What is the Infield Fly Rule?

My cousin asked for this explanation, and truth be told, this post has taken awhile to write. After asking coach dad, #12, #28, and the internet, and then reading about this Japanese baseball game that ended in a walk off home run, I’ve learned that it’s a rule that can create confusion on the field and in the stands.  Here goes…

If the umpire calls Infield Fly Batter Out when the ball is hit as a pop fly, the batter is out, even if the ball is not caught by the defense.

But why?

An umpire will call Infield Fly when there is a runner on first and second or first, second, and third, and there are fewer than 2 outs, in order to protect the runners on base. Yes, you read that right – an out to protect the rest of the offense.

Note that when a batter hits a ground ball and there is runner on first or second, the runner has to run to the next base because he or she has to make room for the batter to run to first (that’s called a force situation).  There is no opportunity in that situation for the defense to catch the ball for an out, so the offense has to run because they need to make room on first base for the batter.

On the other hand, when a batter hits a fly ball in a force situation, the runners get off the base only to a distance where they feel comfortable that they can safely get back to the base (only for first and second) if the ball is caught.

The Infield Fly Rule was created to prevent the defense from pretending as if they were going to catch the ball and then dropping it to get the forced runner out. If the ball is popped into the infield and not caught, there is very little chance that the runners can safely make it to the base in a force situation, and it is likely that the defense will be able to get a double play. With the batter called out, the runners get to stay in their position without fear of the defense intentionally dropping the ball to create a double play situation.

This call is often made by the plate umpire, but can be made the umpire closest to the play.  A few things to note:

  • If the fly ball lands outside the foul line, it is called a foul and the infield fly rule does not apply.
  • An umpire may say “Infield rule if fair”, but it means the same thing
  • The ball is still live (because this call should not be made on the last out)

Use it in a sentence:  Johnny was disappointed when he was immediately called out on his first at bat due to the infield fly rule being called by the umpire.

If you’d like to read the official rule, start reading at rule 9.05 in the Official Rules.

 

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