OT - Any umpires out there?

Submitted by lbpeley on May 5th, 2011 at 9:02 AM

I saw an interesting scrum last night at my kid's middle school baseball game. A 20 hopper was hit down the 1st base line. It followed the first baseline about 6" in till about 2 feet before first base. At that point it hit something and went airborne and veered over to the foul side of the line. The first baseman was standing on his bag - both feet in fair territory - and caught it in mid air with it never touching the ground in foul territory. The ump called the runner out and the batting team's coaches went nuts. 

I was under the impression that as long as no part of a defender's body is in foul territory and the ball has not yet touched anything in foul territory the defender can grab it in mid air and make a play. The coaches seemed to diagree, obviously.

I know there's a few real umps on this board so I'd like to hear what the right call is.



May 5th, 2011 at 9:11 AM ^

I'm looking forward to hearing from some umpires on this one.  I did a quick WWW search and found nothing solid.

As the OP notes, the basic question has to do with when a ball becomes foul.  Is "breaking the plane" enough, or does it need to hit the ground?


May 5th, 2011 at 9:46 AM ^

I used to umpire youth baseball.  If it happened just the way you explained it, it was a fair ball and the ump got the call right.  Even if the ball goes airborne but is still in fair territory as it goes over the base and lands foul it is a fair ball.  That's one of the things I used to love about umpiring youth sports, if there is a close play it is almost guaranteed one team is  going to go ape shit.

Edit:  I read the OP as the ball was still in fair territory when the 1B caught the ball.  It is a foul ball.  


May 5th, 2011 at 9:17 AM ^

From this quick search I did, I think that call should of been a Foul Ball.



"The position of the fielder's body or feet, have absolutely nothing to do with judging whether a ball is fair or foul. The judgment is based solely upon the relationship between the BALL and the LINE at the moment the fielder touches the ball, or at the moment the ball comes to a stop, or on outfield fly balls; the moment it touches the fielder or the ground.

Batted balls that go in-flight from the bat and first touch the ground in the outfield (fly ball to the outfield), are judged a bit different from batted balls that go from the bat and first touch the ground in the infield, before reaching first or third base (ground balls.)

Home plate is irrelevant. Home plate is in fair territory, but other than that, it is just the same as the ground. A ball that hits the plate first, or ends up on the plate, is no different from any other batted ball."




May 5th, 2011 at 9:52 AM ^

That's what I thought.  So many times I have seen a ball bounce straight up and the catcher make the play and then the ump calls it foul because the catcher was in foul territory.  So I started ASSuming if the catcher is in foul territory it's a foul ball. 


May 5th, 2011 at 10:24 AM ^

The home plate situation is one that I see called incorrectly most often.  If the ball hits home plate  and goes fair, it is a fair ball (home plate is in fair territory).  I have seen in little league, high school, college baseball and softball that a ball hit off the plate is called foul almost every time, no matter where it ends up.  This is incorrect, unless the ball on its own goes foul, it should be called a fair ball.


May 5th, 2011 at 10:01 AM ^

"The judgment is based solely upon the relationship between the BALL and the LINE at the moment the fielder touches the ball, or at the moment the ball comes to a stop, or on outfield fly balls; the moment it touches the fielder or the ground."

I believe the key part of the above is "tocuhes the field/ground".  In the scenario provided, the ball did not touch the field or ground in foul territory.  The ball was airborn and had no established residency in foul territory, so to speak.

Runner is out, based on what I know    (which.........)

we the roses

May 5th, 2011 at 9:17 AM ^

I'm not an umpire, but I'm fairly certain that if your feet are in fair territory, even if the ball is in foul it is an out. However this may only apply with fly balls and not ground balls. I really did not provide any insight. Best of Luck.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:18 AM ^

I'm not an ump either, but I'm pretty sure in most instances it does not matter where the players body is, but where the ball is. So it was a foul ball, and the ump didn't know the rules.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:23 AM ^

From the first google result in my quick search:



"THE ACTUAL RULE from the rule book

FAIR BALL is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base, or that touches first, second or third base, or that first falls on fair territory on or beyond first base or third base, or that, while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player, or that, while over fair territory, passes out of the playing field in flight.

