Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rules Every Umpire Should Know: Backswing Interference

Baseball is beautifully complex. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I really do learn something every time I work a game. Heck, every time I watch a game I learn something. I believe that if you don’t, you just aren’t trying.

Case in point: earlier this year I worked a high school game for a small rural school. With the runner on first stealing, the batter swung through the pitch and hit the catcher with his backswing. What is the correct rule?

Backswing Interference in Professional Baseball and College Baseball
When a batter swings through a pitch and makes contact with the catcher (his mitt or his person) during his backswing, the ball is delayed dead. If the catcher throws and the throw directly retires the runner, the interference is disregarded. Otherwise, the ball is dead and runners return to TOP bases. [OBR Rule 6.06(c) CMT]; [NCAA Rule 6-2d-2]

If the batter swings, the ball is not caught, and the backswing hits the catcher, the ball is dead and the batter is out. [PBUC]; [NCAA Rule 6-2d-1).

In this video example, R1 is stealing. The batter hits the catcher with his backswing and the catcher does not throw. This is backswing interference and R1 is returned to 1B.

In this video example, R1 is stealing. The batter strikes out and his backswing hits the catcher. The catcher’s throw does not retire R1, so the batter is out and R1 must return to 1B.

In this video example, R1 is stealing. The batter hits the catcher with his backswing and the catcher’s throw does not retire R1. Since the initial throw did not retire R1, he must return to 1B even though R1 is out on subsequent play.

Backswing Interference in High School
Inexplicably, the National Federation of High Schools rule on backswing interference is an immediate dead ball, the batter is out for interference, and all runners must return to TOP bases.

I kicked the call by enforcing the pro rule at a high school game. Of course, no one in the ball park (including my partner) knew I had made the mistake. Heck, I spoke with a state rules interpreter later in the year that didn't know the high school rule off the top of his head (he is also a college official). But that's our job, right? This is one of those plays that occur from time to time, and you need to be aware of the rules differences at the various levels.


Jesse said...

Glad your back! was missing your posts!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Reid Patterson, I was hit in the side of mask while catching about 2 weeks ago. I play for my high school. We are part of NEPSAC, (New England Prep School Athletic Conference) so the bases were loaded and the batter had his back foot on the line of the batters box. He was a lefty. So the ball was hit over the third baseman and I am told that I went straight down hard. I had on a hockey style mask. I dont remember if I stood up and then fell or if I went down on contact. I do remember seeing that my right foot was still where I was when I went into the crouch. Everyone was watching the ball BUT the pitcher he came right over and the ump (not to criticize) was a little girl about every pitch he would either push me a little if it was heading for the dirt or he would move off to the side. I believe he moved off to the side and did not actually see what happened. I heard him say "catcher's interference" to my coach. I was too weak to get up and yell. can you shine some light on this for me?

Thank you!

yawetag said...

I had backswing interference in a high school game this year, too. When it happened, I called it; my next thought was "I know OBR and NCAA are different than NFHS, but which way does it go?"

I guessed correctly and confirmed it after the game. :)

Pete Reiser said...

Welcome, Reid.

It sounds like you were hit on the backswing, but it was not interference by you or the batter. There is no infraction in the situation you describe - unless the batter intentionally hit you.