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Discussion: Infield fly rule with a line drive

Posted Discussion
Aug. 9, 2013
Jetboy
63 posts
Infield fly rule with a line drive
Bases loaded I was playing third. Line drive hit to me that I dropped, accidentally. I picked it up and touched third for one out and threw to home for a second out. No infield fly called which I felt was correct. No protest from the offense but one of my teammates suggested to me later that he would have called it (he does ump games). My thought is even if an umpire wanted to call it an infield fly the ball wouldn't have been in the air long enough for it to help the base runners react.

Now let's say the ump decided I dropped it on purpose could a different call be made?
Aug. 9, 2013
SSUSA Staff
1006 posts
Looks like the umpire made the correct call for what you describe as the factual circumstances ... As for your hypothetical about dropping it on purpose, here's the applicable section from the SSSA Rulebook (at page 7) ...

1.37 INTENTIONALLY DROPPED FLY BALL

If a fielder intentionally drops, or lets drop, a fair fly ball, including a line drive, that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort with first base only, or first base and any other base(s), with less than two outs, only one recorded out may be made on the play. This is an umpire's judgment call.

Aug. 9, 2013
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
406 posts
This explanation of the Infield Fly Rule is stickied on the umpiring forum of Softballfans.com. by a member who calls himself NCASAUmp. I frequent this forum and he seems to be one o fthe more knowledgeable members. It's a long explanation, but the first line of the second paragraph should answer your question.




Infield Fly Rule
This is perhaps one of the easiest rules in the book that all too frequently gets overcomplicated. Let's break it down step-by-step.

ASA defines an Infield Fly as "a fair fly ball, not including a line drive or an attempted bunt which can be caught by an infielder, pitcher or catcher with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third bases are occupied with less than two outs." Every other organization (USSSA, NSA, ISA, SSUSA) defines it in much the same way.


How does the Infield Fly Rule work?

Let's break it down into its four parts:

"A fair fly ball, not including a line drive or an attempted bunt..."
This is one common area where fans get mixed up. Ultimately, the batted ball must be ruled that it was a fair ball for the Infield Fly to be enforced. If the batted ball is ultimately ruled foul, then the batter may not be called out on an Infield Fly. Umpires are advised (though not required) to call "Infield Fly if fair" if the ball could possibly result in a foul ball.

"...which can be caught by an infielder, pitcher or catcher..."
This is the other common area in which fans get mixed up. The key phrase here is "can be caught," not "is caught." The fielder may certainly let the ball drop to the ground, and the Infield Fly Rule can still apply.

"...with ordinary effort..."
This part is where things can get a little tricky. What is "ordinary effort?" This is entirely left up to the judgment of the plate umpire. Typically, if a fielder has to break into an all-out run, this would not be considered "ordinary effort." Some umpires consider it ordinary effort if the fielder does not have to turn his back to the infield. Some umpires consider it ordinary effort if the fielder doesn't have to do more than a light jog. All of these umpires are well within their rights to use these as measures for how they define "ordinary effort," as this is a judgment call.

"...when first and second or first, second and third bases are occupied with less than two outs."
This one speaks for itself. First base and second base must be occupied, or the bases must be loaded. There must also be no outs or one out. If there are two outs, the rule does not apply.

I look at this rule as like a house of cards: if any one part is missing, the whole thing falls apart, and the Infield Fly Rule does not apply. All of these parts must come together in order to form the Infield Fly Rule.


What happens when the Infield Fly Rule is called?
The Infield Fly Rule does only one thing: call the batter-runner out, removing the force on the other runners. That's all it does, nothing more. Beyond that, it's treated just like any other fly ball - runners may attempt to advance at their own risk. If the ball is caught, runners must still tag up after the ball is first touched by the defense. If the ball is not caught, runners are not required to tag up.


Whose call is it anyway?
In ASA, this should be the Plate Umpire's call. The Base Umpire may certainly assist the Plate Umpire in making the determination of an Infield Fly, but ultimately, this is the Plate Umpire's call. Other associations may have different mechanics, but I'm not aware of any such examples.


Some True/False regarding the Infield Fly Rule:
#1: The ball is dead.
Answer: False. The ball is most certainly not dead on an Infield Fly. The ball is always live, and runners may advance at their own risk.

#2: If an infielder drops an Infield Fly, the infield fly is still in effect.
Answer: True. The infielder only has to be able to catch the ball with ordinary effort.

#3: Runners no longer have to tag up the instant the Infield Fly Rule is declared.
Answer: False. It's just like any other fly ball. If it's caught, runners are still required to tag up after the ball is first touched by the defense.

#4: An outfielder can catch an Infield Fly.
Answer: True. So long as an infielder could have caught the ball with ordinary effort, the rule still applies. Just because an outfielder actually caught the ball has no bearing on the Infield Fly Rule.

#5: An Infield Fly landing in the grass is not an Infield Fly.
Answer: False. Again, so long as an infielder could have caught the ball with ordinary effort, the Infield Fly Rule applies. The rule mentions nothing about whether the ball must actually be in the infield.

