June 8, 2022

Touch ‘Em All

Runners missing bases in professional baseball

Touch ‘Em All

Play No. 1

A base runner is required to touch every base in order and to retouch any missed base. There are various layers involved in the rules when either of those conditions arise.

The Pirates and Cubs played at Wrigley on May 17th.

In the bottom of the eighth, Cubs’ prospect Christopher Morel homered in his first major league at bat. He was so excited that he missed touching first base. But after taking a couple of steps toward second, he returned and touched the base.

Ruleball Comment

  1. When a batter registers a big hit, his emotion and excitement can be very high. This can distract him to the task at hand which is to touch all the bases.
  2. It is common for the batter-runner to track the ball and take his eyes off the base. And sometimes a base coach will do this as well while ignoring the underbelly of the play which is the touch of the base.
  3. Coaches and on-deck hitters should be vigilant to watch for such violations as well as infielders for the purpose of making an appeal.
  4. Morel could have been called out on appeal at first base if he had circled the bases without touching first base.
  5. Because the home run ball went into dead ball territory, if Morel touched second base after the ball went into DBT, he would be prohibited from returning to touch first base, his missed base.
  6. Although he would be prohibited from returning to touch first base, the umpires cannot stop him. The onus is on the defense to know the rule that the appeal can still be made if the runner returns to touch a missed base once he has gone “one base beyond” his missed base after the ball is in DBT.
  7. The Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a home run in a game against the Dodgers on June 8, 2021. In his excitement he failed to touch first base and was called out on appeal.
  1. The following day, Bobby Witt Jr., playing for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals against the Frisco RoughRiders, hit a 442-foot home run but was only credited with a triple because he was called out on appeal for missing home plate. Once Witt entered the dugout, he lost his right to go back and touch the plate.

Play No. 2

The Dodgers and Pirates played at PNC on May 11th

The Dodgers appealed that Bryan Reynolds did not make a proper retouch of second base on a fly ball to the outfield hit by Ke’Bryan Hayes in the bottom of the first inning with one out.  The Dodgers appealed on the field that Reynolds did not make a proper retouch of the base. The umpires had a proper retouch, so the Dodgers challenged the no call. The Replay Official confirmed the call on the field that Reynolds had properly retouched second base.

Ruleball Comments

Runner Retouch”   5.09 (c) (2)

  1. In my opinion it was not clear if Reynolds made a proper retouch of the base, so I would have to stay with the call on the field as did the Replay Official.
  2. A runner must retouch a base if he passes the base and attempts to return to his original base.
  3. The Major League Baseball Umpire Manual states, “A runner is considered to have passed a base if he has both feet on the ground beyond the back edge of the base or beyond the edge of the base in the direction in which he is advancing.” The MLBUM is correct but incomplete.
  4. Example” Let’s say a runner is going from first to third. When the runner reaches second base, his pivot or anchor foot is on the base while he has touched the ground beyond second base with his left foot. If the runner maintains contact with the base with his pivot foot while he crosses over with his left foot on his return to first, he has made a proper retouch. If the runner lifts his pivot foot off the base as he attempts to return to first base, he must retouch the base with either foot to make a proper retouch.
  5. If the runner lifts his pivot foot and does not retouch the base with either foot before returning to first base, he has not made a legal retouch and can be retired on appeal.
  6. As written, the rule in the MLBUM is more liberal than the way the rule is umpired.
  7. It would be better written as follows: “A runner can be adjudged to have passed a base (i.e. second base) when one or both feet are beyond the base on the shortstop side. If the runner has only one foot on the shortstop side of the base and has broken contact with the base with his other foot, he must touch the base with either foot before returning to first base. “

Anatomy of Reynolds’ Retouch

  1. In the above play, Reynolds’ right foot is his anchor or pivot foot. His left foot is planted on the shortstop side of second base. When he began his return to first base, he moved his right foot to the front of the base. For a brief time, he had neither foot on the base, and had not retouched. He then crossed over the base with his left foot, and it appeared his right foot was touching the “front of the base”  It then “appears” that he scraped his right foot against the base before returning to first base. At that point he had made a legal retouch.
  2. When a runner takes one step beyond a base and attempts to return, his sight line is affected by his proximity to the base. Because of his lack of concentration orin some cases, a lack of understanding of the proper retouch of a base, he fails to make a proper retouch and is called out on appeal.
  3. Middle infielders should be properly schooled in the rule since they become umpires in such plays for the purpose of making an appeal, if necessary.

One for the Books

I thought I would add this play that occurred on Wednesday night in a High A minor league game. It might be the strangest home run I ever saw. Bowling Green’s Diego Infante hit a shot that cleared the outfield wall and hit a camera stand beyond the wall. The ball then caromed into Cyclones’ outfielder Jaylen Palmer’s glove. Once the ball cleared the wall and struck the camera stand it was no longer “in flight” and catchable.  Infante was credited with a strange two-run homer.


Rich Marazzi

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

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