BALK RULE & FAIR/FOUL BALLS

by Ryan
(Eagan, MN)

Hey coach…

Had a game last night that had a few questionable occurrences.

First was a line drive down the 3rd base line that I was certain, from standing in the 1st base coach’s box and glaring into the sun, touched the glove of a diving 3rd baseman. The ump called the ball foul, and when I asked if he touched it in fair territory I was told he never laid a finger on it. After the game I asked for more explanation after verifying with other people who had a better look at it that the 3rd baseman did indeed touch it before it ever hit the ground. The ump told me that he did in fact touch it, but it was when the ball was on the foul side of the baseline, thereby making it a foul ball. I contended that his feet and body were in fair territory, therefore it should be a fair ball.

After doing some research today, I discovered that I had been wrong after all. I believe this to be a common misconception, and thought you could add it to your site.

The second instance was a balk. With runners on first and third the opposing pitcher came set and went to throw home. However, half-way through his delivery he just abruptly stopped without ever throwing the ball. Both runners were awarded a base, but some parents and fellow coaches had the impression that a ball should also have been awarded to the batter’s count. My question is: does a balk ever count as a ball on the batter’s count?

Thanks for your help and all the awesome info on your site.

COACH HENZE’S ANSWER

Thanks for the question Ryan!

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For the first question above (foul ball or fair?), I think Ryan did a nice job of explaining the answer. Where your feet are when you touch the ball has NOTHING to do with it. If, according to the umpire, the ball is in fair territory when a player touches the ball, it is a fair ball. If the ball is, according to the umpire, in foul territory when the player touches the ball, it is a foul ball.

An example that you will see, quite often, with this is when the batter tries to bunt a ball and it is close to the foul line. Many times, if it is a good bunt, the defensive player will just let it roll until the entire ball is in foul territory and then touch it immediately. That is a foul ball even if he is standing in fair territory. So, instead of a base hit bunt for the batter, he must return to the plate with another strike against him.

The second question Ryan had was about a balk rule. When an umpire calls a balk, it is either an immediate dead ball (runners advance one base) or a delayed dead ball (many different outcomes on a delayed dead ball).

In the case that Ryan describes above, it would be an immediate dead ball (no pitch delivered) and the baserunners would advance one base. In this case, the runner from first base would advance to 2nd base and the runner at 3rd base would score.

The balk rule is quite confusing and there are many misconceptions with it. Some people think that if a delayed dead ball is called on a balk, then the coach of the team gets to choose whether to accept the balk or the resulting play. That is not true either. The umpire actually makes the decision as to whether to call a balk or keep the resulting play.

For more information on the balk, please read Major League Baseball’s pitching rules. It describes how balk’s are called.

Thanks again for the question Ryan.

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