Saturday, May 19, 2018

Running Out of Air - Interfering with a Bare Handed Catch

Though a ball is generally dead on interference, the infraction is sometimes ignored, such as an interfered-with catcher who throws out a runner. Friday, a first baseman who lost his mitt in a collision with a batter caught a batted ball in his bare hands—no glove, no problem!

That said, what is the difference between a seeming case of interference where the ball does not immediately become dead versus a situation where the ball is immediately dead?

Using an NCAA-college play as our starting point, we'll dive through the three prominent baseball rulesets—OBR (professional), NCAA (college), and NFHS (high school)—to answer the dead-or-not question.

The ball is dead on runner interference.
In short, ball status all depends whether the interfering player is a batter (delayed dead) or a runner (immediately dead)...but how about a batter-runner?

The Play: With none out and one on (R1), Washington State Cougars batter Robert Teel hit a 1-0 pitch from Stanford Cardinal starter Tristan Beck on a pop fly up the first base line, where first baseman Andrew Daschbach attempted to field the batted ball, briefly colliding with batter-runner Teel, knocking Daschbach's mitt off of his hand. No matter, Daschbach stayed with the play and nonetheless caught Teel's fly ball as HP Umpire Heath Jones signaled an out for the interference. An otherwise-impressive catch, batter-runner Teel would have been out even had Dashbach dropped the ball, for the play was dead as soon as interference occurred (R1 returns to first base).
Video via Read More.

The ball is not always dead on batter INT.
"Delayed" - When the Ball is Not Dead Due to Interference: When a batter, who is not yet a runner, interferes with a catcher attempting to throw out a baserunner, as in Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) (NCAA Rule 6-2-d, NFHS 5-1-2a & 7-3-5), the interference is acknowledged and signaled as prescribed by level of play, but if the catcher's throw retires the runner, then the interference is ignored. This, too, is true for plate umpire interference (e.g., 5.06(c)(2), NFHS 5-1-2c). If the throw fails to retire the runner, only then does the ball truly die and the rule enforced (runners return and batter is out [if INT...batter is not out if unintentional backswing {OBR, NCAA} or follow-through {NCAA, NFHS} contact {college uses both terms in the same rule 6-2-d}]). If the batter intentionally interferes with a catcher's throw back to the pitcher, the ball is immediately dead. Mandatory reminder that "backswing interference" means something entirely different in high school (pre-pitch contact b/w bat & catcher) than at other levels (generally, post-pitch).
Related PostWanted Dead or Alive - Recording a Backswing Strikeout (3/4/18).

Both batter and runner are out if the batter has struck out immediately prior to interfering with the catcher (in NFHS the umpire shall judge whether interference prevented a potential double play, 8-4-2g).

Note that both NFHS and NCAA use the terminology "delayed dead ball," but OBR does not.

"Immediate" - When the Ball is Dead: After the batter has become a runner, or as relates to any baserunner, Rule 6.03(a) is no longer applicable, as 6.03, entitled "batter illegal action," applies only to the batter. Instead, OBR 6.01(a) (NCAA 8-5-d, NFHS 8-4-2g) takes over. The rule states, in part (language is similar in NCAA and NFHS):
It is interference by a batter or a runner when—He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball...
The penalty for interference, naturally, states, "The runner is out and the ball is dead" (immediately).

This applies to interference committed after a ball is batted or at any time after the batter has become a runner, including after an uncaught third strike, when Rule 6.01(a)(1) comes into play ("After a third strike he clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball. Such batter-runner is out, the ball is dead, and all other runners return to the bases they occupied at the time of the pitch").
Related PostCase Play 2017-8 - Batter Interferes on Strike 3 [Solved] (7/21/17).

A batter who has already been put out is also subject to 6.01 "immediate dead ball" interference.
Related PostJoe Calls Interference Double Play out West (5/28/16).

Finally, interference by other actors (base coach, dugout/bullpen persons) = immediate dead ball.
Related PostCase Play 2015-01, A Base Coach's Helping Hand? [Solved] (4/21/15).

Player status dictates how play will proceed.
Why This Difference Matters: A catcher who throws out a baserunner in spite of the batter's (or umpire's) interference allows play to stay alive ("it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and that the runner is out—not the batter"), meaning that actions on subsequent baserunners are possible and will stand as called—including any runners who might score on such a play (there's strategy to be invoked here). On the other hand, a runner who interferes causes play to immediately cease and all other runners to return as prescribed by rule.

For instance, Louisiana State University lost a run in the 2017 NCAA College World Series after 2B Umpire Steve Mattingly ruled a baserunner out for slide rule interference, resulting in a double play and dead ball (runner R3 returns).
Related PostNCAA CWS - Force Play Slide Rule Negates LSU Run (6/27/17).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Determined Cardinal Dashbach completes catch barehanded (STAN)


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