Rule Interpretations
by the Rules Guru

This a question that keeps coming up and is
too long to explain in this column.
Click HERE to see a full explanation of the play,
the applicable rules, and how to umpire it.


Runners on first and second, or first, second and third. 3-2 count two outs. RH Pitcher from the stretch lifts his left leg to start his delivery to the plate. The runners take off too early. Pitcher sees the runner going to third and steps directly toward third and throws to F5. F5 tags out the runner. Balk or out?

There are several possibilities here, depending on how the pitcher has addressed the rubber.
With the pitcher in the set position, there are a couple of questions/observations that will determine if it is a balk or an out.

    • If the pitcher's non-pivot foot (entire foot) passes behind the back edge of the pitcher's plate, then the pitcher may only throw to the plate or make a pickoff or feint to second base.  Anything else, such as throwing to 3rd base, would be a balk.   If his entire non-pivot foot did not pass behind the plane of the back edge of the rubber, this does not apply.
    • Assuming that the first part of this does not apply, then a decision must be made as to whether or not he had started his motion to the plate and then changed directions or whether, since he had just started by simply lifting his leg, he brought his leg back and then stepped directly to the base and not toward home.  If the pitcher had clearly started his movement toward the plate and his motion was forward and he had to stop and change directions, then that would probably be a balk.  But if he had only lifted his non-pivot foot and moved it backward in preparation for beginning his pitch and became aware of the runner going and simply changed directions without stopping and stepped directly toward the base and throws the ball, it is probably an out.
    • Whether 3rd base is occupied or not is not an issue since a pitcher, from the rubber, can throw to an unoccupied base if it is for the purpose of making a play or forcing a runner back to his base.
Runner on 1st with no outs and 3rd drop strike while runner on first is stealing    Can the batter run to first or is he out by strikeout?

With less than two outs and first base occupied, the runner is out on a third strike, even if it is dropped third strike.  The fact that the runner on first is stealing on the pitch does not mean that first base is unoccupied.  It remains occupied until the runner touches second base.

NFHS 7-4-1(b)
OBR 6.05(c)
NCAA 7-11(h)

R1 on 1st base. F1 is in the set position.  F1 usually lifts his non pivot foot about 12 inches off the ground as he strides toward the plate in his delivery.  Every so often he will change this to a "slide" step towards the plate.  Is this a balk?  If yes, Please explain.

This is not a balk.  There is no requirement that the pitcher use the same delivery motion on every pitch.   Pitchers will often change their stride due to the type of pitch that is being thrown (curve, slider, fast ball, fork ball, etc.), and it legal to do so.

(NFHS rules question)If a batter is in the right hander's batters box and he falls to the dirt while a runner is stealing third, is that batter interference? If the runner was safe is the batter out just like if it was batter's interference during stealing of second base?

With a runner stealing third, if the batter falls to the ground and does not interfere with the catcher while doing so, he is not guilty of interference.  If, however, he makes contact with the catcher or otherwise alters the play, then the umpire could call batter interference if, in the umpire’s judgment, the batter’s actions interfered with the catchers’ attempt to put the runner out.  If batter interference is called, then enforcement depends on what happens with the runner.  If the runner is put out, the out stands and the interference is ignored.  If the runner is not put out, then the batter is out and the runner returns to second base.

No Outs, 0-2 count on batter:
Pitcher throws a high and tight pitch, batter for some reason swings at pitch that is clearly out of strike zone.   The pitch strikes his hands, ricochets to helmet and then hits in eye and rolls foul.   Batter who is now bleeding does nothing, catcher does nothing.  U1 thinking ball had gone off of bat calls "foul ball".  Batters hands were so close to helmet (awkward swing) that when it hit helmet sounded like bat.  The catcher after called foul pick up ball and tags batter. U1 and U2 get together and U2 informs that ball actually hit hands.  So the question is, does the inadvertent foul rule apply on a non-batted ball? Place batter?

Under NFHS Rules 2-16, a foul ball must be a batted ball.  Under NFHS Rule 2-16-1-e, an “inadvertent foul” can only be called on a batted ball, so it does not apply in this case.

The ball hit the batter so it is immediately dead.  The batter swung at the pitch, so it is a strike.  The batter is out on the strike and cannot advance to first on the uncaught third strike since the ball is dead.

Situation:  R1 on first, B4 at bat with less than two outs.  B4 squares around to bunt and his foot is on the plate.  The pitcher throws a low pitch that strikes B4 on the foot that is on the plate.  B4 made noeffort to bunt the ball.

The ball is dead but what is the proper call on the batter?  Is it batter interference for hindering the catchers ability to field the ball and perhaps throw out the runner?  Is it a hit batter and an awarded base?  Is it a hit batter who gets to stay in the batter's box?

