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Umpires

You Make The Call: Collision at First
By Tom Lepperd
MLB Director, Umpire Administration

In our most recent rules question, Travis Lee attempts to catch a pop up but is bumped by the runner on first base, who is attempting to return to the bag. Lee makes the catch despite the contact, and the question is whether such contact results in a violation of the Official Rules.

The options were:

A. No violation. The play stands because the ball was caught.
B. The runner is out for interference and the batter is awarded first base.
C. Runner and batter-runner are both out (runner for interference and batter because ball was caught).
D. Runner is awarded second base on obstruction.

When a runner makes contact with a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball, interference has been committed. It does not matter if the contact is accidental or if the fielder is able to complete the play. Once a runner commits interference, the ball is dead and the runner is declared out. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the runner's interference is willful and deliberate to prevent a double play (which this was not), the umpire would declare both the runner and batter-runner out.

Our rules experts have fared better in previous questions. The most common answer submitted was C, which is incorrect because when interference is called, the ball is dead immediately and all further action is ignored by the umpire. The correct answer to this question was B: The runner is declared out. All other runner(s) would return to the base last occupied at the time of interference, and the batter-runner is actually awarded first base (even though the ball was caught).

Here are some answers from fans who nailed this one correctly:

The correct answer is "B," citing rule 7.08(b). The runner must avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball. If the umpire felt that such action was intended to break up a double play, both the runner and batter-runner could be called out. In this particular play the actions of the runner were not to intentionally attempt to break up a double play.
-- Eric Lambert
Very good answer, Eric!

I actually had this happen in a college game I called last year. The runner is out under 7.09(L) and the fielder caught a dead ball. The batter is awarded first base on the play. The correct answer is B. The net result is the same as in A, other than the batter remains at first, rather than the runner.
-- Tim Stevens

Rule 7.08(b) seems to apply. The fielder makes contact with a runner who is off the bag and attempting to return to the base. It is the runner's responsibility to avoid the fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball. Regardless if the contact was intentional or not, the runner can be called out. This would be a judgment call for the umpire to decide if the runner "hindered" the fielder. I believe the proper response would be "B." The runner is out and the batter is awarded first base.
-- L.G. Robbins
Correct, L.G., except that professional umpires are instructed that contact of this type is considered "hindering," and therefore interference.

I think it's B. The runner is out for interference and the batter is awarded first base. According to Rule 7.08 (b), "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." The ball is dead at the moment of interference, and the batter-runner is awarded first base (provided the interference was not intentional, and I think it was obviously not). [according PBUC Umpire Manual 4.24 example 5]
-- P. Geronne, Germany

I believe that the rule involved here is 7.09(L). The key parts are: "It is interference by a batter or a runner when ... He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball ... PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE: The runner is out and the ball is dead." Using that rule, the appropriate ruling would be to declare the ball dead, call the runner out, and award the batter-runner first base.
-- Richard Palmieri
Good answer!