September 15, 2022

Legal Catch Controversies from 2022 MLB Season

The Yankees-Twins series from early September 2022 proved to be a clinic in the catch rule

Legal Catch Controversies from 2022 MLB Season

The official definition of the “Catch” rule that is referenced in this report:

A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught

Secure Possession

The Twins and Yanks played at Yankee Stadium on September 8, 2022.

In the top of the eighth, Jake Cave was batting with one out when he hit a chopper to Marwin Gonzalez. The Yankees’ first baseman flipped the ball to pitcher Wandy Peralta who was covering first base. First base umpire Alex Tosi called Cave “safe.”  The replay showed that Peralta beat Cave to the bag. But there was another reason why Cave was ruled safe that is explained below.

The Yankees challenged the safe call, and it was confirmed by the Replay Official.

Ruleball Comment

  1. A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. Peralta did not have secure possession of the ball and it was not firmly held.
  2. To make a legal catch, the ball has to be controlled in the fielder’s hand or glove. If the ball is pressed against the fielder’s body, or possibly stuck in his armpit, it is no catch.
  3. It should be noted that if a fielder makes a catch and and crashes into a wall or drops the ball after falling to the ground, it is no catch.
  4. The Legal Catch Replay Rule: Attention Managers, Video Coordinators, and Broadcasters.


Regarding the bang-bang play at first base, or any force play, for the purpose of Replay, it is a legal catch when the ball touches the glove as long as the fielder has secure possession.

The Transfer

The Twins and Yankees were in the 11th inning of the first game of a double header on September 7, 2022 when the Twins challenged a “catch” call. The Twins had a runner on second and one out when Gio Urshela hit a fly ball to right field. Oswaldo Cabreara came in on the ball and made a sliding catch but subsequently dropped the ball in the midst of what would normally be referred to as his transfer. He was credited with the catch and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli challenged the call. The Replay Official confirmed the call on the field. After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the fielder demonstrated firm and secure possession and complete control of the ball.

Ruleball Comments

  1. There was a time when a fielder had to reach into his glove with his throwing hand. That was the act of the “transfer.” In recent years, however, the rule has been relaxed. A fielder can legalize a catch if he basically has control of the ball before opening the glove. Notice the answer of the Replay Official is that the fielder “demonstrated firm and secure possession and complete control of the ball.” There is no mention of a transfer.  
  2. Within the definition of the rule it reads, “the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. In my opinion, the words “voluntary and intentional” as it relates to the release of the ball, no longer have any merit and should be deleted from the definition of a catch.
  3. With that said, I find it contradictory that a fielder can lose credit for a catch if after controlling the ball and having secure possession, he runs into a wall, or falls to the ground after demonstrating control and loses possession of the ball. Perhaps MLB should examine that aspect of the Catch rule.
  4. In the past, if a fielder with possession of the ball had secure possession and control of the ball but was incapacitated after colliding with a teammate or a wall, the transfer requirement was met if a teammate removed the ball from the injured player’s glove. But under current guidelines, I would assume an incapacitated player could have control of the ball and legalize a catch. But to play it safe, I would recommend that a teammate remove the ball from the glove before the ball might become dislodged from the glove.

Liberal Interpretation of a Catch

The Brewers and Cubs played at Wrigley on August 20, 2022.

In the bottom of the tenth, the Cubs had Ian Happ on third base and one out when Franmil Reyes hit a fly ball to Brewers’ left fielder Christian Yelich. In the process of making the transfer Yelich dropped the ball. But the play was ruled a catch. The Cubs tied the score 4-4 and won 6-5 with two runs in the eleventh.

Ruleball Comment

    1. This was another example how the transfer rule has been relaxed and perhaps we should make the term “transfer” extinct.  
    2. BTW it’s possible that Happ left third base too early, but it was not appealed.
    3. Happ was able to exit the base the moment the ball made contact with Yelich’s glove.

Legal Catch off a Foul Tip

Prior to the 2020 season, for a catcher to make a legal catch off a foul tip, the ball must have first touched the catcher’s glove or hand. As of the 2020 season, a foul tip can be legally caught even it initially rebounds off the catcher’s body or equipment.

Rule 5.09(a)(2) Comment reads, “…If a foul tip first strikes any part of the catcher’s body or paraphernalia and is caught by hand or glove against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out.”

On September 12, 2022,  the rule came alive in Miami in the Rangers-Marlins second game of a doubleheader.  In the bottom of the seventh, JJ Bleday led off the inning facing Jesus Tinoco.

Batting with a 2-2 count he hit a foul tip that deflected off the facemask of Rangers’ catcher Jonah Heim, who proceeded to catch the ball before it hit the ground. Plate ump Mike Muchlinski made the out call.

Catch and Carry into Dugout 

When a player makes a catch and carries the ball into the dugout, it creates another dimension of the catch rule.                                

Dugout Rule:  5.09 (a) (1) Comment

No fielder may step into or go into a dugout to make a catch of a batted ball. In order to make a legal catch, the fielder must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface. This includes the lip of the dugout. The lip is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the top step, but it is actually considered to be on the field outside the dugout.

If a fielder has one foot on the lip (top step) of the dugout and one foot on one of the steps below the lip, he cannot make a legal catch. The steps below the lip are in dead ball territory. If one foot is on the lip and the other is in the air, a fielder can make a legal catch.  If a fielder catches the ball in live ball territory and carries it or falls into the dugout, this creates a dead ball. No play can be made from the dugout and any runner on base is awarded one base per rule 5.06 (b) (3) (C) Comment.

The Twins hosted the Guardians on September 9, 2022. Max Kepler led off the bottom of the eighth and hit a foul pop fly in the area of the first base dugout. Guardians’ catcher Austin Hedges tracked the ball and appeared to snare in at the top step (or lip) of the dugout. Plate umpire Ted Barrett followed Hedges and made the out call. Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli challenged the play with the thinking that Hedges was out of play when he made the catch.

Ruleball Comments

  1. The Replay Official could not definitively determine if Hedges, by rule, stepped into the dugout. The call on the field remained.
  2. This play was very difficult to see if Hedges had one foot on the lip of the dugout and one foot in the air because the umpire was blocking the view of the camera. But apparently that’s what Barrett saw and ruled a legal catch.
  3. If Barrett had judged that Hedges had one foot on the lip and the foot on one of the steps, it would be no catch.


Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago. 

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