Check out this crazy high school play.
The ball bounced off the center fielder’s head directly to the left fielder. He caught the ball and got a double play.
Fun question – was this a legal catch. It sure was.
High school rule 8-4-1(b) says a batter is out if:
his fair hit or foul (other than a foul tip which is not a third strike) is caught by a fielder, or such catch is prevented by a spectator reaching into the playing field;
If you look in the definition of catch (2-9-1) this appears:
A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a live ball in flight and firmly holding it,
The added emphasis in the rule was by me. This brings up the question what does “in flight” mean?
A batted or thrown ball is in flight until it has touched the ground or some object other than a fielder.
This play meets all of those criteria – in flight ball secured by a fielder. Isn’t it crazy you have to find three different sections of the rule book to answer something that is known by most?
Now, let’s flip it a bit. What if with no one on base a line drive hits the umpire, goes in the air, and is gloved by the shortstop. Is it a catch?
The answer is no! Once the ball touched the umpire it had touched some object other than a fielder. The shortstop would have to throw this batter-runner out at first base to complete the play.
This rule is the same in the majors and covered on page 28 of RuleGraphics.