#6: If a team is missing an infielder (such as their second baseman), and the infield fly lands where s/he would have been, it still counts.
Answer: False. A infielder actually has to be present to be able to catch the ball with ordinary effort.

If you have any questions, please let me know. As always, I may periodically modify this document to reflect common questions regarding the Infield Fly Rule. Please do not reply to this thread, as it will be locked, and all replies will be deleted.

Play ball!
__________________
Aug. 9, 2013
TOMAR77
Men's 55
188 posts
Texas Transplant, terrific explanation ! Good detail concisely put. Thanks
Tomar
Aug. 9, 2013
crusher
Men's 70
380 posts
While playing the SSUSA Midwest Qualifier in July with 1st and 2nd occupied an infield fly was hit, however, the umpire did not call Infield Fly. Ball fell 10' or so behind shortstop on dirt infield (he thaught the middle infielder would get ball.
70+ with 11th defender. All runners and batter was safe.

Umpire said when no movement happened from an infielder when ball was hit the INFIELD FLY was not called.

You should catch ball no matter what. However I did think you could just let ball fall and the batter would be out.

C
Aug. 9, 2013
SSUSA Staff
1006 posts
Understanding the Infield Fly Rule remains one of the most difficult rules concepts in the book ... Thanks TX for a great reference guide ... Here's an "instant classic" from the Eastern Nationals ...

I.F. situation, 1st and 2nd, 1 out ... Blooper hit high enough but between pitcher and 2nd baseman where it appears no play can be made by either ...
No I.F. call by the umpire ... But 2B charges at the last moment and gets a glove on it, failing to make a catch ... Ball deflected to P, who throws to SS at 2nd to get a force, then on to 3rd, where the tag is made for the inning-ending double play ...
Interesting (and expected) heated discussion ensues ... Director, after consult with umpire, upholds his initial judgment that the ball couldn't be caught with reasonable effort ... BUT ...
Manager of team at bat then asks the umpire a (great) question: "If you were scoring the play, would you give the 2B an error?" ... Umpire (foolishly) answers: "Probably..."
Manager (again expected) then, using an excellent Earl Weaver impression, yells at umpire: "Are you aware that errors are only charged against a defensive player who has a reasonable chance to make a play but fails to do so?!?!?!" ... More discussion ensues ...
Director announces to all parties that none of them are the official scorekeeper and, accordingly, the original umpire's ruling stands ... Fortunately, the team that was at bat won the game!

Aug. 9, 2013
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
406 posts
Now there's a manager who is quick on his feet!
Aug. 9, 2013
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
406 posts
I've always wondered if the "ordinary effort" provision of the IFR should be judged in relation to the player involved. An "ordinary effort" by a 260 pounder with two knee braces might not get him anywhere near a ball that a 170 pound rabbit can catch with ease.
Aug. 9, 2013
SSUSA Staff
1006 posts
Actually, we see it in our association frequently ... Balls that are "no call" in an 80+ game would gobbled up by a 40-Masters player, and therefore an IFR call is made, with varying degrees between those two extremes ... The good/better umpires seem to have an adequate "sixth sense" about that ... However, that rarely stops a rather spirited debate in an 80+ game! ... That discussion always seems to turn on the question of "Well, could you have gotten it?" ... Followed by the reply from the player saying "Well, of course not, but it was STLL an Infield Fly!" ...
Aug. 10, 2013
Jetboy
63 posts
Thanks to all who replied.
Aug. 11, 2013
VINNY LV
Men's 50
178 posts
Great explanation Texas and funny story SSUSA.. Ya always get the one where infielder goes out into the grass and guys say he was in the outfield.. If that IF makes a reasonable effort to catch ball and doesn't turn back to IF that is still IF fly rule..
Aug. 11, 2013
VINNY LV
Men's 50
178 posts
on the intentional drop the umps gotta be on his toes and call the "OUT" right away and loud enough so all can hear him so runners know what's going on.. "AND I MEAN LOUD ENOUGH" cause a lot of the seniors have that selective hearing !!!! ha ha
Aug. 11, 2013
stick8
1238 posts
Just had an unusual situation on this. I was umpiring the USSSA last chance mens major tournament over the weekend. I'm behind the dish for this game. Runners on first and second no outs. Pop up to first base. First baseman is camping under the pop up in front of the bag. My partners hand goes up then I raise my hand up and call "infield fly batter is out if fair". The batter runner sprinted down the first base line and bumped into the first-baseman preventing him from making the catch. The ball would have landed foul but at this juncture it didn't matter. Right away both of us called interference. Batter is out and the lead runner is out. Said player and their team were not too happy with the call but deep down they knew it was the proper call.
Aug. 11, 2013
stick8
1238 posts
Correction: instead of the ball would have landed foul, the ball DID land foul by about a foot.
Aug. 12, 2013
Jetboy
63 posts
stick8,
I assume that is the rule that not only is the batter runner but the baserunner on first is out too but that seems a stiff penalty
Aug. 14, 2013
stick8
1238 posts
Jetboy, in USSSA it's actually the lead runner who's also out if the act is deemed intentional. And in this situation the act was definitely intentional. I suspect it's close to being the same in the other asscoations, including SSUSA but don't know for certain.
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