Offensive Team Personnel Interference
This article is the second one which discusses uncommon interference, the first of which is Interference by Retired Runner. Another type of uncommon interference is perpetrated by offensive team personnel. Who, exactly, are included as offensive team personnel for this rule? We have covered two examples above – a retired runner and a runner who has scored; it also includes all other offensive team personnel who are not the on-deck batter or active runners.
Base coaches are allowed on the field, so we will discuss them separately from the other offensive team members who should not be on the playing field during a live ball (for example – assistant coaches not serving as a base coach, pitching or hitting coaches, trainers, or anybody else associated with the team). This interference can happen during a live ball or a dead ball; live ball interference will be covered in this article. A separate article on this Locker Room website covers the dead ball interference (Team Interference – Home Run Celebration)
Base coaches are restricted to the coaches’ boxes drawn on the field before the pitch is released. Note the slight difference between the college softball coach’s box and other codes. Only two lines are drawn:
- The 15” line drawn parallel to and eight feet from the foul line, extended from the back edge of the bases toward home plate
- A line three feet long drawn perpendicular to the end of the 15-foot line closest to home plate
The difference – no back line is included. This allows the base coach to move back as far as he/she desires as long as he/she stays eight feet from the foul line. This is one of the safety rules included in the rule book because of the speed which a batted ball may attain at the college level. At the higher levels of play many base coaches will move far back for certain batters.
Base coach interference
Coaches may leave the box to direct their runners or to avoid a fielder making a play on a batted ball. The box is not a sanctuary. And, whether in or out of the box, the coach will be called for interference if he/she intentionally interferes with a batted or thrown ball which deprives the defensive player from making a play.
A coach could be called for interference even if he/she is trying to get out of the way of the fielder, but in so doing, ends up interfering with the fielder’s opportunity to make a play. This is true for both a batted ball and a thrown ball. However, if an errant throw unintentionally contacts a coach, we will not reward the defense unless the coach has intentionally created the problem. Coach interference is called when the coach:
• Whether in or out of the coach’s box, intentionally interferes with a thrown ball or interferes with the defensive team’s opportunity to make a play on a runner.
• A coach near third base runs in the direction of home plate on or near the baseline while a fielder is attempting to make a play on a batted or thrown ball with a runner in scoring position, and draws a throw to home plate. (Taken from baseball rules but highly unusual because most coaches do not wear the same uniform of the players.)
Play: a batted ball tips F5’s glove in fair territory and rolls past 3b in foul ground. The third base coach, thinking the ball is a foul ball, fields the ball and tosses it to F5 who is now moving to retrieve the ball. The batter-runner is approaching first base at this time. Is this coach’s interference or, since it probably has no effect on the play, do you ignore it?
Ruling: this coach’s action does have an effect on the play. The batter-runner might attempt to run to second base and the defense might be able to throw her out on the play. The rule is clear: when a coach intentionally interferes with the defensive team’s opportunity to make a play on a runner, it is interference. Do not assume anything (no effect on play), apply the rule.
Other team personnel interference
This section discusses the team personnel who should not be on the playing field during a live ball. Live ball interference by these offensive team personnel can take these forms:
• Interfering with a fielder who has a reasonable chance to make a play on a thrown or pitched ball within the field of play. The ball is immediately dead, and the runner closest to home plate at the time of the interference shall be declared out. Each base runner must return to the last base legally touched at the time of the interference, unless forced to advance.
• Collecting around a base to which a runner is advancing, confusing the fielders and adding to the difficulty of making the play. The ball is dead and the runner being played on is out. Each other runner must return to the last base legally touched at the time of the interference.
• When a fair batted ball or live thrown ball contacts a member of the offensive team/game personnel in unauthorized areas (for example, outside the dugout but in the field of play).
• When a fair batted ball or live thrown ball contacts loose offensive equipment not involved in the game, but on the playing field
Note: as mentioned in the opening paragraph – a separate article on this Locker Room website covers the dead ball interference (Team Interference – Home Run Celebration).
Loose Offensive Equipment
Loose offensive equipment – what is it? It would be easier to explain what is not considered loose offensive equipment. The only items of offensive equipment which may legally be on the field are:
• A bat dropped after the batter hits the ball
• A helmet which unintentionally falls off a runner’s head
Any other items belonging to the offensive team which end up on the field and prevent the defense from making a play is considered loose equipment. When a fair batted ball or live thrown ball contacts loose offensive equipment not legally on the playing field, the ball is ruled blocked and dead. If the umpire judges there is no apparent play, no one is called out. Each runner must return to the last base legally touched at the time the ball became blocked, unless forced to advance
If the blocked ball interference is ruled
• The runner closest to home plate at the time of the blocked ball shall be declared out, and
• Each other runner must return to the last base legally touched before the ball became blocked, unless forced.
Note: read the Blocked Ball rules in Rule 9 for how the offense can create a situation which is not interference yet affects a play.
Outside influences on a batted ball
If you have read the article Substances on the ball in the Rules Corner/Pitching section you might have noticed that an addition item was added to the end of that article – Outside influences on a pitch. Now we will cover when a batted or thrown ball is contacted by an outside influence. One such influence might be a bird flying over the field. We know of only one incident, in a1987 major league game when a fly ball struck a bird. The baseball umpires ruled this as “nothing” and let the play continue. Their ruling was based on the fact that the “fan interference” rule only applies to spectators, and birds or other animals are, in a sense, part of the field of play, no different than a gust or wind or bright sunshine.