Since the batter did not contact the ball while in contact with the plate and the pitch was not a strike, you have a hit batter.  The ball is dead and the batter is awarded 1st.

Be ready for a visit from the other coach.

Here's the situation...we had a runner on first base only. Our pitcher performs a "jump turn" pickoff move to first base and he was called with a “Balk”. The “jump turn” move is when a right-handed pitcher's right foot comes off the rubber, but stays in front of the rubber and is followed quickly by a lift and step with the left foot toward first base. The free foot must land toward the base being thrown at and before the release of the throw. The umpires at the game considered it a “balk”, because his pivoting foot was disengaged toward an unoccupied base (third base). They mentioned that the pitcher is balking because he is not stepping towards first or because he is not stepping toward the outfield to make himself an infielder. By stepping to third first without a runner on third it is considered a balk by USSSA rules.

They also said that the "jump turn" move is a move that was often used in the past, but that it is no longer a legal technique to use. The ‘jump turn” move is not uncommon at all, it is actually taught all around, reason why I was surprised with their decision on the field.

Your question concerns USSSA rules, which follow the OBR as published on  A review of the USSSA exceptions to the OBR finds no prohibition against the “jump turn”, and states that unless specifically excepted, all rules shall be the OBR as published by major league baseball.  The “jump turn” is not prohibited under the OBR.  However, what you are describing is defined by the PBUC as a “jab” step, which is also legal. 

First, and most importantly, what is a “step”?  A step is defined by the OBR and PBUC as a movement by the pitcher’s non-pivot (free) foot.  This is an important consideration as the umpire’s contention that the “jab” step with the pivot foot is actually a “step” toward an unoccupied base is in error.  A step toward a base, for purposes of a balk call, can only be made with the non-pivot foot.

The PBUC has ruled that the following two types of steps are legal, and these definitions are included in all manuals of the rules that I use for interpretations:

“JAB STEP” (of the pivot foot):  In cases of a right-handed pitcher throwing to first, or a left-handed pitcher throwing to third, a pitcher can take a “jab” or “stutter” step with his pivot foot before stepping to a base with his free foot.  The motion of the “stutter” step and the resulting step of the free foot must be fluid and continuous: if the two motions are not continuous, there is a balk.  Of course, the latter step must bring the free foot into the air and replace it on the ground in a completely different spot that is closer to the pickoff base.

“JUMP STEP”: A pitcher can, without balking, jump (i.e., both his feet go airborne simultaneously) before his non-pivot foot retouches the ground in a different position; this is a jump step.  Again, the latter step must bring the free foot into the air and replace it on the ground in a completely different spot that is closer to the pickoff base.

In a pick off play at 3rd base, does the batter have to move out of the way of the catcher?  Is it considered obstruction or interference if the batter does not make an attempt to move?

The batter is not obligated to move or duck to get out of the way of the catcher on a pickoff to third.  He may not, however, step back and get in the catcher’s way or otherwise move and interfere with the catcher’s attempt to throw the runner out at third base.  As long as the batter stands still, he is not guilty of interference in this situation.

If the baseball is hit and hits the plate and rolls out is it live or dead?

The plate is entirely within fair territory.  If the ball hits the plate and rolls into the infield, it is a fair ball and is alive.

Situation: bases loaded with no outs.

Batter steps out of batter's box and hits ball to short-stop. UIC yells batter-runner is out; Short-stop then throws ball to catcher standing on home plate prior to runner from third base crossing the plate. Question:

a) Is this a dead ball, and runners return to base at time of pitch?

b) Is this a delayed-dead ball and play remains live?

c) Is the force out at Home now off and the catcher must "tag" the runner from third for an out?

d) Other?

This is an immediate dead ball and the batter is out (NFHS 7-3-2; NCAA 7-10-a;  OBR6.06a)
All runners return to the bases occupied at the time of the pitch.  Since the ball is dead, the defense may not take any action that would create an out, nor may any runners advance.

Situation: Routine infield grounder to SS, who throws to 1B, the ball hits the dirt and bounces by the first baseman. The ball hits the 1B coach and deflects off down the RF line, allowing the runner to advance to 2B, whereas, had the ball gone straight past the 1B-man w/o hitting the coach, it's questionable whether the runner could have advanced because the catcher had run down the line to back up the throw. The defensive manager argues interference on the coach. In the umpire’s eyes, the 1B coach did not intentionally deflect the ball. How should the umpire make the call, advance runner or no?

Also, in a similar situation, the ball hits the 1B coach and bounces back toward the 1B-man who is able to retrieve it and step on 1B for the out. Now the 1B coach "interference" caused his own team a negative consequence, but would the same rule apply here as in the above situation?

Your question concerns whether or not a base coach who is struck by a thrown ball has interfered with the play or not.  Part of this will depend on which set of rules are being used for the game as there is a slight difference between MLB/OBR and High School/NCAA rules.