A fair fly shall be judged according to the relative position of the ball and the foul line, including the foul pole, and not as to whether the fielder is on fair or foul territory at the time he touches the ball. If a fly ball lands in the infield between home and first base, or home and third base, and then bounces to foul territory without touching a player or umpire and before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball; or if the ball settles on foul territory or is touched by a player on foul territory, it is a foul ball. If a fly ball lands on or beyond first or third base and then bounces to foul territory, it is a fair hit."


May 5th, 2011 at 10:57 AM ^

As a former umpire, I remember that the longest discussions during training classes almost always centered on what constitutes a fair or foul ball. Having said that though, I admittedly thought that this was a fair when I first read the scenario; however, I think the rule that BJNavarre quoted does adequately answer the question:

Basically, the rule says that a batted ball is fair if it stops somewhere in play between home and first or third base, if it lands in fair territory beyond first or third base, if it touches any of the bases, and if "while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player."

The OP's scenario does not meet any of these criteria because (as far as I understand it) the ball was first touched by a player between home and first base while over foul territory; therefore I think we can justifiably conclude that the ball should have been called a foul ball.

That being said, I would have gotten it wrong too without the luxury of consulting this rule.



May 5th, 2011 at 9:22 AM ^

yes but the ball never touched in foul territory. The ball was fair the whole way down the line and popped up into the air. That's what makes it a bit confusing. It usually has to go one way or another around the plate to determine if it was foul or not and if it hopped up in the air there's no way to realy determine where it would have landed. From all aspects it probably needed to land first before it could have been called either way but since it was fielded I would say it's still fair because that's where it was last touching.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:30 AM ^

I will add a caveat that it's a little unclear from lbpeley's description whether the ball was heading towards foul territory, but still over fair territory, or caught over foul territory. It also matters whether the ball crossed the foul line before or after 1st base. I inferred from his description that the ball crossed the foul line prior to crossing 1st base, which may not be accurate.


May 5th, 2011 at 10:10 AM ^

where is the ball in relation to the foul line?  Did it touch something un-natural to the field? (fielder, player coach, tree limb etc) 

Now to be really picky.  The Umpire must raise both hands with palms open and say the words FOUL or FOUL BALL then take his arms and signal to the side of his body. (similar to a first down in football).


May 5th, 2011 at 9:32 AM ^

It is actually not confusing.  Where it WOULD have landed is not relevant.  The call should be based on where the ball IS.  before reaching the bag, if the ball is in foul territory (even if it has never touch the ground in foul territory) and is touched by a fielder, it is foul.

Eat Your Wheatlies

May 5th, 2011 at 10:26 AM ^

Caracjous is correct. If the BALL was on the foul side of the line when it was touched PRIOR to passing the bag, then it is a foul ball. I coach HS baseball, and thats the official ruling. The fielder's position is irrelevant, as is whether or not the ball touches the ground in foul territory regardless of if it was fair until it went airborne. FOOOOOOOUL BAAAAAAALL!


May 5th, 2011 at 1:21 PM ^

Are both correct. There is no judgement to be made if the ball is contacted by a player in foul territory in the air- automatic foul ball. If a player hit a hooking line drive over, say, third base, and the third basemen dove to try to catch it (in foul territory) but the ball glanced off of his glove, it would be an obvious foul ball. The ruling is the same even though the ball started in fair territory (on the ground) but hopped into foul before crossing the base. I also coached HS baseball for a few years and probably would've pulled a Lou Piniella on that play.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:37 AM ^

you sir are correct.  the player's position is irrelevant.  it's all about the ball.  based on the OP's description, the ball should be ruled foul, unless it went over the bag, since the OP indicated the ball was caught in the air in foul terratory.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:30 AM ^

"till about 2 feet before first base. At that point it hit something and went airborne and veered over to the foul side of the line."

I take form this that the ball was airborn, over FOUL territory and BEFORE reaching first base. If so, the ball is foul.  It doesn't have to touch the ground in foul territory to be foul.  It just has to be in foul territory (across the foul line) and in front of first or third base (assuming it has already been grounded).


