As the rules state, a player’s time as the batter begins when he steps into the batter’s box. There are two batter’s boxes – one on either side of home plate to accommodate right- or left-handed players. Each is one 4’x 6’ and is typically marked by chalk lines.
To be in a legal batting stance, a batter must have his feet within the batter’s box during his at-bat. It’s important to note that the box’s border lines are also technically part of the batter’s box itself. This means that players can legally have their foot on the line (as opposed to within the lines) while batting. As long as any part of the batter’s foot is in contact with the line, he is considered legally within the batter’s box.
A batter can only occupy one batter’s box at a time, and may not leave the box after a pitcher comes set to start his delivery. A batter (for instance a switch hitter) may, however, switch batter’s boxes between pitches in the same at-bat, as long as he does not do so while the pitcher is in contact with the rubber.
Remaining in The Batter’s Box
Once a pitcher has engaged the rubber, a batter can only leave the box if he asks the umpire for time and his request is granted. The consequences for leaving the batter’s box without time granted vary by league rules, but it is important to note that only the umpire can grant time and the act of merely requesting it is not sufficient on its own.
Beyond the requirements while the pitcher is getting set to deliver, a batter must also be legally in the batter’s box if and when he makes contact with the ball. If a batter steps out of the batter’s box while getting set to take his swing and makes contact with the ball, this becomes an “illegally batted ball” and the batter is out. If, however, he swings and misses while out of the box, he will not be penalized beyond the strike. The mere act of swinging while out of the box isn’t illegal, but making contact is.
As mentioned above, a batter must request “time” from the umpire to step out of the batter’s box. An umpire will grant time (or not) based on whether the pitcher is already driving toward the plate in delivering the pitch. While the pitcher is taking signs and confirming his pitch selection with the catcher, time is typically granted to the batter when requested. Once the pitcher commits with full effort toward the plate, though, it is too late and the batter will not be granted time from that point forward.
If the batter steps out without a granted time out, the pitcher is allowed to throw a pitch and the umpire will call it – strike or ball – accordingly. If the pitcher throws a pitch while time is granted to the batter, the pitch will not count since the ball was ruled dead.
Should a batter refuse to enter the batter’s box altogether, the umpire will rule the ball dead and call a strike on the first refusal. The batter will be allowed to continue his at-bat, but if he refuses to enter the box again for any reason, he will be called out. [5.12]
The batter’s box also has other implications for a few specific situations:
- If a batter bats a ball straight down into the dirt or attempts a bunt while in the box and the ball immediately bounces up and hits the batter or his bat, this becomes a foul ball.If, however, the hit or bunt attempt takes him out of the box and the ball still bounces up and hits him or his bat over fair territory outside the box, this becomes an out for interference.
- If a batter tries to reflexively dodge a hit-by-pitch, exits the box and is still hit by the pitch, the batter will be awarded first-base per usual.
- If a batter steps out of the box (without being granted time) and causes the pitcher to balk by interrupting his delivery, the pitcher will not be penalized for balking. Time is called in this situation and there is neither a pitch nor a balk.