The infield fly rule is not often invoked during a game. The intentional drop call is even more rare. There are many considerations for both of these, and they can become controversial when they are called.
The infield fly rule is in effect only when there are fewer than two outs with either runners on 1b and 2b, or bases loaded. The intent of this rule is to disallow the defense to get multiple outs by forcing out the runners on base, who were pinned near their bases while the ball was in the air.
By rule, an infield fly:
• Cannot be called on a line drive or attempted bunt
• Can be called on a high fly that is hit into the outfield but near enough to the infield to satisfy the intent of this rule.
• Can be called whether it is an infielder or outfielder who eventually makes the catch.
For this rule to be called a fielder must be able to catch the fly ball with ordinary effort. What is ordinary effort? The CCA Manual gives us some guidelines for this – when an infielder (or outfielder as appropriate) can nearly settle under the ball while facing home plate; if an infielder could have caught the ball with normal effort and an outfielder calls her off and takes the catch, it is still an infield fly.
Other important parts of the infield fly rule:
• • Any defensive player who positions herself in the infield at the start of the pitch shall be considered an infielder
• If a declared infield fly becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as a foul ball
• If the ball falls untouched to the ground in foul territory and rolls into fair territory before passing first or third base, it is an infield fly
• If interference occurs during the flight of a potential infield fly, the ball is immediately dead and the umpire shall judge if the ball is in fair or foul territory – if fair the batter is out and if foul, infield fly does not apply and the batter is returned to the batter’s box and a foul ball is assessed to her count if less than two outs. In any case, the violator is out and runners are returned to the bases occupied at the time of the pitch
• Failure of players and coaches to hear the call shall not void the call
• If the infield fly call is not made by any umpire it is not an infield fly (see the Case Book)
Most of the time the infield fly rule is invoked, it is a relatively easy call. The pop-up is usually high enough for a fielder to settle under it and the ball will be caught by fielders at the college level. The runners will stay near their bases and no other play develops. The umpire(s) declare the batter-runner out, and since the ball is caught there is no argument or discussion. But chaos may reign if the ball is dropped by the fielder or drops to the ground untouched. Umpires must be aware that the batter-runner is declared out as soon as the call is made.
Once an infield fly is called, it cannot be changed unless the rule was applied incorrectly (two outs, or other runner configurations). This should not happen on a college field with college umpires. If it does, the umpires must invoke the rule which allows umpires to rectify any situation in which the reversal of a call places the offense or defense at a disadvantage. If the ball is caught, most likely there are no consequences. If the ball is not caught, the batter runner will probably have reached first base and should remain there. If any other runners are affected they should be placed on the base they would have reached safely or, more likely, declared out if the incorrect ruling did not affect an out on the runner – she would have been out regardless of the incorrect ruling.
We will quickly cover the mechanics for calling an infield fly, as they are straight-forward enough to not require a separate article in the Mechanics Corner. The umpires should use the umpire-to-umpire signal when the situation dictates and should repeat the signal for each batter who comes up. This call should not be made until the ball has reached its highest point. The judgment should be made when the situation satisfies the intent of the rule – if the fielder could let the ball drop and be able to get multiple outs on the play, call it.
The proper signal for the calling and verbalizing the infield fly is:
• Fully extend the right arm above the head with a point of the index finger and verbalize ”Infield fly. The batter is out.”
• The verbal MUST be loud enough for the infielders, runners and base coaches to hear it, but not so loud that it freezes anybody. It is not a “yell” but must be heard so as to avoid confusion.
• If the ball is near the foul line, the umpire shall declare “Infield fly, the batter is out if fair.”
• After completion of the catch or a ruling of a fair ball, verbalize “The batter is out,” and signal an out.
These mechanics are not at this time approved, but we have contacted the SUP with a recommendation that the mechanics be changed in the CCA Manual for two items – the umpire-to-umpire signal and the responsibility for the initial call of an infield fly..
