Interference by On-Deck batter, Batter and Retired batter

Note: The batter-runner interference article is in the Runners/Batter-Runner section of this Rules Corner. Also read these articles for more batter regulations – Batter/Bat Hitting the Ball a Second Time and Batted ball hits batter.

On-Deck Batter

An on-deck batter can be the interference perpetrator in a number of ways. The on-deck circles are much like the coaches’ boxes – they are not sanctuaries in which the occupant can insist on occupying regardless of what is happening on the field.

An on-deck batter may not interfere with a defensive player’s reasonable opportunity to make a play. Most often this may happen when a foul fly ball is hit in the direction of the on-deck circle; the on-deck batter must do everything possible to allow that fielder to make the play. If the on-deck batter, in her honest efforts to get out of the way, still interferes, this must be called, and the batter will be declared out.

But please note the words “reasonable opportunity” above. If the fielder does not have a reasonable chance to catch the foul fly, by rule interference will not be called.

Another form of on-deck batter interference may happen on a pitched or thrown ball. Let’s take the example of a wild pitch with a runner on first base. If the ball contacts the on-deck batter but the catcher, in retrieving the ball, has no chance to get an out at 2b on the runner, there is no interference. If, however, R1 tries to advance to 3b and now the umpire rules the catcher had a reasonable opportunity to throw R1 out at 3b, then interference should be called.

Although it does not happen often the on-deck batter could commit interference in her efforts to direct a teammate attempting to score. The rule books allow the on-deck batter to leave the on-deck circle to help a scoring runner. But the ultimate responsibility lies with the on-deck batter to not impede any fielder from making a reasonable play, whether the play is on the scoring runner or any other runner.

Batter interference

The basic principles of batter interference are:
• The area in front of and over home plate belongs to the batter until the pitch touches the catcher’s glove
• That area belongs to the catcher after the pitch is caught.

One of the toughest interference calls for an umpire to explain is when the batter swings and her momentum takes her across the plate as the catcher is attempting to come out of the crouch and throw the ball to a base. Regardless of the argument by the coach that the batter was just swinging at the pitch, this is interference and must be called.

Once in a while the batter may make a very late swing or bunt attempt and then move her body and the bat backwards toward the catcher. This is interference if this action results in the catcher being hindered from making a play, especially if the umpire determines that the only reason for the late swing or strange bunt attempt is to impede the catcher from throwing out a stealing runner.

Is it interference if the batter, after the pitch, is in the batter’s box and gets in the way of the catcher’s actions as a runner is advancing on a steal? The guiding principles for the umpire in this situation are:
• The batter’s box is not a sanctuary but there is no trap door
• If the play happens so quickly that the batter has no chance to get out of the way, it is not interference unless the batter intentionally interferes with the catcher

Sometimes a batter will move in the batter’s box or step outside of it in an effort to get out of the catcher’s way. Despite the batter’s best intentions if her action impedes the catcher from making a play, it is interference. It would be best to coach your batters to stay still until the catcher has made her initial play. If the play continues to the point where there might be a play at the plate, then the batter needs to vacate that area.

One of the major rule changes in NCAA for the 2016-2017 Rule Book makes batter interference a delayed dead ball. In all other codes it is an immediate dead ball, the batter is out and all runners return to their bases occupied at the time of the pitch. In college the ball remains live and the play is allowed to continue. At the end of the play the umpires will call time-out and give the defensive coach an option to take the result of the play or the penalty for batter interference – the batter is out and all runners return to their bases occupied at the time of the pitch (same as the other codes).

Retired Batter Interference

Retired batter interference occurs when the batter is declared out without becoming a batter-runner and she denies a defensive player (most likely the catcher) a reasonable opportunity to make a play on a runner. NCAA separates this rule into two situations…at the time of interference:
• Batter is still in the box (for example, she strikes out and is still standing there)
• Batter is out of the box (for example, she is moving toward the dugout or running toward 1b)

For both these situations it is a delayed dead ball. (This was the unannounced change in the 2022-2023 rule book; previously it was a dead ball if the retired batter was still in the box.) The defense may take the result of the play or the batter is out. However, the Effect is slightly different with regard to which runner is also out:
• Still in the box – runner being played on is out
• Out of the box –runner closest to home is out.
• Each other runner must return to the last base legally touched

Batter interference (11.20.2, 11.20.3)
Batter’s positionWithin box (not any part of foot on ground out of box (Appendix AStepped out of box (any part of foot on ground out of box)While runner is advancing to home
Not retiredNot interference unless intentional; result of play or batter is outInterference intentional or not; result of play or batter is outLess than 2 outs -runner is out
2 outs - batter is out
RetiredResult of play or runner being played on is out. Result of play or runner closest to home is also outResult of play or runner closest to home is also out