What if a non-player interferes with a batted baseball?

Tonight, I was watching the Astros play the Cubs at Wrigley. At one point, a foul ball was hit down the first base line and caught by the guy protecting the Astros’ bullpen. The announcer pointed out that that is a tough position there because the guard has to stand very close to the foul line. The camera showed the guy and he was maybe five feet into foul territory. So, what if this guard ( a non-player) makes a mistake and reaches over, catching the ball in fair territory? What if he doesn’t catch it, but touches it? Is this a ground-rule double? If the guard’s feet are in foul territory, is it still a foul ball?

If a security guard interferes with a ball in play it is treated as spectator interference. The ball is dead and the umpires figure out what to do to nullify the act of interference. For example, if a guard interferes with a batted ball and the umpires think it would have been a double, they’ll order the batter-runner to go to second base. The spectator (or guard) need only touch the ball for it to be interference. See definition of interference and rule 3.16 of the official baseball rules.

Oddly, the rules don’t cover what happens if a spectator interferes with a fielder (that is, gets in the way of a fielder without touching the ball). I would expect this to be treated the same as spectator interference.

As for the guard’s feet being in foul territory - it doesn’t make any difference. The position of the ball determines whether it’s fair or foul. This is true for players as well - for example, if a fielder picks up a ball in fair territory while he’s standing in foul territory, it’s a fair ball.

Are you sure it would be treated as spectator interference if it was a security guard? Has something like that happened before? I’m not doubting you… I’m wondering if something like this has ever come up before.

And if it’s the guy protecting the pitcher, it would be an employee of the home team. Would that be treated differently from the guard situation? My immediate guess after reading the question would be that the ruling would go against the home team. If it was a home team batter, batter is out. If it was a visiting batter, ground-rule double, or something similiar.

Again, this is just a WAG based on almost nothing, really. I’d think that if a home team had an “open” bullpen, requiring someone to sit on the foul line to protect the pitcher, any interference that he causes should be the responsibility of the home team.

What if it was the batboy? What happens if Dusty Baker’s kid had tripped the catcher in the 2002 series and more runs came in to score?

I wasn’t clear in my OP. The “guard” I was referring to was a young man in an Astros uniform. His job was to protect the catcher in the bullpen from being hit by a ball he wouldn’t see coming. At Wrigley, the visiting bullpen is along the first base line. The pitchers face toward home plate and throw at a catcher facing, obviously, toward the right field corner. This guard was standing a few feet into foul territory. This whole thing came up when he made a really nice catch.

I suspect that, had a fielder been attempting to play the ball, the rules regarding fan interference would apply, since he was not a player.

If you read 3.16 closely, there’s an approved ruling that would apply:

According to that, and the comment on spectators reaching into the field of play, a spectator who reaches over a barrier and interferes with the catch would commit interference (i.e. what would have been the correct ruling in the Jeffrey Maier case.)

As far as the OP goes, I would say that if the ball was in fair territory when it was touched, the batter-runner would be entitled to whatever base the umpire-in-chief thought he had earned and the ball would be dead.

If I get a chance, I’ll ask a friend of mine with umpiring experience to weigh in.

I saw something similar happen at an Oakland A’s game this season. The security guard protecting the home bullpen caught a ball in play. It was a ground ball that passed third base in fair territory, then bounced into foul territory. The guard must not have been paying attention and thought it was a foul ball. The umpires called the play dead and put the batter-runner on second base.

The intent of the fan interference rules is to ensure that no one but the players can affect the game on the field. Thus, it makes sense to treat security guards, ballboys, bat boys and other non-players on the field as spectators if they interfere with play.

Come on, folks, you gotta cite the right rule for the right question. You want Rule 3.15:

But what does “unintentional interference” mean here? If a security guard plays a live ball that he mistakenly thought was foul, he certainy intended to pick up the ball, though did not intend to interfere. So is that unintentional interference?

P.S. Security guards should be instructed to never touch the ball, no matter what.

That would be intentional. Unintentional interference would be if you try to get out of the way but the ball strikes you anyway (as will sometimes happen), or if you aren’t paying attention (such as, for example, a policeman or cameraman who may have other responsibilities than watching the game.)

Right. But bullpen “screeners” (as in Wrigley Field) and ball boys are instructed to field balls which have already hit down foul, in order to protect bullpen players and spectators. Sometimes they even have to field airborne foul balls, if they’re line drives and it’s obvious that no outfielder can make the catch. Human nature being what it is, these people will sometimes zone out and field a fair ball, or a foul fly that an outfielder could catch. Again, such interference would be deemed intentional.