs out?

He will be warned. If the conduct is repeated, based on the umpire's authorities highlighted below, he will be disqualified or ejected. There could be disciplinary actions decided by MLB later.

Does the offending team get some sort of penalty?

There will be no penalty for a team if the delay is caused by a player. However, if all the players deliberately delay a game, their manager will be warned. If the conduct is repeated, the game shall be forfeited. There could be disciplinary actions decided by MLB later.

The umpires and umpire-in-chief have the following authorities as described in the linked rules on The Umpire.

9.01 (The Umpire)

b. Each umpire is the representative of the league and of professional baseball, and is authorized and required to enforce all of these rules. Each umpire has authority to order a player, coach, manager or club officer or employee to do or refrain from doing anything which affects the administering of these rules, and to enforce the prescribed penalties.

c. Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

d. Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field.


a. The umpire-in-chief shall stand behind the catcher. (He usually is called the plate umpire.) His duties shall be to:

  1. Take full charge of, and be responsible for, the proper conduct of the game;
  2. Make all decisions on the batter;
  3. Decide when a game shall be forfeited;
  4. Announce any special ground rules, at his discretion.

(emphasis mine)

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