At the core of offensive interference is the concept of the protected fielder. A fielder is protected from the moment a ball is put into play and continues until the fielder has made the play, muffed the play, or throw after fielding the ball.
Giving the Fielder the Right of Way
Most baserunners know that while a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball, the runner must avoid interfering with him. This rule includes more than direct contact between runner and fielder. The rule includes the words “hinders or confuses.” For instance, if a player in the infield is tracking a pop up and a runner yells “I got it” as he passes the fielder, this is interference even without contact between the two players.
This runner makes contact with a fielder who is making a play on a ground ball. The call is Interference.
Controversial “Right of Way”
It is important the know the “right of way” rules to avoid interference or obstruction. This Insider Report breaks it down and details a controversial “right of way” play that occurred when the Dodgers hosted the Padres, July 8, 2016. Watch the play, read the report, and you be the umpire.
The Rules Protect Only One Fielder
Many times after a ball is hit, multiple fielders are moving towards the ball to make a play. The fielder who is best able to make the play becomes the protected fielder. This is a judgement call for the umpire.
This play most often happens between home and 1B. A ball is batted slowly near the 1B line and both the pitcher and first baseman converge to make the play. Meanwhile the runner is moving up the line. The runner must give way to the fielder who is best able to make the play (protected fielder) and avoid interfering with him. If the runner runs into, hinders, etc. this fielder who is protected, he will be charged with offensive interference. If he continues to run to 1B and runs into the other player (non-protected) he could be the victim of obstruction.
KNOW THIS: The other fielder (non-protected) must be sure to get out of the way of the runner or he could be called for obstruction.
Protected fielder? Obstruction? Interference? Runner makes contact with the pitcher who was not the protected fielder.
Runners often ignore the position of the fielders and simply take the shortest route to a base. This strategy often backfires and some examples are featured in this Insider Report dedicated to runner interference.