Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Giant Un vs Intentional Ball Attendant Interference

As Athletics left fielder Conner Capel slid in attempt to catch Giants batter Bryce Johnson's foul fly ball, San Francisco ball dude Harvey reached in front of Capel and touched the baseball, ruled no catch (foul ball) by the umpire as Oakland sought an interference call. We now review the Official Baseball Rules concerning interference by a person authorized to be on the playing field.

In the bottom of the 6th inning of the final Spring Training Battle of the Bay, Giants batter Johnson hit a fly ball into foul territory in left, Capel giving chase and going into a slide in an attempt to catch the ball at the tarp along the short wall. As Capel slid into position with his glove outstretched, however, the ball attendant ("ball dude" in SF) attempted a catch of his own, with ball dude Harvey's glove contacting the ball before Capel had a chance to play it. Capel ultimately came away with the baseball, but the damage had already been done by Harvey's premature touch, resulting in a foul ball [no catch] call by 3B Umpire Nate Tomlinson (umpires in Spring tend to switch bases every few innings; Alex Tosi was originally at third base but had moved to first base for this inning).

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(d) is called Unintentional Interference, and states, "In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the team at bat who are participating in the game, or a base coach, any of whom interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball; or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. 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 their opinion will nullify the act of interference."

The comment to OBR 6.01(d) states, "The question of intentional or unintentional interference shall be decided on the basis of the person’s action. For example: a ball attendant, police officer, 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, they pick up the ball, catch it, or touch the ball by intentionally pushing or kicking at the ball, this act would constitute intentional interference."

Because ball dude Harvey clearly tried to catch the ball (as opposed to avoid it), this is an example of intentional interference, the penalty for which is to call "Time" and nullify the act. In order to nullify the act, 3B Umpire Tomlinson would have had to determine whether or not fielder Capel would have caught the ball, had Harvey not interfered.

Crew Chief Bill Miller ultimately announced that Replay Review had confirmed the "safe" call, but OBR 6.01(d) interference is not reviewable (unlike fan interference, which is reviewable as a boundary call). Thus, Replay was used here simply to determine whether or not Capel caught the ball cleanly, which, thanks to Harvey's touch, he clearly did not.

Video as follows:


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