A catch for the ages

Anyone who watches SportsCenter or surfs the web for anything sports related has certainly seen this play.

Cub Anthony Rizzo goes up the tarp, on the lip and eventually into the stands to make a catch. The umpire originally ruled this play a no catch. After conferring as a crew, the play was changed to a catch and then a one base penalty.

Did they ultimately get it right? Yup – and here is the basis.

First – was it a catch?

The Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation Manual has this to say:

In order to make a legal catch, the fielder must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or other out-of-play surface.

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 1880-1882). . Kindle Edition.

It is clear that Rizzo did not have a foot on the ground outside the field of play before catching the ball. He also had one foot in play and one foot over ground in the field of play.

PBUC further states:

A fielder may not jump over any fence, railing or rope marking the limits of the playing field in order to catch the ball. A fielder may (1) reach over such fence, railing or rope to make a catch; (2) fall over the same after completing the catch; (3) jump on top of a railing or fence marking the boundary of the field to make a catch; or (4) climb onto a fence or on a field canvas and catch the ball. In all four cases the catch would be legal, as dictated by the best judgment of the umpire. The same restrictions apply to a foul ball descending into a stand. A catcher or fielder may not jump into a stand to catch

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 3207-3212). . Kindle Edition.

On top of fence is fine. Established out of play is not fine. This was clearly a catch.

So what about giving the Brewers runner an extra base? This is correct as well.

Rule 5.06 (b) (3) (C):

(3) (7.04) Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put out, advance one base when:

(C) A fielder, after catching a fly ball, falls into a bench or stand, or falls across ropes into a crowd when spectators are on the field;

In the end it was a great call on an even greater play.

Breaking the 4th wall

On TV and movies “breaking the 4th wall” is when characters speak to the camera. Think House of Cards, Ferris Bueller or Zach Morris. Basically they are going to a place that is not usually allowed.

Alex Gordan is the clubhouse leader for catch of the year after this grab where he went where he is not usually allowed.

First of all, what a catch. But, was the catch on the up and up from a rules standpoint?

Here is where the rule book makes this a bit difficult. The ruling is not located in the section on making a catch. It is in the section on the batter. Rule 6.05(a)

6.05 A batter is out when—

(a) His fair or foul fly ball (other than a foul tip) is legally caught by a fielder;

Rule 6.05(a) Comment: A fielder may reach into, but not step into, a dugout to make a catch,and if he holds the ball, the catch shall be allowed. A fielder, in order to make a catch on a foul ball nearing a dugout or other out-of-play area (such as the stands), must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or in any other out-of-play area. Ball is in play, unless the fielder, after making a legal catch, falls into a dugout or other out-of-play area, in which case the ball is dead. Status of runners shall be as described in Rule 7.04(c) Comment.

In English, the fielder has to have at least one foot on or over the playing surface and no feet completely on the ground outside the field of play. Gordon certainly did not have a foot out of play. Good catch and good call on the field.

By the way, this is another rule that is different in high school baseball for no earthly reason. In high school, a fielder can have one foot in play and one foot out of play and still make a legal catch.

Back to this play, what happens if the player steps out of play before making the catch? It is just a foul ball.

The rule above also discusses what happens if the player falls into a dugout or out of play after making the catch. Gordon did fall, so what else could happen?

7.04 (c)

7.04 Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put out, advance one base when—

(c) A fielder, after catching a fly ball, falls into a bench or stand, or falls across ropes
into a crowd when spectators are on the field;

It did not matter on this play as no runners were on base. But imagine this, bases loaded with 1 out in the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series. Gordon makes this catch. The umpires then kill the ball and correctly award the game and the series to the opponents because he fell out of play. How crazy would that be?

In high school, the ball is dead if a fielder carries a ball out of play. He does not have to fall. I have actually called this before as some high school fields only have lines marking in play from out of play. The players look like football wide receivers dragging feet to make a legal catch.

in the short season, this might be the major league catch of the season. This college player might have done him one better.

2 things on this: 1) I am a Evansville alum, so awesome job on the catch young Ace. 2) the umpire on this did a great job. He hustled down the line to gain as much ground as possible. Then he clearly stops and gets set to make a call. After seeing the play he hustles to ensure the ball is caught. Good work all the way around.

RuleGraphics breaks this down on page 28 of the book.



Voluntary Release

Finally, the long winter is over and there are loads of baseball games to watch. With all the baseball, there will be a slew of situations to review.

Here is an interesting one from Texas/Oakland last evening.

The second baseman gloves the ball (and I carefully chose the word “gloves”). He does not have control of his body. As he steadies himself the glove hits the ground and the ball falls out.

This is not a catch. The ground can cause a “fumble” in baseball. The umpires will be looking for a “voluntary release” to know a catch is secured. If the drop would have occurred as he reached into his glove, a catch would have been ruled.

A lot of people ask me why umpires wait so darn long to call an out on a routine play at first. Often you see the ball in the glove well before the runner and the ump waits and nonchalantly calls an out. He is not showboating. He is waiting for the voluntary release. Only when this second action occurs can a catch be assured.

Catch is covered on page 28 of RuleGraphics.

A not so typical 8-7-4 DP

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?

From 2-6-1:

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.