Thursday, November 7, 2019

Teachable - Runner's Lane Interference

After an exciting postseason, this edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments discusses runner's lane interference and an umpire's responsibilities during an RLI no-call during the 2019 Puerto Rico-Chinese Taipei WBSC #Premier12 tournament game.

Play: During this Opening Round game, TPE batter Li Lin stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 5th inning with two runners on (R1, R2) and none on, bunting the ball to Puerto Rico pitcher Fernando Cruz. After a brief hesitation toward third base, Cruz threw to first, hitting batter-runner Lin in the back and sending the ball into shallow right field, allowing the other runners to advance.

The lane looks simple...from the proper angle.
HP Umpire Naoto Shikita, having ruled the batted ball fair, deemed there was no runner's lane interference. Despite Lin being hit while outside the runner's lane, replays indicate Lin ran to first base within the lane until his last stride to first base, thus satisfying the exception to the runner's lane rule (Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11)'s "A batter is out when...he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base" and OBR 5.09(a)(11) Comment's "The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base").

This play runs in stark contrast to HP Umpire Sam Holbrook's invocation of runner's lane interference during Game 6 of the 2019 World Series when Nationals batter-runner Trea Turner failed to run within the runner's lane at any point during his journey to first base. Both Holbrook's RLI/out call and Shikita's no-INT/safe call were correct: Holbrook's runner didn't run in the lane while Shikita's runner did.
Related PostWorld Series Interference - Blame the Rule, not the Umpire (10/30/19).

Lin's is a textbook example of a legal run.
Teachable: As specified, Lin's jaunt to first is a perfect example of legal baserunning within the lane. The responsibilities of each umpire on the crew during this developing play—after the throw got away, the other runners advanced—are as follows, starting with the base umpires:

1B Umpire Ray Gregson: Move into fair territory in anticipation of a play at first base (out/safe, throw or tag). When the throw gets away, be prepared to assist on a potential boundary issue by finding the ball (if it bounds to foul territory), ensure BR has touched first base, and circle around the scrambling fielders and runner. Prepare for a potential play on BR back into first base.

Every umpire has somewhere to be.
2B Umpire Hiyoung Park: Once it's apparent the pitcher will not throw to second, be cognizant of runner R1's base touch and prepare for a potential play on either R1 or BR at second. Position adjustment may be necessary to get a better angle.

3B Umpire Alan Izaguirre: Move into foul territory in anticipation of a potential force play at third base. From there, watch for base touches and prepare for a potential play on R2 or R1 at third base.

HP Umpire Shikita: Move up the line for the fair/foul call. From there, responsibility shifts to ensuring BR's legality re: the runner's lane. Once the throw hits the runner in the back, either call "Time" (if there was interference) or signal safe (to signify "that's nothing"), a verbal declaration may also be helpful. If the ball has caromed into foul territory, keep an eye out on a potential boundary issue while preparing to dash back toward home plate for a potential play on R2.

Though the play may be hectic due to the wild nature of a throw hitting a runner, maintain patience with play-calling and, especially for the plate umpire, don't veer too far away from your base.

This Teachable Moment is sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (
Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Batter Legally Runs to First & RLI Plays for Umpires (CCS)


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