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 Hello baseball enthusiasts. There has been some great feedback about the quarterly posting of the play-a-month page, three month worth at one time. I will try to post the plays no later than the first full week of the quarter. If not, you have my permission to let the ump here about it -- fair enough? I will attempt to broadcast a reminder to all of you shortly after the posting takes place. I hope to keep you challenged with a good mix of plays including some from the chronicles of recreation ball – where anything can happen. Anyway, it should be fun.

I will post plays for 3 months each quarter. The answers, with explanations and applicable rules, will be posted on a separate answer page. You are on your honor to make all the calls BEFORE consulting the answer page. All rulings are made for the Official Baseball Rules (Major League Rules) only - sorry no breakdown for NCAA or NFHS rules.

These columns contain abbreviations that may be used in the plays and answers below :

BA - Current Batter
BR - Batter/Runner

R1 - Runner who began at 1B
R2 - Runner who began at 2B
R3 - Runner who began at 3B

1B - First base bag
2B - Second base bag
3B - Third base bag

F1 - Pitcher
F2 - Catcher
F3 - First baseman
F4 - Second baseman
F5 - Third baseman
F6 - Shortstop
F7 - Left Fielder
F8 - Center Fielder
F9 - Right Fielder

It's Your Call Rulings

Don't have a rule book - check out MLB's Official Baseball Rules On-Line.


The basis for this play comes from Howell, Michigan and deals with the actions of the fielder when a runner attempts to steal of a base.

Play 1:
With one out and a R2 on second base, R2 is stealing on the pitch. The third baseman (F5), while watching the catcher’s actions, moves toward 3rd base. He arrives and drops to one knee as the throw is arriving. R2 arrives just before the ball but is blocked from the base by the F5’s knee and calf as the F5 receives the throw and applies the tag. It’s your call.

Regardless of how this play is described by words, it is something that must be seen to be ruled on. Different umpires will have different impressions – the same umpire may have a different ruling on an almost identical play one inning later. There are many nuances that come into play. Pure and simple it is a judgment call. (This answer and ruling below are based on the Major League [Official Baseball Rules] and may vary in other proprietary brands of baseball.)

The rule that is weighed on this play is obstruction – 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.

Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball.

After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

Be certain, it is the phrase “in the act of fielding a ball” that causes 99% of the controversy with perceived obstruction. No matter which way you rule, one team will be unhappy. In determining obstruction, these points should be considered:

  • Obstruction can occur at a base (or plate) or in the baseline, and going or returning to a base.
  • All fielders are bound by the same rules. There seems to be a general acceptance that the catcher is allowed to block the plate when there is a play there. Remember, fielders have the same latitude as the catcher.
  • The runner need only be hindered in his base running effort – contact is not a requirement.
  • The mechanics of applying obstruction and awarding bases vary depending on whether a play in being made on the obstructed runner (or another runner) and are covered in rule 7.06.
  • Attempt to gauge the intent of the fielder. Was the intent to 1) acquire a strategic position in preparation of the play (such as a catcher setting his left foot at the outside corner of the plate and then causes a blockage by the location of the throw) OR take a position to block the base in an effort to delay the runners approach to the base or plate. (example: I had a pitcher/first baseman duo that apparently practiced their pick-off play at first base. The first base always dropped to his knee on the pick-off [just as the ball was being released] and the pitcher would help sell the play by always throwing low.) Gauge the intent.

Play 2 :
With R2 on second base, a wild pitch get behind the catcher and goes o the screen. R2 advances and rounds third as the catcher retrieves and fires a ball to 3B and retires a surprised R2. After the play, you (the umpire) notice that the ball used to record the out was a practice ball and not the ball in play at the time of the pitch. It’s your call.

This is a play not specifically addressed in the rulebook and therefore requires the umpire to rule on the play in a manner that is fair. Someone will certainly be unhappy but you need to get the call right. You cannot assume what might have happened if the correct ball was picked up – you are not even sure where that ball is. The out was made with an improper ball so the offense should be disadvantaged – the out cannot be allowed. The catcher apparently just picked up the first ball he saw (not an intentional switch) so the defense should not be penalized. R2 had seemingly acquired third base while the correct ball was in play – I would place R2 on third base and let play continues from that point.

The umpire is responsible to assure the field is safe, including being free of any extraneous gear and equipment. When (infield and outfield) practice ball are thrown in at the start of an inning, the umpire must assure they go to the bench area. The pre-game inspection should uncover any leftover batting practice balls.

As awkward as this month’s play seems, it is much better than having a player discover the misplaced baseball by injuring an ankle.

9.01 (c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

Play 3:
With R3 on third base and one out, the batter hits a high pop up in the infield to the third base side of the pitcher’s mound. R3 believes there are two out and crosses the plate where the on-deck hitter reminds him there is only one out. R3 retouches the plate and is running back toward 3B when the wind blown fly ball falls uncaught. F4 picks up the ball and relays to F5 who tags R3 as BR pull into second base. It’s your call.

R3’s run counts and BR remains at 2B. The ball remained live throughout the play so BR’s advancement was legal. R3 had legally scored and cannot “unscore” a run by retracing his steps back to third base. (Had the fly ball been caught, the defense could have “unscored” the run by appealing R3’s failure to tag-up or retouch the base before scoring.)

5.06 When a batter becomes a runner and touches all bases legally he shall score one run for his team.

Comment: A run legally scored cannot be nullified by subsequent action of the runner, such as but not limited to an effort to return to third base in the belief that he had left the base before a caught fly ball.

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