Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Ask UEFL - Obstruction 2 in Little League Rules Review

Despite Iowa's right fielder appearing to throw out a Missouri baserunner at third base during the Little League World Series Midwest Region Championship, the first base umpire after the play declared the runner safe, awarding the base due to obstruction (type 2). Here's a brief review of baseball's obstruction rule, its two types, and their respective penalties.

Little League's rulebook is based on the Official Baseball Rules used at the professional/MLB/MiLB level, so the following summary refers to OBR-level obstruction calls.

Obstruction (all types) as referenced by OBR 6.01(h) is defined as, "the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."
More about OBS 1 vs 2 (A vs B)Obstruction 1 or A vs 2 or B - The Difference is Crucial (6/23/17).

Obstruction 1
 (not this play) occurs when a runner is obstructed while a play is being made on said runner or when the batter-runner is obstructed prior to reaching first base even if not being actively played upon. Most cases of this brand of obstruction occurs during rundowns, but every so often Obstruction 1 occurs during an infield ground ball by a fielder not in the act of fielding the ball.
OBS 1 Penalty: Immediate dead ball, obstructed runner awarded at least one base, others placed.

Obstruction 2
(THIS PLAY) occurs when a runner is obstructed while no play is being made on said runner. This can occur at any time, but many cases of obstruction two occur when a batted ball is in the outfield and an absentminded infielder accidentally (or sometimes intentionally) stands in the runner's base path, forcing a collision or otherwise impeding the runner by causing them to stop or change direction; it is obstruction whether or not contact is made.
OBS 2 Penalty: Ball remains live until play's natural conclusion, impose any penalties that in umpire judgment will "nullify the act of obstruction" (OBR 6.01(h)(2)). Important note: This is not a free pass to the next base as the umpire's "nullify the act" ruling does NOT necessarily mean an obstructed runner will get an extra base; thus, attempting to advance too far may put the runner in jeopardy of being put out.

OBS 2 also ended Game 3 of the 2013 World Series when Red Sox fielder Will Middlebrooks remained on the ground and in Cardinals runner Allen Craig's path as an overthrown ball rolled into the outfield. 3B Umpire Jim Joyce and HP Umpire Dana DeMuth both made the call to award Craig home, ruling that had obstruction not occurred, Craig would have scored the winning run.

In the Iowa-Missouri game, obstruction two occurred when the first baseman stood in the runner-from-first's base path. Although Obstruction 1 guarantees the obstructed runner the next base (at least), Obstruction 2 offers no such guarantee. Instead, it is up to the umpire where to place the runners in order to nullify the act and declare what the play's likely outcome would have been had obstruction not occurred.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Umpire declares runner safe after obstruction near 1st base (CCS)


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