June 4, 2023

Runner’s Lane Interference 5.09 (a) (11)

The impact of larger bases on runners lane interference

Runner’s Lane Interference 5.09 (a) (11)

The Rangers and Tigers played at Comerica Park on May 29, 2023.  In the top of the fifth inning the Rangers had Robbie Grossman on first base and one out when Bubba Thompson laid down a bunt that was fielded by Tigers’ pitcher Matthew Boyd who threw to first base. The throw hit Thompson and plate umpire Charlie Ramos called batter-runner interference on Thompson for running out of the 45-foot long, 3-foot wide, Runner’s Lane. Grossman was returned to first base.

Ruleball Comments

  1. In my opinion it was the right call. I froze this video step-by-step. When Thompson got to within 10-12 feet of first base, he was running with his left foot on the fair side out of the lane. His right foot was on the inside line of the Runner’s Lane.
  2. Unless both feet are in the Runner’s Lane (the vertical lines are part of the lane), the batter-runner is subject to being called out if the defensive team does not complete the play and the umpire rules that the batter-runner interfered with the fielder taking the throw-normally the first baseman.
  3. There must be a throw and it must be a quality throw that would be caught if there was no batter-runner in the play.
  4. Regarding the throw and the position of the batter-runner, if the umpire judges that the batter-runner’s position did not interfere with the first baseman taking the throw, interference should not be called. This is umpire’s judgment.
  5. Because umpire judgment plays a major role in the rule, it is very subjective, and it is not reviewable. Interference and obstruction calls are not reviewable.
  6. In my opinion, if the umpire calls the batter-runner out for running out of the lane and the manager of the offensive team argues that the runner was in the lane, this is an area that might be considered reviewable in the future because the Runner’s Lane is outlined on the field and is not an imaginary line. However, in almost all cases, the batter-runner is clearly out of the lane when the violation is called and there would be very few challenges.
  7. The Batter-Runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.” He is given this protection if he runs the last 45-feet in the lane.
  8. The rule does not require the batter-runner to run in the lane. But if the batter-runner is running out of the lane with either foot the last 45-feet, and in the judgment of the umpire, interferes with the fielder taking the throw, he should be called out for batter-runner interference. The ball is dead, and no runners can advance on the play. Normally the plate umpire makes the call.
  9. If the batter-runner is running out of the lane and the defensive team completes the play, no interference can be called. Because there is no violation when the defensive team completes the play, it creates the perception that there is no risk when running out of the lane. This is what creates confusion among players and coaches about the rule.
  10. Although I do not have data to support my thinking, it appears that there has been a decrease in Runner’s Lane interference calls this season probably because of the larger bases. The fielder receiving the throw at first base is a few inches more away from the batter-runner.
  11. I have recommended that right-handed first basemen receive the throw from the stretch position in close plays rather than be square to the base as was Andy Ibáñez, the Tigers’ first baseman which is the traditional way. Notice in this play how he was almost injured. The alternative for right- handed first basemen would be to step out, catch, and then step on the base. If first basemen used either of those positions when receiving the throw, the throw would get there faster (especially in the stretch) and it would be safer for the first baseman.

Rich Marazzi

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

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