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Reds Ervin Called for Intentional Interference while Breaking Up Double Play

The Reds and Pirates were in in the 12th inning of a 2 – 2 game on September 28, 2019, when the Reds Phil Ervin was called for Willful and Deliberate Interference as he attempted to break up a double play. The Reds had runners on 2B (Kyle Farmer) and 1B (Phil Ervin) when Tucker Barnhart hit a groundball to Pirates 2B Adam Frazier. It appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball as Frazier fielded and tossed to SS Kevin Newman who came across the second base bag and attempted to relay to 1B. As Ervin began his slide he raised both of his hands over his head. Newman’s throw deflected off Ervin’s hands and the ball dribbled onto the infield dirt.

 

 

Hunter Wendlestedt called Ervin out and then pointed at him when he saw the willful interference. He then correctly called out Barnhart at 1B and returned Farmer to 2B. The play would most likely have been a natural double play but the interference call cost the Reds a runner at 3B instead of 2B. If Wendlestedt had ruled Ervin’s play as unintentional, Barnhart would have been safe at 1B and Farmer would have moved on to 3B.

 

The rulebook is clear on runner interference. From the MLB Umpire’s Manual:

  1. WILLFUL AND DELIBERATE INTERFERENCE

Rules 6.01(a)(6), 6.01(a)(7), 6.01(a)(5), 5.09(a)(13), 5.09(b)(3), 6.01(j) [former Rules 7.09(f), 7.09(g), 7.09(e), 6.05(m), 7.08(b), 7.14]:

If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a fielder attempting to catch a thrown ball or attempting to throw a ball with the obvious intent to deprive the defense of the opportunity to make a double play, the umpire shall declare the runner out for interference and shall also declare the batter-runner out for the interference of his teammate.

 

NFHS INTERPRETATION

If the above scenario were to take place in a NFHS governed game the results would be the same. NFHS rules 8-4-1h and 8-4-2g state that the runner and batter-runner are out if, “any runner or retired runner interferes (2-21-1, 2-30-3) in a way which obviously hinders an obvious double play.” Unlike MLB rules, the intent of the runner or batter-runner are not relevant when determining if the fielder was obviously hindered in his attempt to make the play. When interference occurs, any runners remaining on base are returned to the base they legally reached at the time of the interference. If the interference does not cause the batter to be out and any other runner cannot return to the base last legally occupied at the time of the interference, then the runner who cannot return is advanced to the next base (NFHS 8-2-9).

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