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.
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.
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. Once a batter has been declared out, she must not interfere with a play. Most codes rule that the ball is dead immediately and the runner closest to home is declared out. NCAA separates this rule into two categories…at the time of interference:
• Batter is still in the box
• Batter is out of the box
If the retired batter is still in the box and interferes with a defensive player’s opportunity to make a play on a runner (for example, she strikes out and is still standing there) – immediate dead ball; the runner being played on is out;.
If the retired batter is out of the box (for example, she is moving toward the dugout) – delayed dead ball; the defense shall choose either the result of the play or the base runner closest to home plate at the time of the interference is out. In addition, each other runner must return to the last base legally touched at the time of the interference.