When a batter hinders a catcher making a play, it is basic batter interference. It usually happens that a batter swings at a pitch, misses and then falls into the space of the catcher who is attempting to throw out a runner. The batter is out and the runner(s) are returned to their previous base. When batter Interference occurs on strike three, both the batter and runner are called out.
But here are some of the details you should know:
- Contact is not necessary
- Umpire should attempt to judge intention
- Catcher must attempt to throw
- If catcher retires runner, interference is nullified
- In strike three situation, batter and runner are out
- Interference can be called, even if the batter remains in the batter’s box
Ted Barrett explains the rule in this Baseball Rules Academy Video:
It happened recently in MLB, Braves vs Rockies, August 26, 2017
The Braves hosted the Rockies on Aug. 26. In the top of the eighth inning, the Rockies had Trevor Story on first base and no outs when Jonathan Lucroy struck out swinging on a Daniel Winkler pitch. In doing so, his momentum carried him into the path of Braves’ catcher Tyler Flowers while he was in the act of throwing down to second base. Plate umpire, Sean Barber ruled interference on Lucroy and also called Story out because it was strike three. (Rich Marazzi)
Batter Interference Coaching Tips: (Rich Marazzi)
When ruling on batter interference, the plate umpire must distinguish if the catcher’s throw was to prevent a stolen base or to pick-off a runner on a base. He must consider the following:
Throw to Prevent a Stolen Base
- Any movement that hinders the catcher’s play can constitute batter interference. This is true even if the batter remains in the batter’s box. The batter can leave the batter’s box and it is only a violation if he interferes. Conversely, the batter can lean over the plate and interfere while remaining in the batter’s box.
- The catcher must have a clear throwing lane.
- There does not have to be contact for the call to be made. Because contact helps sell the call, it’s common for catchers to initiate contact with the batter.
- The catcher must attempt to throw the ball. The throw does not have to be made but the umpire must be convinced that there was an attempt to throw the ball.
- If a runner is attempting to steal third base with a right-handed batter at bat, the batter does not have to vacate the box to open a throwing lane but he cannot make any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play.
- If there is a wild pitch or passed ball and a runner on third is attempting to reach the plate with the pitcher covering, the batter must vacate the box or is subject to be called out for interference.
- There can be times when there is interference but not illegal interference. (e.g. a pitch in the dirt requires the catcher to field the ball behind the batter thus causing the throwing lane to be blocked by the batter.)
- If the catcher retires the runner who is attempting to steal, batter interference is nullified, if it should occur. The runner is out and the batter remains at bat.
- If the batter interferes with the catcher on “strike three” and the catcher attempts to throw out a runner, both the batter and the runner are called out.
Throw to Pick-Off a Runner
- With a left-handed batter at bat and a runner on first base, the batter does not have to give the catcher a throwing lane on a pick-off throw.
- With a right-handed batter at bat and a runner on third base, the batter does not have to give the catcher a throwing lane on a pickoff throw.
- In both cases the batter cannot make any movement that hinders the catcher’s play.
What about NFHS?
Here are two interesting case studies about Batter Interference from the nfhs.org website:
SITUATION 19: With runners on first and third with one out, the batter takes a called third strike. Both runners were off on the pitch for a delayed double steal. The batter strides across home plate to return to his dugout as the catcher throws to second base. The batter contacts the catcher, batter’s interference is called by the plate umpire, but the catcher’s throw is still in time to record the out on the runner advancing from first base. The runner from third base scores before the out at second base. The defensive coach tells the plate umpire that he does not want the result of the play; he wants the penalty for the batter’s interference. RULING: The run will count. This is a time play and the run scored prior to the third out being made. Once the out was made on the runner at second, the batter interference is ignored. The defensive coach has no option available. (7-3-5 Penalty, 9-1-1)
SITUATION 20: Runners on first and third. The catcher attempts to pick off the runner at third base, who was not advancing to third base but was simply off the base. The batter leans over and interferes with the catcher attempting to throw to third. The catcher stops his throw to third and instead throws to second base to retire the runner from first base advancing on a delayed steal. During this play, the runner from third comes home to score. RULING: The plate umpire should have declared the ball dead when the catcher did not make the first play. The batter would be declared out and the runner returned to first base. The ball remains a delayed dead ball on the first play by the catcher. If an out does not occur, the ball shall become immediately dead. (5-2a.1., 7-3-5 Penalty)