May 5th, 2011 at 9:45 AM ^

As an ex-MHSAA umpire, from the description it is a foul ball. Its about where the ball is at when it crosses 1st or 3rd base. If he is standing on 1st base and reaches into foul territory to field a ball (even if it hasnt hit ground in foul territory) then it is a foul ball. If he fields it directly over the base it is fair, being that the base is in fair territory. And it is the home plate umpires call.

Kilgore Trout

May 5th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

Fair and foul has nothing to do with the position of the defender.  The key is where this ball crossed first base.  If the ball went over or inside of the bag, it is fair and an out.  If it crossed the line of the base in foul territory, it's a foul ball.  As far as I know, it's that simple. 


May 5th, 2011 at 9:40 AM ^

foul ball. doesn't matter where the body is. Its about the ball. if the ball is foul before it gets foul then its foul. doesn't matter if it was in the air from a hop or if the kids feet were in fair territory. if the ball passes or is touched foul, it is foul. Umpire and currently play D2 baseball.

EDIT: was the ball foul came fair or fair going foul. I'm reading it 2 different ways right now???


May 5th, 2011 at 9:45 AM ^

I'm not an umpire, but I played ball for 20 years of my life. I'd say if the ball is in foul territory, whether it is in the air, it is foul. Player position does not matter. it is a judgment call by the ump whether the player touched the ball while the ball was in fair territory or broke the plane.

Also, what makes a batter ball fair or foul? A player needs to make contact while the ball is in the field of play; between the white lines. Watch an umpire the next time there is a bunt. A call is not made until the player touches the ball even if its ten feet foul.

I guess the question for the op is whether the ball crossed over the bag while in flight, which would obviously make the ball fair.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:57 AM ^

that nothing touches the ball while in motion.  Remember in the 1980s Kansas City Royals Third baseman was fielding a bunt.  He dropped to his stomach and blew the ball into foul territory.  It did not hit anything on the field.

The rule (2.00 to be exact) is very specific.  Anything that is natural to the field (chaulk, birs shit, rocks etc) can cause a ball to go foul.  But anything unnnatural to the field (player blowing the ball foul) is not legal and thus a "fair ball".


May 5th, 2011 at 9:50 AM ^

I umpire youth and I had an exact play this past weekend. As it has been said, the ball in relation to the line is the call. The fielders body has NOTHING to do with anything. In the umpires judgement, if the ball was in foul territory, it is foul.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:55 AM ^

I've coached baseball for...ever.  It has nothing to do with the position of the player, it is the position of the ball.  If the ball is in foul territory, it is a foul ball.  Note: this is up until the time the ball passes the base.  If the ball hits the ground in fair territory and goes over the bag in fair territory and THEN goes in foul territory after the bag, it is a fair ball. 

As described above, it was a FOUL ball since the fielder was on the bag, the ball did not go past the bag and it was in foul territory when it was touched.



May 5th, 2011 at 10:03 AM ^

with our youth baseball. All rules are adopted from the official MLB rulebook. I recommend every baseball fan to pick this up. Once the MLB rules committee approves a rule change (rarely does) every youth baseball (Little League, Pony, Federation, Connie Mack, and Babe Ruth leagues) all adopt the rule change. There is no debate or discussion. MLB sets the rules for all baseball in USA.

The same for softball. USA Softball in Oklahoma City sets the playing rules for all softball. It could be high school, ASA, NSA, Little League, Pony, USSSA or recreation leagues. Once USA softball changes a rule, it gets adopted throughout the country.

The most recent rule change in softball was the illegal pitch. Batters now get to advance similar to a balk in baseball. It never used to be that way.


May 5th, 2011 at 12:32 PM ^

Unfortunately, this is incorrect.  At least in softball, rule sets for ASA, NSA and USSSA vary greatly.  Batter's box size is an easy one.  USSSA uses a different size box than the others.  Also, in ASA slowpitch play, if the batter has a 2 strike count on him and hits a foul fly ball that a fielder catches in the air, runners may tag up and advance.  In NSA, if a fielder catches a foul fly ball on a 2 strike count, the play is dead and runners may not tag and advance.  The amount of bases awarded on an overthrown ball is another difference that comes immediately to mind.  Yet another is how the double safety base at first base is treated after the initial play at first. 