The rules that govern this situation are as follows:

MLB/OBR - Rule 5.08
      "If a thrown ball accidentally touches a base coach, or a pitched or thrown ball touches an umpire,
       The ball is alive and in play.  However, if the coach interferes with a thrown ball, the runner is out."

      This will be umpire judgment as to whether or not the coach's actions were accidental or intentional.
      If ruled intentional, the ball is dead immediately and runner is out.  If accidental, the ball is alive, runners advance at their own risk, and all plays stand on their own merits.

High School - Rule 3-2-3
      "If a thrown ball accidentally touches a base coach in foul territory, or a pitched or thrown ball touches an umpire,         the ball is alive and in play.  However, if the coach is judged by the umpire to have interfered intentionally with the thrown ball, or interferes in fair territory, the interference penalty is invoked"

      Basically this mean that if the coach is in foul territory and does not intentionally interfere with the thrown ball, the ball is alive and runners advance at their own risk.  If the coach intentionally interferes with a thrown ball while in foul territory, the ball is immediately dead and the runner is out.  If the coach is struck by a thrown ball and is in fair territory, it is automatically interference, the ball is dead, and the runner is out.

NCAA - Rule 8-3j
      "If a thrown ball strikes a base coach on foul ground, the ball is in play. If the coach interfered intentionally with such a thrown ball, the runner is out and any other runners must return to the last base touched"

      This is the same as High School.

The bottom line is that it is umpire judgment, which is not arguable by a coach under any rules, as to whether the coach's actions were intentional or accidental.  In both scenarios you provided, if the touch was accidental, the ball is alive and all runners may advance at their own risk and are subject to being put out if they are not legally touching a base. 

In your first scenario, the batter-runner remains on second base and he acquired it legally.

In your second scenario, the runner would be out as the first baseman touched the base while holding the ball securely in his glove before the batter-runner touched the base. 

If the touch by the coach was deemed to be intentional, then the ball would have been immediately dead, and the batter-runner would be out.  All other runners would return to the bases legally occupied at the time of the interference.

No outs, runners on first and third. Ground ball to second, flips to short.
Runner from first performs an illegal slide that alters the play, but the shortstop turns the double play anyway.
Man on third scores.

Call the interference and return the runner to third, or let the play stand?

Call the interference as soon as you see it.  Don’t wait until the play is over.  Interference of this type is an immediate dead ball.  It you let the runner get by with the illegal slide just because the defense was able to make the play it will only cause you problems later in the game if you have a similar play and call the interference, especially if it happens to be against the other team.

Runner on first, first baseman is holding runner on, with the pitch he moves toward the plate a couple of steps.  Ball is hit just behind first base and the first baseman starts moving backward. The runner and the first baseman collide.  What should the call be?

It depends on where and when the collision occurred.  There is a great deal of umpire judgment here, also. 

If the ball could have been fielded by the first baseman (or he was attempting to field the ball), then you probably have interference by the runner.  The fielder has the right to his initial attempt to field the ball without being impeded by the runner.  The runner can move out of the base path to avoid fielder in this case without penalty.  If it is interference, it is a dead ball and you will have two outs since it would have prevented a possible double play.

If the ball was already past the first baseman, and he could not have fielded it but was simply trying to run it down, you probably have obstruction by the fielder.  If the runner does not make it to second base safely, award the base after playing action is over.

If it was a sharp line drive and the fielder was moving quickly toward the ball and the runner didn't have time to react to the hit, it could be just baseball and you have nothing (incidental contact).  This is not the optimal call, but it could occur.  Usually when you have contact between a runner and a fielder during an attempt to field the ball, you either have obstruction or interference, but there are times when it is incidental contact.  In this case, I would probably call either interference or obstruction depending on what happened.

In the third, the coach subbed in a guy for the right fielder (who he removed to warm up for coming in to pitch the next inning - the starter can reenter and pitch).   But during that inning I got to thinking - I had put the sub in for the right fielder (in his batting slot) if the coach had intended for the sub to be put in for the current pitcher, who would be switched out the next inning, isn't that one of the questions on the test about an illegal substitute?????? - when the starter comes back in to pitch the next inning - would he have to be put in the batting slot for the starting pitcher who he is replacing (which would mean he would have batted in one slot for the first three innings and then be in another the remainder of his time in the game) or should he have kept his original slot...................did I goof this?

Assume #12 is pitching (5th batter in the lineup) and #15 is in right field (8th batter in the lineup) and both are starting players.  The coach substituted #20 for #15 so he could warm up to pitch. 

#20 is a substitute and goes in the batting slot for #15 (8th slot).  # 15 is eligible to reenter under the reentry rule.

