Friday, May 3, 2019

Tmac's Teachable - Runner's Interference

In this Teachable Moment, we discuss runner's interference and the great call of both Gary Cederstrom and Quinn Wolcott during a recent Nationals game. On this play in Washington, notice the fielder has his progress impeded by the Cardinals runner from second base while within reach of a ground ball.

Today's Teachable considers interference.
This is interference and there does NOT need to be contact. This is a great call and one of the harder plays to judge in real time. When we have interference that is not intentional by a runner, the play is over. The runner is out and all other runners go back to the base they occupied on the time of pitch.

Because the interference was not a willful and deliberate act with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the batter-runner will be, by rule, placed on first. Because the batter-runner is awarded first base, R1 is forced to advance to second, and we'll continue with an added out and runners at first and second.

If this was intentional (willful and deliberate) interference, we would get two outs, but clearly it's not. The fielder has the right of way until the ball has passed him. When the fielder no longer has a play on the ball that has passed him, the runner has the right of way, which has made for some interesting plays in the past.

IMPORTANT NOTE, NFHS: High School Rule 8-4-2g differs slightly from the college/pro version in that a double play can be awarded whether or not the interference is intentional.

3B Umpire Cederstrom enforces interference.
Calling INT, like many calls, is helped by being in the right position. One thing you can do is anticipate a tag or attempt. This will help you see any potential out of the base path violation, a tag, a missed tag, or an interference/obstruction call if the fielder misses the ball.

Some plays are really tough, as evidenced by the next play in Milwaukee on another potential interference. There's contact and the fielder is also slowed by the runner. Do you have INT?  If you do, what are your mechanics? If you said point to the interference, yell, "That's Interference!" then call "Time," call R1 out, and place B/R at first, congrats: you got the call right and, uh oh.. here comes a head coach/manager.  No need to fear here's how that convo goes...

Did the runner interfere with the fielder?
Let the coach/manager talk...... He's likely asking for an explanation and this is where knowing the rules really helps. Emphasize that in your judgement the runner hindered the fielder by making contact with him as he was attempting to field a ground ball. By rule, the runner is out and batter is placed at first. If he continues try to walk away; don't engage in a protracted discussion. Also, understand if you don't call INT that you need to know the rules as well. Why don't you have INT on this play?

Here are the rules you'll want to get into:
OBR 5.09(b)(3): "Any runner is out when—He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball."
OBR 6.01(a)(10): "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."
OBR 6.01(a)(6): "If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate."
OBR 6.01(a) Penalty: "PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE: The runner is out and the ball is dead."
NCAA 8-5-d: "A runner is out when—The runner interferes intentionally with a throw or thrown ball, or interferes with a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball. If a double play is likely, and the runner intentionally interferes with the fielder who is attempting to field or throw the ball, both runner and batter-runner shall be declared out."
NFHS 8-4-2g: "Any runner is out when he—intentionally interferes with a throw or a thrown ball; or he hinders a fielder on his initial attempt to field a batted ball...If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner including the batter-runner interferes in any way and prevents a double play anywhere, two shall be declared out (the runner who interfered and the other runner involved)."

This close play at first base happened as well.
You've heard me say this a lot, but working the bases requires focus. For instance, our close "was it interference or not?" play in Milwaukee was immediately followed by a pitcher-covering-first situation, leaving a slew of questions: did the Colorado pitcher catch the ball before the runner got to the base? Did the pitcher slide his heel on the base or did he miss his tag entirely (was the ball in his glove at the time?)? If he did tag the base, where was the runner's foot at the time? And so forth.

As many of the followers of this site get ready for the second half of their HS seasons, and the upcoming summer baseball schedule make sure you expect the unexpected and then look like $1 million bucks by nailing the call. Until next time, have fun out there and happy umpiring!

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Two plays with runner-fielder interaction produce two different calls (WAS/MIL)


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