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Inside Pitch Magazine, Spring 2014
Ground Rules: Need Help on a Baseball Rule? Ask the Crew Chief!
You Won't Get Ejected!
By Scott Patrick
1. What is the difference between obstruction and interference?
Typically, "interference" is an act that is committed by the offense that may prevent defensive players from making a play, and "obstruction" is committed by the defense, occurring when a defender gets in the way of a base runner or batter. Obstruction can occur whether or not there is a play being made on a base runner, and usually results in the umpire giving a runner an extra base (if no play is made on the runner) or just calling the runner safe (if his path to the base was obstructed).
There are several different types of interference, the most common being when a base runner prevents a defender from making a play on a batted ball. Other types of interference can involve a batter, umpires, players in the dugout and even fans! Believe it or not, some levels of baseball even have "verbal interference" rules, which can occur when opposing teams (or fans) yell "I got it" on a pop fly, thus hindering the defense from making a play.
2. Isn't it true that you have to slide into second base on a double play ball?
Actually, there is no rule that a base runner has to slide into second. However when they do, there are several guidelines they must follow. In most levels of amateur baseball, base runners are required to slide into second "in a straight line" between first and base, unless it is determined that their slide is in deliberate attempt to avoid contact with a defender. "Pop up" slides are legal, but going in towards a defender in any other direction or rolling through a slide is interference. It is also interference if a runner rolls through the slide in an attempt to disrupt a throw to first. It is up to the umpire to judge intent when a runner slides past second base.
3. Are base runners ever allowed to pass each other during a play?
Base runners are never permitted to pass each other during a play. By rule, any runner that passes a preceding runner is ruled out. For instance, if there is a runner on first (runner A) and a fly ball is hit in the infield, that runner will typically retreat to first. If the batter runner (runner B) passes the runner on first, runner B will be declared out even if the ball is dropped and runner A makes it to second base safely.
This rule even applies to home runs: if a player hits a home run and passes anyone else that happens to be on base, then they are declared out (and given credit for a single, for you official scorers out there). An interesting twist to this rule is that when there are two outs and a batter hits a home run and passes a teammate on the base paths. Here, umpires have to determine whether any other runners crossed home plate before the base running violation occurred.
While runners are not allowed to pass each other, they can make contact with each other- holding, tackling, and even carrying teammates is permitted, just as long as a trailing runner does not pass anyone ahead of them!
Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.