There are many, many differences in those rule sets. 

On to the OP.  100% certain, no doubt about it, this is a foul ball.  If the ball is touched over foul territory before it passes first or third base, the ball is foul.  In this case, the ball does not have to touch the ground foul.  In this case, the foul line acts as an imaginary vertical plane, much like the goal line in football.


May 5th, 2011 at 1:14 PM ^

more specific.  I was not referring to slow pitch or men's softball.  I was referring to youth female softball as the OP was referring to youth baseball.

There are always minor tweaks to every division of youth play and local rules.  Some leagues do not allow stealing in 10U baseball and softball.  The dropped third strike is another tweak.  In most cases, youth baseball is 60' bases and 6 innings whereas 14U and up is 90' bases and 7 innings.  Typically 18+ divisions are all 9 innings for baseball and 7 innings for softball.


May 5th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

I am looking at the ASA and USSSA rulebooks right now.  My ASA book link is for a 2008 book, but this rule has not changed.

http://www.techstarcomputers.com/sonic625/2008_ASA_TeamRuleBook_with_code.pdf  ASA

http://www.usssa.com/usssa/usssa-general/2010SPRuleBook.pdf USSSA


The ASA batter's box is 7'x3'.  The USSSA box is 5ft6in x 3'.  No?  There is no exception or alternate size box for a youth batter's box that I can locate.  Is there something I am missing?


Also, the overthrow rules:

ASA Rule 8.5.G


G. When the ball is live and is overthrown or is blocked:
EFFECT: All runners shall be awarded two bases. The award shall be governed 
by the position of the runners when the ball left the fielder’s hand. Runners must 
return to touch a base missed or a base left too soon. When two runners are 
between the same two bases, the award is based on the position of the lead 
runner. Once a base runner advances to the next awarded base, the runner 
may no longer return to touch any base missed or any base left too soon.
1. When a fielder loses possession of the ball, and the ball leaves live ball 
territory or becomes blocked. 
EFFECT: Each runner is awarded one base from the last base touched 
at the time the ball entered the dead ball area or became blocked. 
2. When the ball becomes dead, runners must return to touch a base missed 
or bases left too soon if they have advanced, touched, and are a base  
beyond the base missed or the base left too soon. Runners must be given 
the opportunity to complete their base running responsibilities. A runner 
shall not be declared out if a fielder deliberately carries or throws the ball 
into dead ball territory to prevent that runner from returning to a base 
missed or a base left too soon. Once a runner leaves live ball territory, 
they cannot return to touch a missed base or one left too soon.
3. If the ball becomes blocked due to offensive equipment not involved in 
the game. 
EFFECT: The ball is dead and runners are returned to the last base 
touched at the time of the blocked ball. If the blocked ball prevented the 
defense from making an out, the runner being played on is out. 
4. If a base is awarded in error, after a legal or illegal pitch the error cannot 
be corrected
USSSA adds this tidbit that ASA does not have, and nowhere does the rule book make exception for Youth/Adult/Fastpitch/Slowpitch: 
1. When a FIRST throw is made by an Infielder trying for a first play,
the award is made from the batter’s and a base runner’s positions at the
time of the pitch

Do youth leagues use a completely different rulebook that is specially written for youth leagues?  Because there are rules in the ASA and USSSA books that are different that do not specify that they are only adult or slowpitch rules.


May 5th, 2011 at 4:25 PM ^

but all youth, HS and College softball batters boxes are 7' long including USSSA.  I am not sure if you are looking at USSSA baseball or adult softball, but all youth and colleges use the same rules.

Yes.  There are many differences between adult softball (slowpitch) and fastpitch.  USA Softball is the governing body of fastpitch softball.  ASA, NSA and USSSA all agree to follow USA Softball rules.  National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) and NCAA are in agreement as well.