August 8, 2017

Indians’ Outfielder Austin Jackson’s Amazing Catch (and why it was legal)

Indians’ Outfielder Austin Jackson’s Amazing Catch (and why it was legal)

The Red Sox hosted the Indians Tuesday, August 1, 2017 in a game that was highlighted by one of the most spectacular catches ever made by an outfielder at Fenway Park. A standing ovation for a visiting player is tough to come by in Boston, but that’s what Red sox fans did after witnessing Jackson’s video-game-style feat.

The Indians’ center fielder was tracking a long drive in right center field off the bat of Boston’s Hanley Ramirez and then, at the base of the five-foot fence, leapt high to make the catch and fell feet over head as he flipped into the Red Sox bullpen.

The catch was ruled legal because Jackson caught the ball on live ball territory, then entered dead ball territory due to his momentum. Jackson needed to show voluntary release of the ball. The ball is ruled dead. Had Jackson jumped over the fence into dead ball territory and then caught the ball it would have been ruled no catch. If Jackson was bobbling the ball as he entered dead ball area, the ball is dead and a catch is not possible.

In the updated book, “The Rules of Professional Baseball” by Rick Roder and Chris Jaska, this rule is addressed with NCAA and NFHS interpretations, (NCAA 6-1-d-1) (NFHS 5-1-1i). The OBR rule that applies is 5.06(b)(3)(c).

Rule 5.06(b)(3)(C) Comment (Rule 7.04(c) Comment): If a fielder, after having made a legal catch, should step or fall into any out-of-play area, the ball is dead and each runner shall advance one base, without liability to be put out, from his last legally touched base at the time the fielder entered such out-of-play area.

5.06 (b) Advancing Bases

Watch this amazing catch here:



Rich Marazzi does a great job breaking down this play. Read it here:

Indians’ center fielder Austin Jackson arguably made one of the greatest catches in baseball history, when the Red Sox hosted the Indians on Aug. 1. I’m sure you have seen this spectacular catch by now.

The play occurred in the fifth inning, when Hanley Ramirez drilled a pitch from Indians’ reliever Dan Otero to deep center, where the ball appeared destined for Boston’s bullpen. Jackson sprinted to his left, closed in on the short wall in center and made a leaping catch. After snaring/gloving the ball from the sky, Jackson tumbled over the wall and disappeared from view.

The video replay showed that Jackson never lost control of the ball and Ramirez was ruled out.

Let’s analyze this spectacular play from the perspective of the rule book. When a fielder carries the ball into fair or foul dead ball territory, the umpires are confronted with several decisions based on the Official Baseball Rules.

  1. Did the fielder make a legal catch? In the above play, Jackson made a legal catch because he held the ball long enough to prove he had control of the ball and his body was under control when he came up with the ball.
  2. If Jackson lost the ball when he landed on the ground, it would have been “no catch” and Ramirez would have been credited with a home run. (Prior to the advent of the video replay, it would have been interesting to see how the umpires would have ruled if Jackson had dropped the ball after landing on the ground and then put the ball in his glove. The Red Sox bullpen had the best seat in the house and they would have cried “no catch.” But the umpires would not have had the luxury of such a view.)
  3. When a fielder falls to the ground on live ball territory after gloving the ball and is incapacitated, a teammate should remove the ball from his fallen teammate’s glove as soon as possible to prevent the ball from rolling out of the glove. While the ball is in the glove, the ball is still “in flight.” By removing the ball from the glove, it would legalize the catch.

However, this does not hold true when the ball is in dead ball territory whether fair or foul. In the Jackson play, his body landed in fair/dead ball territory and the ball became dead immediately. Therefore, any teammate assistance would have been illegal because the second fielder would have established an illegal position in DBT when he finally secured the ball for the catch. If you notice on the video, teammate Brandon Guyer appeared ready to offer assistance. If Jackson was incapacitated with ball in glove, and Guyer removed the ball from the glove, this would have prompted the ruling of “no catch” because of Guyer’s illegal position in DBT, plus Jackson would not have been in control of his body if he was incapacitated and the ball was no longer “in flight.”

  1. The fielder has to secure the ball with one or both feet over the playing field before entering DBT. If the fielder is in entirely in mid-air over DBT when he gloves the ball or if he has either foot touching DBT when he gloves the ball, it is no catch
  2. A fielder may climb onto a fence or on a field canvas and catch the ball.
  3. A fielder can jump on top of a railing or fence marking the boundary of the field to make a catch.
  4. Once Jackson landed on the ground the ball was dead and if there was a runner/s on base and less than two outs, the runner/s would be awarded one base from their last legally touched base at the time the fielder entered such out-of-play area. Unless it is a bounding ball, the last legally touched base is the base the runner/s occupied at the time of the pitch. If there was a runner on third base in this situation with less than two outs, the runner would have been awarded home despite the heroics of Jackson. Many years ago, Red Sox catcher Tony Pena made a catch and toppled into the seats. Umpire Jim Evans ruled the play a legal catch but scored the runner, who was on third base at time of the pitch. The run proved to be the winning run. See rule 5.06 (b) (3) (C).
  5. Transfer into the throwing hand is no longer required to legalize a catch. Intentionally opening the glove to make the transfer is now the criterion used to define the completion of a catch under normal circumstances.


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