#15 reenters the game in the next/same inning to pitch.  Since he is a reentering starter he has to return in the same spot in the batting order. (Rule 3-1-3).  He is still in the 8th batting slot and #20 has to come off the field since you can't two players in the same spot in the batting order.  If you allow # 15 to take the 5th spot in the batting order (#12's spot), you have allowed the coach to change the batting order, which is prohibited under the substitution rule.

The coach had about 20 guys for his freshman team.  He used CR for the catcher and for the pitcher - no problem. But in the fourth, he made a complete substitution change (replaced all players).  Since we now had a complete roster change, at least 18 guys in the game at one time or another, I believe he may have used a CR that had already been in the game (i.e., one of the starting players - I know a starting player can re-enter, but can he be used as a CR?  I thought a CR must be an eligible substitute, but can not be a removed starter - what about that? 

A player who has been in the game in any capacity (other than as a courtesy runner), who is an eligible substitute can be a courtesy runner.  Starting players who have been substituted for and are now on the bench may not be a courtesy runner since they have been in the game.

What happens when the batter gets hit in the hands with a pitch?

First, and foremost, the ball is immediately dead.  No runners can advance unless forced by the batter being awarded first base...if that happens.

The second thing to remember is that the hands are part of the body; they are NOT part of the bat.  This is an important issue when determining whether or not the batter is awarded a base due to being hit by the ball.  The umpire must pay close attention anytime a batter is hit by a pitch, especially in the area of the hands to determine what was happening at the time the pitch came in contact with the batter's hand(s).

What happens next depends on what the batter was doing at the time he got hit, and how he got hit.  Let's look at a few scenarios.

SCENARIO #1 - Inside pitch

The pitch is an inside pitch that would have been a ball if it hadn't hit the batter.  The umpire has to play close attention to the sound of the hit and determine if the pitch hit the batter's hand and/or the bat.
            If it hit the bat, and then hit the hands, it is a foul ball. 
            If it hit the hands, and then hit the bat, it is hit batter and the batter is awarded first base.
            If it hit only the hands, then the batter is awarded first base, even if it is ball four. (the hit by a pitch supersedes the ball four call)

SCENARIO #2 - Batter is swinging at the pitch

If, in the umpire's judgment, the batter is swinging at the pitch and gets hit in the hands, it is an immediate dead ball, and a strike.  If it is strike three, the batter is out even if the catcher doesn't catch the ball since no runner can advance during a dead ball situation.

SCENARIO #3 - Batter's hand or hands in the strike zone

If the batter's hand (or hands) is in the strike zone and the ball hits it/them, then it is an immediate dead ball and a strike.  This is most likely to happen if the batter is attempting to bunt the ball and has his lead hand wrapped around the front of the bat instead of just holding it on the back side of the bat, OR if the batter is crowding the plate and has his hands in the strike zone.

We had a player (shortstop) who threw his glove at a ball.  He didn’t touch it and the umpire did not enforce any kind of penalty for throwing the glove?  Isn’t this against the rules?  What is he had hit the ball with the glove?  Would that be different?

Under all rules, if a fielder throws the glove at the ball, but doesn't touch it, there is NO penalty (maybe a warning).  If they use the intentionally use the cap, mask, uniform, glove, or any other equipment that is detached from its accustomed place on their person to catch or alter the path of the ball, it is penalized as follows:

Batted ball:    3 base award (exception:  if the ball would have been a home run and it was deflected, award 4 bases)
Thrown ball:    2 base award
Pitch:            1 base award

Man on third with one out. Player hits fly ball to outfield which is caught. Third base coach and base runner believe there are two outs. So runner takes off for home. When this happens the defense is led to believe that there are two outs also and they begin to leave the field. Runner from third touches home and begins to walk towards bench but is not out of the dirt circle at home. Bench coach realizes what is going on and tells runner to go back to third, which he does, but he fails to retouch home in doing so. Runner makes third with out being put out. Question, is the runner out automatically for not retracing his steps or is this an appeal play by the defense.

Appeal play under all rules

In "Pro" rules (Little League, PONY, MSLB etc), a batter is awarded first without liability to be put out on ball 4.  The HS book does not specify ”without liability"  Does that mean that on ball four, if the batter runner is outside the running lane & is hit by the throw to 1st by the catcher, he is out?  It appears that is the HS interpretation. What do you think?  Can you find anything in the book to say yes or no?

See NFHS Rule 2.1.  An awarded base is actually "the right to advance without a play being made."  So if they throw the ball and hit him, that would be no play (and perhaps unsportsmanlike conduct on the fielder). 

On the other hand, if the batter is awarded first base on ball four and overruns the base, he is subject to being put out on a tag (this only applies in HS - Rule 8.3.7) since the ball is still live and once he touches the base, he has "advanced" and is subject to being a play being made on him.