|Estabrook signals interference.|
A fair ball, after touching the ground, [and that] bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, [entitles] the batter and the runners to advance two bases;However, with spectator interference ruled, Rule 3.16 came into play: "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."
Rule 3.16 Comment obliges umpires to consider the difference between the case of a ball that journeys into the stands, touching a spectator and the case of a spectator who reaches over a barrier and touches a ball in play. The Rule specifically authorizes umpires to place runners where "in the umpire's judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred."
This past offseason, the MLB Playing Rules Committee modified the definition of spectator interference to indicate such interference occurs when (underlined words were added):
A spectator reaches out of the stands and over the playing field, or goes on the playing field, and (1) touches a live ball or (2) touches a player and hinders an attempt to make a play on a live ball.Rule 1.04 defines the outermost boundary of the playing field as the nearest obstruction to home plate (e.g., the outfield wall) while Rule 2.00 [FAIR TERRITORY] defines the end point as "the bottom of the playing field fence and perpendicularly upwards."
Armed with that knowledge—and knowing that instant replay review cannot be used to revisit such a bounding ball play—the umpires determined that baserunner R1 David Adams would have scored from first base if not for the interference. Wells was awarded second base and the Yankees took a 7-5 lead before Brett Gardner struck out to end the inning.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon briefly argued the call, but seemed satisfied with Gibson's explanation. The Yankees ultimately won the contest, 7-5. As a UEFL bonus, the offending fan was ejected from the Stadium.
Wrap: Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees, 6/22/13
Video: Wells hits a bases-clearing double to right center, a play made possible by fan interference (NYY)