When an outfielder makes a throw that goes into dead ball territory (DBT) such as the dugout or the stands, all runners are awarded two bases from the last base they touched at the moment the ball is released by the outfielder. Infield overthrows into DBT have a separate rule which I will cover in the next report.
Rule 5.06 (4) (G) came alive in the May 22 KBO League game between the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears when an awarding of bases situation occurred in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Bears had runners on first and second and two outs when the batter singled to right field. The outfielder’s throw to the plate in an attempt to retire the runner, who was on second, ended up in the third base dugout after an unsuccessful attempt by the catcher to field the throw. The runner, who was on first, ended up on third and the batter-runner pulled up at second base.
Did the umpires owe the Bears another run? Did they owe the Bears another base?
The umpires huddled and correctly made the proper base awards. The runner, who was originally on first base and ended up at third, was allowed to score because he had second base made when the right fielder released the ball. The batter-runner, who reached second base, was given third base because at the time the ball left the fielder’s hand, he was between first and second base. For the purpose of the rule, the last base he touched at the time of the throw was first base. So, his award his third base. ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez properly explained the placement of the runners.
There is a common misconception that the two base award is made from where the runners are when the ball enters dead ball territory. Umpires must freeze the action in their minds and locate the runners the moment the ball leaves the outfielder’s hand. The plate umpire normally has the best view because he is in a position to see the location of the runners at the time of the throw and the outfielder’s release.
Trapped Ball Confuses Runner
Let’s say in the above play, the batter hits a line drive that the right fielder traps and it is difficult for the runners to determine whether or not the ball was caught or trapped. The runner, who was originally on first base, had reached second but attempts to return to first base thinking the outfielder made the catch. As soon as the runner did that and was between first and second, his status for his last legally touched base switched to first base. Therefore, if the right fielder fired the ball into DBT, the runner’s two base award would be from first base and he would be sent to third.
So, you might ask, at what base would you place the batter-runner who reached first base before the throw? Normally he would be sent to third base but because you cannot place two runners on the same base, the batter-runner can only be awarded second base on the play.
Force is Re-instated
Another point to consider. Once the runner, who was originally on first base retraced his steps after reaching second base and was between first and second at the time the ball left the outfielder’s hand, the force is now reinstated at second base. If the outfielder’s throw went to second base, a tag would not be required to put the runner out.
Ball Goes into Dead Ball Territory Off Deflection
In the above play, the catcher never touched the ball before it went into the dugout. If he did deflect the ball into the dugout, the base award would still be made from the location of the runners when the ball was released by the outfielder. The deflection does not change the base award unless it is intentional. If a fielder intentionally deflects a ball into dead ball territory, umpires are empowered to place the runners from the last base they touched at the moment the ball was deflected or kicked.
To view a play from an outfielder’s throw that is deflected into dead ball territory go to:
- When initiating the two-base award on thrown balls from the outfield that go into dead ball territory, the plate umpire is trained to freeze the action the moment the ball comes out of the outfielder’s hand. The umpire must locate the runners and be aware of the last base they legally touched.
- Does your team have someone in the dugout, or possibly one of the base coaches, to play the role of the plate umpire every time an outfielder releases the ball on a throw to a base? Although a small percentage of throws end up in DBT, you should be prepared to argue your case if you are not satisfied with the umpire’s base award and request a challenge.
- Broadcasters are usually in a perfect position behind home plate to see the location of the runner/s at the moment the ball leaves the outfielder’s hand. In my opinion, this is an area that announcers can work on every time a ball is released by an outfielder when throwing to a base. Proper visual skills in calling such plays will be of great value when an overthrow into DBT occurs. The prepared announcer can provide valuable information to his viewers and can trump the replay review.
- Following the placement of runners in the Dinos-Bears game, the umpire-in-chief (I assume that’s who it was), grabbed a microphone and explained the two base award rule being enforced. Although most of the park was empty (there were cheerleaders there on top of the first base dugout) because of the current pandemic rules, this is a practice that needs to be emulated on all levels of play in the United States where there is a PA
Rules consultant: Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, D’backs, Dodgers, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Reds, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, the FOX Regional Sports Networks, ESPN, YES, and White Sox TV