Sunday, September 2, 2018

When Unintentional Interference Turns Intentional

After judging a batted ball hit down the left field line in Texas as fair, 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez ruled intentional interference by a person authorized to be on the playing field (a security guard), awarding the batter second base and capping off a play that began as unintentional interference.

Intentional Interference doesn't require intent.
The Play: With one out and none on, Rangers batter Carlos Tocci hit a line drive past third base and down the left field line, where it bounced off the wall in foul territory before ricocheting off a security guard's stool and ultimately coming to rest lodged between the guard's arm and torso.

The Call: With no one on base to begin the play, the call is quite simple: place Tocci at second base. But what if there was a runner at first base? Would he have scored?

The Rule: Official Baseball Rule 6.01(d) discusses what happens when a live ball comes into contact with a person authorized to be on the playing field. In sum, there are two types of interference that may result with this person: unintentional and intentional.

If the interference is unintentional, the ball remains alive and in play.
If the interference is intentional, the ball is dead & penalties imposed to nullify the act of interference.
U3 Hernandez tracks the ball down the line.

The definitions of unintentional and intentional may seem self-explainatory, but they're not: there is a distinct difference between the English language definitions of these terms and how the Official Baseball Rules treats them.

6.01(d) Comment spells out the OBR standard, and, in what may come as a surprise, actual intent doesn't have all that much to do with it.
The question of intentional or unintentional interference shall be decided on the basis of the person’s action. For example: a bat boy, ball attendant, policeman, etc., who tries to avoid being touched by a thrown or batted ball but still is touched by the ball would be involved in unintentional interference. If, however, he kicks the ball or picks it up or pushes it, that is considered intentional interference, regardless of what his thought may have been.
Analysis: The security guard at Globe Life Park in Arlington began this play trying to avoid being touched by Tocci's batted ball. Though the ball caromed off his stool, he still attempted to avoid being touched, meaning that during this bounce off the stool, the ball was still alive and in play; the interference was unintentional during this time.

The ball then settled into his arm/torso pocket—we've referred to this as an "umpire's glove" in the past when it involved the home plate umpire—and remained out of play as he kept his arm stationary. The difference, obviously, is that the specific rule that covers what happens when a ball lodges in the umpire's paraphernalia is different than the rule about a nonuniform person's interaction with a live ball.
Related PostLodged or Handled - CB Bucknor Cradles Pitched Ball (7/27/18).
Related PostUEFL Case Play 2018-4 - Bicep of Bellino [Solved] (6/1/18).

As the ball settled into the arm/torso pocket, it became dead as the guard is said to have acted upon the ball (as opposed to the other way around), thus constituting intentional interference, even though he clearly did not intend to interfere. The ball falling out of play due to lodging in the arm/torso pocket is the tipping point that makes this intentional interference.

Penalty: Pursuant to 6.01(d), Hernandez and crew awarded the batter-runner the base they felt would nullify the act of interference. Had there been a runner on first, the umpires would have had to consider whether that runner may have scored absent the interference.

Fair play treats the entire action as intentional.
Splitting Hairs: Though the rules book does not differentiate explicitly between whether "nullify the act" applies only to the act of intentional interference during a sequence where both unintentional and intentional interference elements are present (it just says, "If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference"), the most logical course of action pursuant to the tenet of common sense and fair play is to treat the entire ball-guard interaction (from stool to arm/torso pocket) as a singular act of intentional interference; there was no protracted time delay from one bounce to the next and both actions occurred, essentially, in one fell swoop.

This is important because it establishes that the various "lodged ball" provisions of the rules do not apply, which means that no specific base award is mandated, compared to the automatic one-base award for a pitched ball lodging in the umpire's paraphernalia. It's also not a ground rule double as the box score indicates...

Conclusion: To simplify matters in the spirit of common sense and fair play, the entire interaction with the ball is treated as one big instance of interference that so happens to be intentional because it ended up with the guard possessing the ball. Batter and runners are placed so as to nullify the act of interference.
Also SeeBall Boy Interference: Judging Intent of Non-Team Persons (4/12/13).

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Batted ball becomes dead on unintentional instance of intentional interference (TEX)


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