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Something You Probably Don’t Know: The Difference Between a Foul Tip and Foul Ball

Most baseball fans incorrectly use the terms foul ball and foul tip interchangeably. For those who make this mistake, it might simply be a case of careless use of words… or it could be something more serious: a fuzzy understanding of basic baseball rules.

So what is the main difference between a foul tip and a foul ball? It’s in the catcher’s hands.

A foul tip is a pitch that is nicked by the hitter’s bat, goes directly into the catcher’s hand or glove and is caught before touching the batter, the umpire or the ground. Anything else is a foul ball.

Here is what the rulebook says:

Foul Tip

  • Batted ball that goes sharply and directly to the catcher’s hand or glove.
  • Equivalent to a ball in which the batter swings and misses
  • Ball remains live and baserunners may advance at their own risk
  • After two strikes, it is considered strike three
  • Only the catcher may catch a foul tip
  • Ball may not touch the ground
  • Ball may not be stuck or lodged in catcher’s clothing or paraphernalia
  • Ball may not touch or rebound off the umpire

Note to umpires:

Umpires should indicate foul tips by signaling foul tip followed by a strike mechanic, particularly on check-swing foul tips and foul tips that are caught close to the ground.

Quiz #1

What happens when the batter nicks a pitch (less than two strikes) and the deflected ball touches the catcher’s glove then ricochets into the air and the catcher catches the ball before it touches the ground

a. Batter is out
b. Foul ball, ball is dead
c. Foul tip, live ball, at bat continues

Answer: c., Foul tip. The ball first touched the catcher’s glove. If the ball then ricochets and the catcher is able to catch the ball before it touches the ground it is a foul tip.

Quiz #2

With two strikes on the batter, the batter nicks a pitch which bounces first off the catcher’s mask and then into his mitt. The ball never touches the ground. This a legal catch for “strike three.”

a. True
b. False

Answer: b., False. Since the deflected ball did not touch the catcher’s hand or glove first, it is a foul ball.

Quiz #3

If a foul tip first strikes the catcher’s glove and the ball is then trapped by the catcher against his chest protector, it is a foul ball.

a. True
b. False

Answer: b., False. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher’s glove or hand first.

For a thorough understanding of the foul tip rule, watch these excellent videos featuring Chris Welsh and Ted Barrett.

 

Umpire Interpretation 68: Foul Tips

Official Rule 5.09(a)

Rule 5.09(a)(2) Comment (Rule 6.05(b) Comment): “Legally caught” means in the catcher’s glove before the ball touches the ground. It is not legal if the ball lodges in his clothing or paraphernalia; or if it touches the umpire and is caught by the catcher on the rebound.

If a foul tip first strikes the catcher’s glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher’s glove or hand first.

Official Baseball Rule 6.05 (a)(b) and Comment

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