Understanding The Infield Fly Rule For Baseball And Softball

There can be a lot of chaos when umpires get it wrong…
infield fly rule for baseball

The infield fly rule was first added to the game of baseball in 1895 in response to defenders using the strategy of dropping easily catchable fly balls with the purpose of creating double plays to retire the batting team. Until this regulation was added, infielders would take advantage of base runners on first and second bases by observing their positions while the ball was in the air. If runners strayed too far from their bases, the ball would be caught and thrown to the base before the runner could “tag up”. If they stayed close, the ball would be dropped to create a forced out at the next base, usually resulting in a double play.

Infield Fly Rule Explained

The specific part of the regulations states that a pop fly ball that the umpire believes could be caught, with no more than ordinary effort, be caught in the infield results in the batter being automatically called out. This requirement is invoked only when there are active runners placed on either of the first two bases or when the bases are loaded with no more than one out. The infield fly rule may be invoked by any of the three umpires on the field, but must be called and/or signaled by the home plate umpire.

When the stipulation is invoked, base runners must stay close enough to their bases to be able to tag up if it is caught. Because the batter has already been ruled out, there are no force plays if the ball is not caught. Runners may advance if they choose, but do so at their own risk. In most cases, it is best for runners to stay where they are. Runners and coaches may know if the infield fly rules have been invoked by watching the home plate umpire, who will signal that it is in effect by extending his arm toward the sky and pointing one finger. He may also, though is not required to, shout, “Infield fly, batter is out!”

This stipulation is not in effect when the ball is hit in a line drive or the batter attempts to bunt. The infield fly rule only applies on fly balls that remain in the infield and can easily be caught by an infielder, even if he must step back to the outfield.

Infield Fly Rule Slow Pitch Softball

The basic regulation that is used by softball players in this situation basically identical to the related one found in baseball regulations. When there are active players sitting at 1st or 2nd base, or on all three bases and there is a pop fly that the umpire feels could have been snagged without extraordinary effort in the infield, the batter is called out and the runners may advance at their own risk. However, if the ball is caught, the runners must tag the base they were on before advancing. The specific requirement is only invoked with runners on base as described and there are zero or one out.

Infield Fly Rule Little League

infield fly rule little league

Finding an explanation of the infield fly rule kids can understand is not always easy. For this reason, many leagues for children do not include this specification. However, this is not always the case. Coaches and umpires should meet and discuss the option of including or excluding the infield fly rule from play before the beginning of the season.

With older kids, it becomes a bit easier to explain the mechanics of the infield fly rule, if not the theory behind it. Therefore there are some little league players who must observe the infield fly rule. Buddy league players and younger normally are not expected to learn or understand it because they typically have not developed the speed and skill at ball handling that would make its implementation necessary. High school or pony league players are taught about the infield fly rule and it is implemented in their games.

Times the Infield Fly Rule Does Not Apply

This regulation does not apply when there is only a runner on first base. If the ball is caught, the runner must tag first before advancing. If not, there is a force play at second and one at first. The fielder must choose which runner to get out first. It is possible to turn this into a double play and get both the runner and the batter out.

The infield fly rule does not apply to foul balls. Even if the umpire has already invoked the rule, a ball that falls fair and rolls foul without being touched by a defensive player is ruled a foul ball. This regulation supersedes the infield fly rule regulation in this case and no runner may advance.

infield fly rule

The regulation does not apply when there are two outs because the fielders would have no advantage in dropping the fly ball. If they catch it, that makes the third and final out to retire the side. Dropping it simply forces them to expend more effort to get the out.

It does not apply to line drives or bunts. When the ball is hit in a line drive, the fielder would normally not have time to decide whether or not to catch the ball to obtain an advantage. Therefore, if he catches it, the batter is out, otherwise, the ball is treated as live and play continues as normal. In the case of a foul ball, the batter is out if it is caught by a fielder. Otherwise, the ball is dead as soon as ruled foul and no runners may advance. The batter must return to attempt another hit.

For many, the infield fly rule is confusing at best.

infield fly rule

It was created to close up a loophole in the rules of the game that allowed defensive players to choose whether or not to catch easily catchable pop flies based on the positions of base runners. It was designed to give the batting team a reasonable chance. Whether or not to invoke the infield fly rule on any particular fly ball depends on the number of outs there are, the number of runners on base, and the judgment of the umpires on the field as to whether or not the ball can be handled with normal effort.

This post about the infield fly rule was written by the Super 8 Hitting System from Coach Joe Brockhoff. Over 50,000 hitters have benefited from the baseball hitting drills explained in the hitting system, designed to teach the fundamentals of hitting so hitters don’t grow up with bad habits. Click here to get free hitting videos emailed to you http://www.learnbaseballhitting.com/lcp