This play happened last week. It involves a potential play that hardly ever happens – interference by a base coach.
7.09(h) is the pertinent rule.
7.09 It is interference by a batter or a runner when—
(h) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.
First, the myths to be broken. A runner is not out if merely touched. Giving a runner a high five would not constitute an out. The base coach has to physically assist him.
A runner is only out if a coach helps him (and this is extended to any playing personnel not on the bases). They are not out if a runner on base assists. Of course a runner cannot pass another runner, but they can sure push them or help them.
Remember this awesome sportsmanship story from women’s softball:
The other runners on base could have helped her round the bases. The umpires could have allowed a sub as well. But let’s not let the rules get in the way of an awesome story. Good sportsmanship all. (Note, the softball rules could very well be different than baseball)
Back to this play now that the myths are out of the way. Should the umpires have grabbed an out? I think the umps got this one right.
The runner was already breaking down and looking to stop. The base coach did not grab him to stop him. I don’t think the contact assisted the runner at all.
Now, that said, what in the heck is the coach doing? Just get out of the way and don’t even bring this rule into the conversation.
Interesting thing about this rule is that the runner is ruled out, but the ball is not dead immediately. The ball stays alive giving the defense a chance to get more outs. Say the coach did assist the runner and the cut off man threw behind the runner at 2nd for an out. That would have been an inning ending double play.
This one happens a lot at youth levels. The key is knowing the difference between a mere touch and actual assistance.