Yet another softball (or baseball) question...

Okay I played in a Slow Pitch tournament this weekend and I saw a play happen and I’d like to know how it should have been called.

Okay, our slow pitch league uses standard SPN rules. There was a runner on first, and a guy up to bat. The guy cranks one into deep left field. The runner takes off at the crack of the bat.

Our fielder caught the ball. The runner had past second and was heading to third. So our fielder threw the ball to first. It went between the first basemans legs, and rolled out of play.

He grabbed the ball, tagged the runner, and the ump called the runner out. Was this the right call?

I figure as soon as the ball had left the field of play, the ump should have called “time” and the runner should have returned to first. Who’s right?

Also, when should a umpire call an in-field fly? Should it be from the crack of the bat, or after it’s caught? I’ve had umps do both, I prefer it from the crack of the bat.


Rule 7.10 of the MLB rules would seem to say that the runner was out. Once the ball became dead, (and I believe that when the ball left the field of play, it became dead) and the runner had failed to tag up on the catch, it was simply an appeal play at 1st. The runner’s out.

As for the Infield Fly rule, the rulebook says only:

“When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners.”

The meaning of “seems apparent” is debatable. I would say that it is preferable to wait until the point when the flight of the ball is obvious, and not after the catch.

We’ve had discussions about this at various times during pre-season umpiring training and I’ve always told the umpires to rule in the following fashion (though I really wish I had an approved ruling).

If the runner had not retouched 2ns base when the ball went out of play, then he should be out per the rule 7.10 quoted. However, if the runner had retouched 2nd base and was returning to first base, then it’s as if he’d never touched second and he’s is not out per rule 7.10. Furthermore, he should be awarded second base on the out-of-play ball. (He must however return and touch first base then go to second base or can be called out on appeal.)

As I said, I’ve not seen an “approved ruling” on this, but there is a similar situation which is covered. Suppose the runner from first is running and touches second then believing the ball will be caught starts back to first base. If the ball is dropped (and there is no infield fly in effect), then the runner’s returning towards first reinstates the force play just as if he’d never touched second.

It was not asked, but if the ball was out of play, then the first baseman cannot simply pick up the ball and tag the runner. The ball is dead. To make teh appeal, the ball must be put back into play by the pitcher on the rubber. The pitcher may then step off the rubber and throw the ball to first for an appeal.

Finally an infiled fly should be called as soon as it is apparent. This would be before the ball is caught, but not usually at the crack of the bat.

How many outs were there?

Was it “last batter”? In our league, you can bat through your lineup (12 max, 6 men, 6 women) once an inning. If the last batter hits, and is out, but that’s not the third out, the runners can try and score.

Being a carded SPN umpire, this is right up my alley.

The call was absolutely incorrect. The fielder cannot retrieve a ball that has gone out of play and then make another play. It’s simply not logically possible under the rules of baseball or softball; once the ball goes out of play, the ball is dead and time is called. Once the ball goes out of play, play is not resumed until the next pitch is thrown. The defense surrenders the right to make any play.

The correct play is for the play to be called dead and the runner is awarded second base for the overthrow (the next base after his last legally occupied base.) The runner must of his own volition return to first base, touching second on the way before taking second on the overthrow. The umpire shouldn’t tell him what to do.

If the runner fails to do this the other team can appeal at first and have him called out. They do have to appeal though. (You would be surprised how many rule-based appeal plays I see. Four nights ago I actually was playing and called for an appeal when a guy missed touching first on a two-base walk.) But tagging him out after the ball went out of play? That’s nuts. It’s out of play!

The SPN rulebook very clearly states that an infield fly should be called when the ball is in flight. (So does the baseball rulebook.) There is no ambiguity on this matter whatsoever; if your umpires don’t call it in flight they are not umpiring correctly and they do not understand the purpose of the rule. It doesn’t make any sense at all to call it when it’s “caught” because the entire point of the rule is that the batter is out whether it’s caught or not.

In fairness, it’s easy to forget infield fly rule situation and to think “oh shit, that’s an infield fly” after the fact. I am in the habit of repeating out loud “infield fly rule’s in effect!” when it comes up so that I won’t forget. But if you do not call the infield fly until AFTER it’s caught or it lands it is not an infield fly at all and should not be called post-event. The umpire is making a judgment call when the ball is in flight; if it’s not called infield fly, it’s not an infield fly, and that is the end of the story.

Furthermore, the purpose of the call is to ensure the runners understand there is no force play if the ball ISN’T caught. If you don’t call it in the air and it lands, they’ll take off for the next base. So you’re screwing the runners.

We had a play with a runner at 3rd and none out. The batter hits a fly ball, and the runner does NOT tag up and runs past the commit line, and then realizes the ball is going to be caught. What options does the runner have ? Since he crossed the commit line, is he in no-man’s land and out regardless of what he does ?

  1. If he goes home, the defense can appeal at third and he is out.

  2. If he goes back to third, is he out because he is not allowed to go backwards over the commit line ?

  3. The only way I can see that he has any legal option is to tag up (since the fly ball was caught), and then try to run home (since he already crossed the commit line, I believe he is ‘committed’ to running home). So, is it okay to criss-cross the commit line in this manner ?

Any umpires in the house ? RickJay ?

Using baseball (MLB) rules:

The umpire’s ruling was incorrect. No play – including an appeal play – can be made while the ball is dead. Because the ball was thrown out of play, the runner is awarded two bases. In this case, that means the runner ends up on third base.

The base award does not remove the runner’s responsibility to touch all bases in order, or to tag up by touching his original base. If the runner in your scenario failed to retouch first base, the defense could have appealed that infraction after the ball was made live. The same goes for other baserunning infractions.

As for your question about when an umpire should call infield fly, typically he should call it around the time the ball reaches its peak. That gives everybody time to react accordingly, and by then the umpire has had enough time to determine that one or more infielders has a legitimate chance to catch the ball in fair territory. In some situations – i.e. on extremely windy days – the umpire may delay his judgement to make sure the batted ball actually meets infield fly criteria.

Commit line? I’ve never heard of that. Would someone explain that as well please?

He’s dead. Rule 9, Section 14. Any baserunner who touches or passes the commitment line and turns back is automatically out.

The smart thing to do is to just casually score and HOPE the defense doesn’t appeal. In my experience, either the defense usually misses that sort of thing, or the ump misses it. But if they saw you leave early you’re screwed.

Missed this, sorry.

A commitment line is an optional rule for slo-pitch. In most leagues a commitment line is drawn 20-21 feet from home plate up the third base line. A runner who crosses the commit line must attempt to score.

Slo-pitch leagues, you see, almost always have ONLY force plays at home, to prevent collisions. In fact in most leagues you don’t even touch the plate to score; you touch behind the scoring line (a line perpendicular to the foul line drawn from the corner of the plate.) The commitment line prevents runners from getting five feet from the plate and then deciding to go back to third because the throw beat them.