Friday, April 12, 2013

Ball Boy Interference: Judging Intent of Non-Team Persons

A KC ball boy was guilty of intentional interference Friday night during the Blue Jays-Royals game, getting in the way of Toronto right fielder Rajai Davis as Davis attempted to field a foul fly ball in the 7th inning. 1B Umpire Jerry Meals ruled the ball foul, indicating no out would be awarded as a result of the intentional interference. Replays indicate Davis' glove indeed touched the ball before it fell to the ground.
Video: Kansas City ball boy unintentionally commits Intentional Interference against visiting team's Davis

Video: Davis is interfered with.
Rule 3.15 addresses the case of interference with play by persons authorized to be on the playing field other than members of the team at bat, including base coaches: "In case of unintentional interference with play ... the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, 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 3.15 Comment takes it a step further, stating: "The question of intentional or unintentional interference shall be decided on the basis of the person's action." The Comment then provides examples:

- Unintentional Interference: A bat boy/attendant/policeman/etc. tries to avoid being touched by a thrown or batted ball but is still touched by the ball. Penalty: ball is alive and in play.
- Intentional Interference: The bat boy, etc. kicks, picks up the ball or pushes it, regardless of his thought process (e.g., even if he "innocently" thought the ball was dead). Penalty: Dead ball; umpire discretion.

2011's Case Play: Cop on Field provides a hypothetical scenario in which Unintentional Interference would be a proper ruling. Because the Royals ball boy initiated contacted with the ball and moreover clearly did not attempt to avoid being touched by it, this constitutes Intentional Interference, subject to the remedies described above.

Rule 3.16 (Spectator Interference) specifies this similar remedy of dead ball/penalties to nullify the act, indicating for all intents and purposes, 3.15 Intent INT is akin to fan INT with regard to enforcement.

Returning to Kansas City and Meals' ruling of "foul ball," as demonstrated above, Rule 3.15 authorizes an umpire to employ discretion in imposing penalties to nullify the act of interference. This is not a rule interpretation call, but one of judgment, as HP Umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland explained to Blue Jays manager John Gibbons; QOC for this particular judgment call, however, is up for debate.


Lindsay said...

Other than the fact that this should have been an out, what the heck is that ball boy thinking? You have one job! Well, two really, but one of them is to get out of the way! That ball isn't dead until it hits the ground. This isn't the place for wannabe major leaguers, bud.

Lindsay said...

THANK YOU for posting this. Since Vancouver doesn't have baseball team in the MLB, I get to watch the Blue Jays so I saw this in its full glory. Several things here...

1) Jerry Meals, freakin' Jerry Meals. If Gibbons was Don Mattingly or this was later in the season, that'd be an ejection.
2) Absolutely this could have been and if I'm umping the game, it SHOULD have been an out. Not only does Davis actually get a glove on the ball and deflect it, you're going to let a HOME TEAM ball boy/clubhouse attendant interfere with a VISITING player with no repercussions? But the main point still is that Davis got his glove on it and it looks like, from that second angle on the replay video, he had his glove around the baseball and tried to put the squeeze on. Clearly interference.
3) Yes, I agree. This is a textbook case of "Intentional Interference," but let's give Jerry the benefit of the doubt. Let's say, no way in hell Rajai Davis catches this ball. MLB Umpire Manual STILL REQUIRES umpires to #1 signal an immediate dead ball (remember, this ain't no infield fly or catcher's interference delayed dead ball) and #2 meet with the crew to figure out penalties. Meals didn't use proper mechanics here so even if his judgment was right (which, again, I am of the mindset that it was wrong), he failed to identify the scope of this intentional interference.
4) I know I'm biased being Canadian and rooting for Canada's only team, but I think this is too obvious not to at least acknowledge. Meals simply blew the call. I feel bad for Tim McClelland having to try and explain it.

Lindsay said...

1st of all let's give the ball boy a break ... he made a mistake... he's likely 18 and was nervous as heck could have been his first game... as for Meals.. it isn't his first game but he umpires like it day in and day out.

Lindsay said...

In all fairness to Jerry Meals, he was knocked senseless by Edwin Encarnacion in the 3rd inning when Meals could not get out of way of runner. He may have still been dizzy on the non interference call.

Lindsay said...

This is actually pretty funny because we just hae this conversation last night in our umpires class for my local high school umpires unit It's a different code HS versus OBR but still I'm not sure what meals was looking at here

Lindsay said...

What was this kid thinking? Not even kinda good on his part

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