The CCA Manual states that for the umpire-to-umpire infield fly signal, the outs should not be indicated as part of the signal. The infield fly is invoked only after a few runners are on base, which means the inning is a bit longer than normal. By including the number of outs in this signal we are using a good communication technique to keep all umpires focused. We have recommended that with no outs we use the current signal (palm open on the left chest); with one out we use a partial fist with the index finger extended on the left chest.
The Manual states that the plate umpire is responsible for calling an infield fly but the base umpires may declare it if the plate umpire does not make the call. It is not unusual for a plate umpire to lose the exact flight of a pop-up as it comes off the bat. When the batted ball is a looping pop-up which will be caught quickly by an infielder, the plate umpire may not find the ball until after it reaches its highest point. The base umpire(s) who are positioned at about the same depth as the infielders and can see the batted ball immediately after the contact with the bat, and therefore have a much better perspective on whether the batted ball satisfies the intent of the infield fly rule. The base umpires are in a better position to make an accurate call quickly, which is an important part of the rule – to make aware to both offense and defense that the infield fly rule has been invoked.
We will update this article when we get a reply from the SUP by either deleting the above two paragraphs or incorporating the changed mechanics into this article.
The intentional drop rule is not often invoked during a game, but we must be ready for it and call it when it occurs. It is in effect with less than two outs and a runner is occupying first base at the time of the pitch, regardless of where other runners may be on base.
The college rule clearly states that the ball must be legally and actually caught and then deliberately dropped. A ball that is trapped or guided to the ground is not considered as having been intentionally dropped. The batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball in flight to drop untouched to the ground.
When this rule is violated, the ball is immediately dead, the batter is declared out and each base runner must return to the base legally occupied at the time of the pitch. If the runner configuration also puts the infield fly rule into effect, the infield fly rule takes precedence over an intentionally dropped ball. Ignore the dropped ball Effect and apply only the infield fly rule Effect.
History of the infield fly rule and controversial plays
The softball rule is the same as the baseball rule. The rule was introduced in 1895 by the National League in response to infielders intentionally dropping pop-ups to get multiple outs by forcing out the runners on base, who were pinned near their bases while the ball was in the air. At that time, the rule only applied with one man out. The current rule came into effect in 1901. It was amended in 1904 to exclude line drives, and in 1920 to also exclude bunts.
2008 World Series
In the fifth game of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pedro Feliz of the Phillies hit a pop-up to the right side of the infield with runners on first and second and one out, in strong rain and swirling winds, and the infield fly rule was not invoked. Umpiring crew chief Tim Tschida explained that “The infield fly rule requires the umpires’ judgment to determine whether or not a ball can be caught with ordinary effort, and that includes wind” and that the umpires’ determination was that in this case there was no infielder who could make the play with “ordinary effort”.
2012 National League Wild Card Game
In the eighth inning of the 2012 National League Wild Card Game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves, Andrelton Simmons of the Braves hit a pop-up into shallow left field with one out and men on first and second bases. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who was playing in normal position, ran out to left field to catch the ball while left fielder Matt Holliday, who was playing very deep in left, ran in to catch it as well. Although Kozma initially called to catch the ball, as the ball came down, he suddenly moved out of the way and the ball fell between him and Holliday. While it initially appeared that Simmons (the batter) had safely reached first base and the Braves had the bases loaded with one out, Simmons was called out because left field umpire Sam Holbrook had called “infield fly” just before the ball hit the ground, and the Braves now had runners at second and third with two out, instead of bases loaded with one out. The Braves did not score in the inning, and the Cardinals went on to win the game, 6–3, eliminating the Braves from the postseason.
After the call, angry Braves fans began throwing plastic bottles and other debris onto the field, causing the game to be delayed for nearly 20 minutes. The game was played by the Braves under an official protest from their manager, but shortly after the game, Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, denied the protest, citing umpire’s judgment. Torre made the ruling immediately following the game (waiving the normal 24-hour review period) due to the importance of the game and the quick turnaround time before the next playoff game. The ball landed 225 feet from home plate. Between 2009 and 2012, there were six infield-fly rulings on balls that weren’t caught, and the longest was measured at 178 feet, 47 feet less than the ball Simmons hit.