by Steve Orinick
Having not written anything recently for my site, I thought I would provide some clarity concerning the infield fly rule. It is a simple and common, but occasionally misunderstood part of the game. This being said, the rule not being in place would unfairly place base runners at risk in the infield fly situation. The infield fly rule dates back to 1894 and is covered under rules 2.00, 6.05(e), 7.08(f) and 7.08(f) exceptions of the Official Rules, NFHS 2-19-1 and NCAA 2-47. These cover various possibilities that may occur under the rule. Essentially:"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."
Obvious Truths Here Are:
There must be less than two outs.
It is only in effect when runners are on first and second or the bases are full.
It must be a fair fly ball.
In the judgment of the umpire it can be caught by an infielder with "ordinary effort."
It can be but it is not mandatory that it be caught in the infield or by an infielder.
A bunt or a line drive can never be an infield fly.
The batter is out.
The ball remains live and all runners may advance at their own risk unless interference occurs by the offense or a runner is hit by the ball. They may also tag up and attempt to advance on any caught infield fly, as with any other fly ball.
A runner struck with the ball is out unless he is touching the base. (Note: This is the only instance of the runner being protected by remaining on the bag when struck by a fair batted ball.) In this case, the ball is live if the nearest defensive player is in front of the base and dead if he is behind the base.
When the infield fly situation presents itself, members of the umpiring crew must signal each other. This can be done by utilizing one of a few different methods. The most prevalent today is touching the bill of the cap with a closed fist if none are out or with one finger if one is out. Another method is placing the open right hand over the chest. I have also seen some old-timers pointing upward with both thumbs while moving them slightly up and down.
For the rule to take effect, an fly ball has to be hit that, in the judgment of the umpires, can be handled by an infielder with "ordinary effort.". Basically this means that the defensive player must be able to "park" himself under the ball in order to make the catch. A fly ball caught on the run is not an infield fly. Keep in mind that there is no rush to make the call. Technically, the umpire has until the ball is caught to make the call but the call should be made, if possible, as the ball begins to descend or as soon after the ball has reached its peak when the proper decision can be rendered.
If the ball could have been handled by the infielder in this fashion, the catch may take place in the outfield or by an outfielder. Limitations such as the grass line or the baselines do not apply.
If all conditions exist, the umpire should call "Infield fly, the batter is out" or if it may drift foul, "Infield fly if fair, the batter is out." Should the ball drift foul and not be caught, it is a foul ball. If it is a foul ball and is caught, it is simply the catch of a foul pop.
The call may be made by any umpire. Generally the plate umpire makes the call while the other umpires point into the air, but I have seen some organizations that prefer the umpire closest to the play make the call.
Should the infield fly be intentionally dropped by the defense, it is still an infield fly and the ball remains live. Since the batter is already out on the infield fly, this rule takes precedence. To avoid confusion, at this time the umpire should repeat the call that it is an infield fly and the batter is out.
In addition, should defensive interference occur with the fielder attempting to catch the ball, the ball is dead, the runner is out for interference, and the batter is out on the infield fly.
The purpose of the rule is to prevent the defense from "stealing" an unwarranted double or triple play. Take your time (pause, read, react), determine if it can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort and make the proper call.
Knowing and properly enforcing the rules will go a long way to ensure a pleasant, properly played and officiated game.
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