Friday, August 19, 2022

Ask UEFL - Ball Stuck in the Horizontal Dirt Wall

For this Ask the UEFL, we take a look at two similar-yet-different minor league plays featuring batted balls sticking to different surfaces: one embeds itself in an outfield wall and the other sticks to the infield dirt on the ground in front of home plate. What are the rules for these situations?

Two baseballs, both alike in dignity, In fair territory, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil stickiness makes civil hands unclean.

Vertical Stick: The first play takes us to Buffalo (remember, this was used as an MLB venue when Toronto played here during the COVID season) where Bisons batter Gabriel Moreno's drive to deep right traveled over Lehigh Valley IronPigs left fielder Chris Sharpe's head and lodged itself into the padding below the top of the fenceline.

Horizontal Stick: The second play occurred when Columbus Clippers batter Ernie Clement hit a ball directly into the dirt in front of home plate, where it dug itself and stuck in the ground.

: In Buffalo (ball in wall), umpires ruled the play dead and awarded the batter and runner two bases from time of pitch. In Columbus (ball in ground), play was kept alive, the ball ruled fair when picked up by Toledo's catcher, and the batter-runner out when tagged.

Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.05(a)(7) describes the ball-stuck-in-wall play: "The batter becomes a runner when any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases."

As for the ball-in-ground play, the rules aren't as clear, leading us to OBR 8.01(c) or baseball's elastic clause: "Each umpires has the authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules." The MLB Umpire Manual offers the interpretation, "A ball is considered lodged if, in the judgment of the umpire, the natural trajectory of the flight of the ball is interrupted long enough to affect further play," but this was not a ball in flight.

Because OBR 5.05(a)(7) pertains to balls lodged in vertical surfaces, and no other rule specifically covers the case of a batted ball stuck/embedded in the ground, umpires ruled that because the ball remained accessible to the fielder, it remained in play, making it a fair ball and ground out, F2 unassisted.


Post a Comment