On any interference, the ball is immediately dead. Rule 3.16 specifically addresses the issue of spectator interference, prescribing the following course of remedy:
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.a fan reached over and plainly interfered by virtue of touching the live ball. As if to cover all bases, the fan and Middlebrooks additionally made contact.
As DeMuth and his crew conferenced in regards to runner placement, the umpires kept in mind that final fragment of Rule 3.16, authorizing an umpire to "impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference." Nullify—to cancel out, invalidate, make of no use or value.
Based on batter-runner Ian Desmond's actions, the umpires determined that had no interference occurred, Desmond would have held at first base; Desmond was accordingly awarded first, but not second, base.
Rule 3.16 also authorizes umpires to declare an out as a penalty to nullify the act of interference:
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.Here are some additional instances and video clips of spectator (fan) interference:
May 12, 2012: 2B. The Giants' Melky Cabrera hits a grounder past first base. After a fan reaches over the wall down the right field line, the umpires allow R2 to score from second and award Cabrera second base.
May 11, 2012: 2B. Almost identical to the previous play, Braves catcher Brian McCann hit an apparent double down the line, which was interfered with by a fan reaching over the wall in foul territory.
May 1, 2012: 3B (No HR). A boundary call, a fan in Anaheim reached over the wall and interfered with an Erick Aybar fly ball near the high wall in right center field. Umpires awarded the speedy Aybar third base.
April 8, 2012: 2B (No HR). A fan reaches over the field of play in Tampa Bay's right field, preventing a possible Carlos Pena home run and holding the Rays' first baseman to a double.
April 5, 2011: Out. The Mets were awarded a third out by 1B Umpire Mike Winters as a fan in Philadelphia reached into the field of play as Carlos Beltran attempted to catch a Ben Francisco foul ball.
April 1, 2011: Out. Umpire Bill Welke ruled Rockies' Todd Helton out on fan interference after a spectator reached into the field of play as Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra slid toward the wall.
June 30, 2010: Out: After a fan interferes with Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's attempt to field a foul fly ball, 3B Umpire Todd Tichenor ruled Braves batter Melky Cabrera out.
July 7, 2009: Out. The Marlins' Alejandro De Aza was ruled out in San Francisco when a fan reached over the AT&T Park's short wall in foul territory, interfering with Randy Winn's opportunity to make a catch on De Aza's fly ball.
Spectator interference has also resulted in ejections:
September 4, 2011: Out; Ejections: Joe West (7). After Hunter Pence doubled into deep right field, crew chief Joe West elected to employ instant replay review, as in his opinion, a potential home run might have been subject to fan interference. Replays indicated a Phillies fan reached over the right field wall and interfered with Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen's attempt to catch the fly ball; West declared Pence out under Rule 3.16's approved ruling, sparking a Charlie Manuel argument and ejection.
September 24, 2010: 3B; Ejections: Tim Timmons. After the Tigers scored two runs on a fan interference play, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing the placement of Casper Wells at third base.
August 19, 2009: No Interference; Ejections: Marvin Hudson. In a rare crew chief appearance from umpire Angel Hernandez, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was ejected after unsuccessfully arguing a foul ball on play that a fan unsuccessfully attempted to interfere with a batted ball in right field.