The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has published new rule interpretations to clarify what should happen in two fairly rare situations that can apply to both fastpitch and slowpitch play.
The first, which may be more likely to happen in fastpitch, concerns how the rules are applied when the infield fly rule is in play on a pop fly to the infield and the ball is touched or caught by what the WBSC describes as “detached equipment”, such as a catcher’s mask or cap..
The second situation, which can happen in fastpitch or slowpitch, concerns what happens when a baserunner passes the runner ahead of them on an out-of-the-park home run.
Below are the clarifications that the WBSC has issued:
Infield Fly Rule and Detached Equipment
APPLIES TO: Rules 5.1.13 [5.1.14 in the Slowpitch Rulebook]; 5.1.24; 5.1.26; 5.5.2 a) v [5.5.2 a) iv in the Slowpitch Rulebook] and 5.11 Effects c.
In the situation when an Infield Fly and contact with the live fair ball by detached equipment occur simultaneously both rules shall be enforced.
EXAMPLE: Bases loaded, one out. Batter hits a high fly ball that is about halfway between the pitcher’s plate and home plate and:
Play A: The pitcher touches the ball but does not catch it and the catcher scoops the ball up off the ground with their mask, or
Play B: The catcher catches the ball with their mask and no other fielder had contacted the ball.
In Play A the ball is declared fair and is a live ball when first touched by the pitcher. The ball remains fair and becomes a delayed dead ball when scooped up by the catcher. Both the Infield Fly Rule and the Detached Equipment Rule should be enforced.
In Play B the ball is declared fair and is a delayed dead ball as the ball was contacted by detached equipment. As it is a fair ball, the Infield Fly Rule is enforced and as the fair ball was touched by detached equipment, the Detached Equipment Rule is also enforced.
In summary, in both Play A and Play B, the batter-runner is out under the Infield Fly Rule and all other runners are awarded three bases under the Detached Equipment Rule.
Runner Passing a Preceding Runner
APPLIES TO: Rule 5.10 .3 a) vi).
In the 2014–2017 Playing Rules, Rule 8 Section 9 stated: “A runner is out: f) when he physically passes a preceding runner before that runner has been called out. EFFECT Sec 9f: The ball remains in play. EXCEPTION: When the runner passes a preceding runner during a dead ball play the ball will remain dead. If the ball becomes a foul ball or an uncaught fly foul ball, the runner who passes is not out.”
This was interpreted as meaning that a runner who passed a preceding runner on an out-of- the park home run was to be called out, even though this is a dead ball situation.
In the transition to the 2018–2021 Playing Rules, the rule was written as Rule 5.10.3: Runners are out a) vi: when “they physically pass a preceding runner before that runner has been called out. The ball remains live. The runner is not out if the ball becomes a foul ball or an uncaught fly foul ball or if a runner passes a preceding runner on a dead ball play. The ball remains dead.”
Under this wording a runner passing a preceding runner on an out-of-the park home run would not be called out.
While this was not introduced as a specific rule change at the 2017 Rules Congress, the 2018–2021 Playing Rules were adopted by Congress.
Because this is a debatable issue, the following interpretation will be in effect for the 2018-2021 Playing Rules:
In relation to Rule 5.10.3 a) vi): A runner who passes a preceding runner during an out-of-the park home run will not be called out, provided the correct order of touching bases is re-established prior to the passing runner touching the next base. The ball remains dead.
In order to clearly state the rule, the following rule change proposal will be made to the 2022-2025 Playing Rules:
In relation to Rule 5.10.3 a) vi: Runners are out when “they physically pass a preceding runner before that runner has been called out. Exceptions: When the runner passes a preceding runner on a declared foul ball, an uncaught fly foul ball, an out-of-the-park home run or an award of bases, the ball remains dead and the runner is not out. A runner who passes a preceding runner during an out-of-the-park home run must re-establish the running order prior to the passing runner touching the next base. Runners must meet all baserunning responsibilities including awarded bases being touched in legal order.