Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

Our Place to Share the Game

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.

April 27, 2008 - Posted by | Association Improvements, Commentary, Rules, Sharing Game Situations | , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Just wanted you to know I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work. — ph

    Comment by Pepper Hastings | April 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. As a coach I have a question about when and how obstruction must be called. In our most recent game the following situation occured: runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs – batted ball hit to RF corner – both runs score – throw comes into the infield and we get the runner in a run down between 2nd and 3rd – runner is tagged out retreating to 2nd. Our players jog off the field because there are three outs, but the opposing manager makes a stink to the base ump (2 man crew) about his runner being obstructed. They argue for a few minutes, then the plate ump comes out and awards the runner 2nd base. Can he actually do this?

    Is obstruction even an appealable call? The base ump made no indication of obstruction during the play, and the plate ump did not have a good angle to see. If the call was made immediately (by either ump) I would be fine with it, but it was only after the other coach argued that the plate ump offered his opinion – our players were already in the dugout, getting ready to hit, when they were told they needed to get the third out again.

    Comment by Trevor | June 20, 2008 | Reply

    • Coach, you are 100% right on the non-appealable part. Meaning if, as an umpire, you don’t call it right away, don’t let a coach come out and change your call. However, even with that being said, the umpire ALWAYS has the ability to change his own call. If he felt he improperly judged the obstruction and did not call it, he may change his mind. It does make for a mess, but he can do it under the rules. He may not let another umpire change his call. He may go to another umpire and ask that umpire what/if he saw anything different and using the conversation with the other umpire, he may change his decision. I will ask you this; how many times have you heard and even said yourself, “They need to get it right.” ??? Well, if it was determined that there was obstruction, then, they got it right. Personally, I hate the, “they have to get it right” thinking. I think it has ruined the game. Johnny doesn’t always get what Johnny deserves. That is the way life is and baseball is to me, THE GAME OF LIFE. It can teach more lessons to a kid than any school education can provide. That’s where the importance of you job really lies. You have the ability to change a kids life by the way you teach them baseball.

      As a note of qualification, I have coached baseball many times and I have umpired for over 20 years. I can honestly say that when I coached, I lost perspective of things sometimes and looked like an idiot. It’s just a thing that happens when you put on the coaching cap. As an umpire, I realize that and can empathize with coaches. Coaches have a tough job dealing with the pressure to win and it clouds their thinking. Keep a cool head and remember the young men looking to you as an example.

      Comment by Rich | April 15, 2014 | Reply

  3. If the runner was obstructed between second and third, by rule the runner should have been awarded third base not second to your advantage. The question you pose about whether the plate umpire can make that ruling or not is more simply a question of umpire education than a rules violation.
    Either umpire may make an obstruction call, so if neither umpire made a call then the plate umpire was within his rights to make that call. However, if the base umpire had made the ruling no obstruction had taken place after seeing the play in question, then the plate umpire could only give the base umpire information and then it would be up to the base umpire whether or not to change his call. The rules do state that no umpire may overrule another. We don’t have enough information to answer the second part of your question.

    Comment by embuaumpire | June 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. Obstruction is a delayed dead ball situation. If either umpire witnessed the obstruction, they should have given the delayed dead ball sign (left hand fist out to side) and called obstruction. The play is allowed to continue then the umpire calls time and awards the appropriate bases unless they are reached safetly had there been no obstruction.

    Comment by Jay | February 16, 2009 | Reply

  5. Since the change to the NFHS obstruction rule this year I’ve seem too many instances of coaches yelling for obstruction when a baserunner is in a pickle… running back and forth betweeen pursuing fielders… Is it the intention or spirit of the rule that a fielder without the ball in a pickle situation be guilty of obstruction if the fielder has to move around him in the process of attemping to get back to a base?

    Comment by TomM | April 24, 2009 | Reply

  6. Batter runner hits ball to third, third baseman fields ball and make bad throw up the line a few feet . The first baseman leaves the base, moves up the baseline as the throw nears to try to catch the ball. The first baseman collides with the runner, then catches the ball and tags the batter runner before he can begin to proceed to the base. Is this not obstruction?

    Comment by Mark | June 28, 2009 | Reply

  7. Yes, that would be obstruction since the 1st baseman didn’t have possession of the ball at the time of contact, collision, or train wreck, whichever the case may be. He has the right to go into the batter runners base path to field a throw but he’s held to the obstruction standard without possession. Umpire judgement will prevail

    Comment by Steve | January 24, 2014 | Reply


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