Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

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No Call or Interference?

Rob Curtis offered the following situation in a comment in another section of the blog. Thanks for sharing your sitation and your decision. Interference and obstruction and the decision to call one or the other, or neither, must be part of our learning. The discussion and learning shall now begin (and it isn’t about Rob being right or wrong).

Here’s a situation that I had in a game.

Runners on First and Third one out.

Runner from first takes off for second, pitcher steps off the rubber and looks at the runner as he’s running. Pitcher throws the ball to the second basemen who’s about 25 feet from second base. The runner, at the time the second basemen gets the throw, is about a stride away from the second basemen. Runner gets tagged as he runs into the second basemen that he’s attempting to avoid, but there’s nothing hard or anything. The contact causes the throw to the plate to be off target and the run scores.

Defensive coach comes out and wants interference called. I didn’t call interference on the play simply because the runner didn’t have a chance to avoid the second basemen by the time he stopped and the second baseman was in the act of fielding the ball. The runner didn’t change his course to second base. Anyone call anything different?

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May 23, 2007 - Posted by | Knotty Problems, Sharing Game Situations

21 Comments »

  1. Rob, I think you have this correct, just as I now think you had a similar play correct in a game we worked together about a month ago. With a runner on first there was a ground ball hit to the second baseman who elected to go for one at first base. All I saw was the runner from first coming at the second baseman with his arms raised, almost waving his hand to distract the fielder. The throw to first was wide of the bag and after I called time, I came in to tell what I had seen. You said, “So you have interference on the runner and you are going to call the B/R out as well because you thought the interference caused the seond baseman to thow wildly to first. OK, if that is what you saw, you have to call it that way. I didn’t see it that way from back here. I saw a ball, fielder, and runner arrive at almost the same time and the runner had no place to go get out of the way. He put his hands up in self-defense. I’ve got nothing on that play, but I was much further away from it than you. Go with what you think you saw.”

    I did call the double play, and got no grousing, but your words have stuck with me every since. When I saw your post about the situation you just had, it all clicked. I did miss the call, and you had it from 120 feet away. Nice work.

    My bad call was due to the fact that I did not adquately assess the situation and was too quick to make the decision. However, I had a chance to redeem myself (I hadn’t made the call yet) had I listened carefully to what you were saying and had asked myself honestly if what you were describing is what actually happened. I didn’t redeem myself that day, and it has taken a month for me to admit my error. You can bet the next time that type of play occurs, it will get a great deal more scrutiny then than what it got the last time.

    Thanks for your great comments to this blog.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  2. Timing, timing, timing! If you gave yourself a touch extra time, still prepared to pull the trigger on the interference, you would have substantially increased your chances of making the right call. Plays do sometimes explode right in front of you and you have to rely on every bit of evidence you can acquire (type of tag, how the players react). Sometimes we zoom our eyes in too much on a call that we should have had a wider angle.

    With slower timing, you would have taken in more of the entire play at least knowing right after the call that you missed it. You would not have had to depend on Rob’s long distance judgment to convince you that you were wrong. However, one sure way to learn is to miss one. We just have to make sure we never repeat it.

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  3. I can’t wait for the next occurance of the same play because I want the chance to prove to myself that having missed it once, I’ll never repeat that error. Empirically, I know you are right. I just need verification of that.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  4. In basketball we’re taught to referee the defense. Before you blow the whistle ask yourself what did the defense do wrong?

    I do the same thing when I’m on a baseball field ruling interference/obstruction plays.

    What did the runner do wrong? If my answer to that question is nothing then you ask yourself, what did the fielder do wrong?

    This is just another reason why rule 2.00 in the rule book is so important. You need to identify what it is you’re calling before you ever have to worry about how to enforce the call.

    Steve in your play in the game you and I did. I think, based on what you told me, you got it right.

    I’m sure I put on a great show of what not to do on a baseball field this afternoon. It’s funny how the balk thing we’ve talked about came up and got me right on the butt today.

    Comment by Rob Curtis | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  5. Steve I’m not saying you don’t know the rule. But I think a lot of our umpires jump right over the most important section of the rule book. I work with umpires all the time that can tell me all about how to enforce a slide rule violation but don’t have a clue what an illegal slide is.

    Comment by Rob Curtis | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  6. Since none of us had tickets to your “great show of what not to do on a baseball field” on Saturday, would you consider consider doing a replay of the best parts of that show? We’ve talked a lot about balks this spring; they are the number one driver of hits on this blog. Can you share with us what about “the balk thing we’ve talked about ” came up and bit you where you least expected it?

