The Infield Fly Rule is designed to keep a defense from intentionally dropping a ball they should have caught – simply to induce a double or triple play. It is one of the most misunderstood rules in the game.
The Infield Fly Rule can be called when three conditions are met:
- There are fewer than two outs.
- There is a force play at third base. This means that at least first and second must be occupied, or the bases loaded.
- A batter hits a high, fair, fly ball that an infielder should catch with “ordinary effort.”
Umpire Tip: An outfielder is permitted to catch an Infield Fly provided that it can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.
An Infield Fly may be caught by an outfielder
Umpire Tip: An umpire should wait until the fly ball is at its highest point before he signals and call “Infield Fly.”
Umpires should wait until the fly ball reaches its highest point before calling Infield Fly
Umpire Tip: If the fly ball is near the fair/foul line, the umpire should call “Infield fly if fair.”
An Infield Fly must be a fair ball
Coaching Tip: Runners should be coached to return to their base when an Infield Fly is called.
Runners should return to their base when an Infield Fly is called
When the Infield Fly is called, the umpire will call the batter out – even before the catch is completed. The ball remains live assuming there was no additional interference on a fielder during the play. As with many rules, the Infield Fly is based on the umpire’s judgment.
KNOW THIS: If a runner interferes with a fielder during an infield fly, both the runner and the batter will be called out.
Infield Fly Rule Facts
- An Infield Fly cannot be a bunt
- An Infield Fly cannot be a line drive
- An Infield Fly cannot be a foul ball
- A runner may attempt to advance on an Infield Fly
- The ball remains alive during and after an Infield Fly
- An Infield Fly may be caught by an outfielder
As mentioned above, the rule is in place to keep the defense from acting in an unsportsmanlike manner. Without the rule, a fielder could intentionally drop an easy fly ball (with runners on at least first and second) to force the runners to advance at the last minute (see The Runner – Tagging Up). The fielder could then quickly pick the ball up to induce a “cheap” double or triple play.
Though the rule stipulates that an in-fielder could ordinarily make the play, it doesn’t require that an infielder actually attempts to catch the ball. The only real requirement is that an in-fielder in the vicinity could have reasonably made the play in fair territory. If the trajectory of the fly ball takes it close to foul territory, the umpire may call, “Infield Fly, if Fair.” It’s only an infield fly if the ball is fair.