Most people who have ever played or watched baseball are aware of the infield fly rule. However, if you asked them specifically what qualifies under the rule, most of those people would probably not be able to answer it correctly. Not that it is a complicated rule, but there are certain variables that must be in play for the rule to apply.
The infield fly rule has been around for a long time, actually taking effect way back in 1895. The purpose of the rule is to prevent the defensive team from intentionally dropping or not catching an ordinary infield fly ball with the purpose of trying to turn a double or triple play. Since runners typically stay on the bag when there is an infield fly, it would be easy for infielders to throw them out by intentionally dropping the ball.
Official Rule For Infield Fly Rule
In Major League Baseball, part of rule 2.00 covers the Infield Fly rule, and here are the general parameters of the rule.
“An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.”
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.”
Infield Fly Rule is a Judgement Call
An important thing to remember about the infield fly rule is that is a judgement call made by the umpire. Most umpires, upon making the judgement that the ball can be caught by the infielder with ordinary effort, will yell “Infield Fly, Batter is Out.”
The key word here is “ordinary” effort. If the umpire determines that the fly ball or pop up will require anything other than an “ordinary” effort by the infielder, the infield fly rule should not be called.
Can Infield Fly Rule Be Called on the Outfield Grass?
So what if the fly ball ends up being caught on the outfield grass and not the infield? Or maybe the outfielder comes in and makes the catch rather than the infielder? Does the rule still apply?
The answer is yes, and it goes back to the fact that the umpire felt that it would take “ordinary” effort to catch the ball. The umpire has to make the judgement call while the ball is in the air that it qualifies under the rules of the infield fly rule. Regardless of where the ball is caught or who catches it, the batter is automatically ruled out.
Infield Fly Rule – Runners on First and Second
A key part of the rule that many people don’t fully understand is that there must be runners on first and second or the bases loaded. Having a runner just at first base doesn’t qualify. The reason for this is that the best the defense can hope for is to get the force out at second base. Since the batter is running on the fly ball, the chances of getting him out at first base are very slim.
However, there have been times where teams have intentionally dropped a ball with a runner at first base only. Although the infield fly rule won’t apply, if the runner at first is a much faster or better base runner than the hitter, it may be to the defensive team’s advantage, depending on the game situation, to put the hitter on first and take the better baserunner off the basepaths.
Infield Fly Rule Only With Less Than Two Outs
The infield fly rule can also only be called when there are less than two outs. Obviously, this is because once the fly ball is caught, it will end the inning.
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