    I couldn’t agree with you more that we all are weak on Rule 2.00. Taking a leaf from our own book at work, it is hard to sell the product if you don’t know what the product is.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 27, 2007 | Reply

  7. Let’s talk batter interference for a minute. Rule 7-3-5 is the applicable rule dealing with batter interference. IMHO it’s fairly straight forward. Intent doesn’t enter into the batter’s actions. If he’s making a legitimate attempt to avoid a play at the plate he probably isn’t interfering. If he swings at a pitch while a runner is stealing and the force of his swing takes him across the plate and he hinders the catcher’s throw he has probably interfered even if he did not intend to do so. He can step out of the box in any of 8 situations listed in Rule 7-3-1, exceptions. It’s a call that you have to make and we (at least I) probably don’t make it enough. Stay with the action at the plate and let your partner take the action with the baseruner. I find myself following the ball from the catcher to the play on the runner when I should stay with the possible batter’s interference and make the interference call when it’s there.

    Whenever I have a “potential” interference I ask myself a very simple question; did the actions of the player alter the play? Just last week I had such a situation. Pop up near the coaches box on first base. The 1st baseman attempted to catch the ball and the player occupying the coaches box stepped the wrong way and PREVENTED the catch. I had interference AND an interesting discussion with the offensive manager who insisted I was wrong because the player coaching first base “made a legitimate attempt to avoid the 1st baseman. This is a good example of when to ask yourself that question, did the actions of the coach alter the play by the defense?

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 27, 2007 | Reply

  8. “I find myself following the ball from the catcher to the play on the runner when I should stay with the possible batter’s interference and make the interference call when it’s there.”

    Once the catcher releases the ball, the batter can’t be guilty of interfering with the catcher’s throw if the batter then leans over the plate or otherwise gets in the catcher’s way.

    Comment by Ryan | May 29, 2007 | Reply

  9. Thanks for responding to the blog, Ryan. What I was trying to say was that sometimes I am so intent on the catcher’s throwing the ball that I don’t see the the interference created by the batter’s action before the release. I know this is not good, but it is a behavior of which I am sometimes guilty and I need to work on it. Your point is well taken; once the catcher releases the ball, if he hasn’t been interfered with by then, any subsequent action by the batter that infringes on the catcher’s space cannot be ruled interference.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 29, 2007 | Reply

  10. Batter interference is one of those rules that I see called correctly and enforced all wrong. I guess umpires get confused by the batter interfering with a play at the plate and regular batter interference (catcher throwing the ball). I’ve seen everything under the sun called. runner out, batter out (correct), batter and runner out (could be correct under the right situation), batter out runner allowed to remain at second base and I even once watched batter interference called on ball four runner who was awarded second base called out and the batter still awarded FIRST base (that was a high school varsity game).

    Comment by Rob Curtis | May 30, 2007 | Reply

  11. The last play was NOT called correctly by the way.

    Comment by Rob Curtis | May 30, 2007 | Reply

  12. In my experience (both as an umpire and catcher) this batter’s interference thing is ususally when the throw is going to third or when the batter squares to bunt on a throw to second. I see that you are watching the throw from the catcher – but he must be able to throw it all the way through to the base – withour having to release the ball early (causing it to sail).
    I broke a couple of fingers on a batters helmet many years ago. Interference was never called and alls that I had to show for it, was a runner on second and black & blue fingers. Remember to make sure you watch the entire play at the plate (as the PU) and let your partner make the call at the base.

    Comment by troylare | June 1, 2007 | Reply

  13. Don’t forget the situations that I came across the most: stealing runner (and/or hit and run) when batter swings and misses or swings intentionally missing to protect runner but leans out over the plate (sometimes happening when there is a pitch out on a hit and run) interfering with the catcher’s natural movement to throw in an attempt to retire the stealing runner at second or third. It could also happen on a pick off attempt.

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | June 1, 2007 | Reply

  14. The hit and run may also cause the catcher to reach out too far into the plate area (when he hears the steal) – so be sure to watch for the catchers mitt being hit.
    Oh, what a bunch of stuff can happen on a simple hit-and-run play.

