Obstruction in High School Baseball (NFHS)
Obstruction and the related base awards and amount of protection always seem to be confusing on the field and in the classroom whenever discussing the rule. Rule 2.00 tell us that obstruction is an act by the defensive team (not just the 9 players on the field) that hinders a runner or changes the pattern of play.
Here are some important things to consider if you wish to better understand obstruction.
- There is no act alone that can be done by the defensive team that can cause obstruction to be ruled.
- The offensive team must be put at a disadvantage (called out, not able to advance to the base they would have and so on) by the fielder’s action before obstruction can be ruled.
- The umpire should always ask himself/herself whether the defensive player’s action had the ability to change the outcome of the play before ruling obstruction.
I think a lot of times umpires rule obstruction too quickly. If unsure whether the act warrants an obstruction call, give the play a second or two to develop before making the ruling. In no way am I saying to wait until the end of playing action, but sometimes the play needs to develop more before a ruling can be made. Sometimes it will be clear that the runner lost a step or two (or more) because of the action and you will then be able to make the call shortly after the point of obstruction.
Twice this year I have seen umpires calling obstruction on a fielder for blocking the base prior to controlling the ball on pickoffs with runners ruled SAFE on the play. On one of these plays, the umpire failed to properly award the obstructed runner second base after making the obstruction call.
An umpire must award one base when obstruction is called. Rule 8-3-2 states: “The obstructed runner is awarded a minimum of one base beyond his position on base when the obstruction occurred. An obstructed runner is always protected and if need be awarded the next base beyond the last base touched.”
An obstructed runner can NEVER be called out between the two bases he/she was obstructed, unless the runner is guilty of interference. Now the same rule states that a runner may be protected or awarded additional bases if, in the umpires judgment, the runner would have reached that base had there been no obstruction.
So what’s the bottom line?
Don’t be too quick to rule obstruction! Once an umpire calls obstruction, it can’t be taken back and an award/protection must be given. If the umpire doesn’t feel the award is warranted then probably the act didn’t affect the pattern of play and obstruction should not have been called. Obstruction is 100% umpire judgment. The defensive team’s action alone does not constitute obstruction. The offensive team must be put at a disadvantage in order for obstruction to be called.