    Comment by troylare | June 1, 2007 | Reply

  15. Simply put, it is called the batters box for a reason. If the batter, makes no apparent effort to cause disturbance to the catcher in the act of throwing, and is completely in HIS box, it is the catcher who must find a way to get off the throw. If momentum has caused said batter to be either out or leaning outside the box and makes no effort to afford the catcher space for the throw, now we have a potential problem. However, if the catcher adjusts himself, mid throw, to avoid contact, we go live with it. Contact gentlemen, is the culprit here. Teaching catchers to flop or even over act to his predicament with the batter, is how to get the call. Drawing the contact as apposed to forcing a throw in cramped quarters is a lesson well learned for a young catcher. I have had many situations in which to call this play and it has always been very obvious when to do so. Most times a throw is unable to be made. Any catcher that releases early causing his throw to sail, reacted to slowly in changing up his footwork to deliver a ball to second as the actions of the batter unfolded directly in front of him. Or he had not been taught to come directly forward and darn near knock down the batter in a mock attempt to deliver the throw. That will get you the interference everytime. Reminds me in a way of a runner, while caught in a run down, who re-directs his course to the base in which he is headed at the time, to avoid running into a fielder who has no ball. As apposed to running into him rather firmly and getting awarded the base for obstruction. I’ve actually seen said runner get called out for being out of the base path in this particular situation. Am still thinking about the original question regarding the second baseman who had just tagged out a runner, 25 feet away from second base and had the effects of this tag out disturb his throw home. Sounds to me as if he needed to make some footwork adjustment to compensate for the shift of weight and change in direction that the tag caused.And to tell you the truth, I don’t believe that the runner has an obligation to avoid the second baseman who is ABOUT to catch a thrown ball. A batted ball, yes, but the base path, as in the batters box, belongs to the offense. Furthermore, the contact that was made, was partially the second basemens fault as it it the contact that made the runner out in the first place. He has to tag, maintain distance and separate prior to even having a chance to make any kind of a decent throw home.

    Comment by Richard Slate | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  16. Two situations recently arose in games my son was playing in. He’s 11, and plays in Bronco, which has complete MLB rules, except for no straight steals of home and no suicide squeezes.

    In the first, our team had a runner on second with one out. He attempted to steal third. On the pitch, the batter backed out of the batter’s box, and the catcher’s throw caromed off his helmet into left field. The runner came home on the overthrow. The umpire called interference and called the runner out and allowed the batter to continue to bat. I belive that the correct call would have been to call the batter out and send the runner back to second. Is this right?

    In the second situation, our team was on defense, and the offense had runners on second and third with two outs. As is somewhat typical for our league in that situation, the runner on second had an enormous walking lead and our shortstop, while not on the grass, was playing relatively shallow, but was otherwise positioned normally and was not holding the runner. The batter hit a sharply hit grounder to the shortstop’s left, and the shortstop took no more than two steps to his left to try to get the ball before the runner on second collided with him. The runner on third scored on the play and the runner on second, after the collision, made it to third. The base umpire made no call, but the home plate umpire ruled that in his judgment the ball was past the fielder when the collision occurred and that, not only was there no interference on the runner, that the shortstop had obstructed the runner and awarded that runner home. I realize that this is a judgment call, but given that the runner has a duty to avoid a fielder trying to make a play, I think the umpire’s judgment was wrong. Am I right?

    Comment by John | July 2, 2007 | Reply

  17. Hi John! Welcome to the blog! To make it easier to understand your situations, I have copied and pasted your two situations below and replied separately to each situation.

    John states,”Two situations recently arose in games my son was playing in. He’s 11, and plays in Bronco, which has complete MLB rules, except for no straight steals of home and no suicide squeezes.”

    Situation #1:In the first, our team had a runner on second with one out. He attempted to steal third. On the pitch, the batter backed out of the batter’s box, and the catcher’s throw caromed off his helmet into left field. The runner came home on the overthrow. The umpire called interference and called the runner out and allowed the batter to continue to bat. I belive that the correct call would have been to call the batter out and send the runner back to second. Is this right?

    You are 100% correct. I believe that there are situations where you can call out the runners for the actions of others (Official Baseball Rules) 1)Interference by the batter on a suicide squeeze (which cannot occur in your Bronco League play) and 2)Intentional interference by another runner, batter-runner, or the batter where you should call out both the offender and the player closest to home plate. I think I am remembering that correctly. Fellow bloggers, help me out if I am wrong here!

    John says, “In the second situation, our team was on defense, and the offense had runners on second and third with two outs. As is somewhat typical for our league in that situation, the runner on second had an enormous walking lead and our shortstop, while not on the grass, was playing relatively shallow, but was otherwise positioned normally and was not holding the runner. The batter hit a sharply hit grounder to the shortstop’s left, and the shortstop took no more than two steps to his left to try to get the ball before the runner on second collided with him. The runner on third scored on the play and the runner on second, after the collision, made it to third. The base umpire made no call, but the home plate umpire ruled that in his judgment the ball was past the fielder when the collision occurred and that, not only was there no interference on the runner, that the shortstop had obstructed the runner and awarded that runner home. I realize that this is a judgment call, but given that the runner has a duty to avoid a fielder trying to make a play, I think the umpire’s judgment was wrong. Am I right?”

    Just to be polite, I will say that you are both right. If it happened as the umpire stated, he is 100% correct in doing what he did. But if your judgement has the defensive player still with a chance to make a play on the batted ball when the contact occurs, the runner would be out! Whether the umpire got this call right or not, we can all learn something from what he said. He stated his decision in a way that makes it very difficult to argue. Nice job Mr. Umpire! John, thank you for stating the situations so clearly. We commend you for the respect that you gave to this umpire even though you disagreed with him.

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | July 2, 2007 | Reply

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