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Discussion: Is the infield fly rule based on physical ability to catch the ball?

Posted Discussion
May 24, 2018
Turbobob
Men's 65
59 posts
Is the infield fly rule based on physical ability to catch the ball?
What circumstances does the physical ability or inability of the infielder/pitcher/catcher to catch the fly ball play, in determining whether the infield fly rule is in effect?

Sect. 1.41 INFIELD FLY (defined) A fair fly ball … that can be caught by any fielder with ordinary effort when …

Is the “ordinary effort” based on the fielder’s physical ability to get to the ball?

Example: Infield fly rule applies (bases loaded, one out. Ball is popped up about 30 feet high and lands halfway between the pitcher’s mound and the strike plate. Neither the pitcher nor the catcher are physically able to run more than a few steps toward the ball to catch it.

Questions:
1) Is the infield fly rule applicable based on their “ordinary effort” (taking into account their physical challenges)?
2) If they just allow the ball to fall without moving, is the infield fly rule applicable?

The umpire ruled it was not an infield fly because it was not an easily catchable ball by those players.
May 25, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
Turbo... you just have to judge the play itself.. that being said if no fielder is able to get to the ball with ordinary effort then I would not have an IF.. as far as judging ability every age bracket's ability is different you definitely will not have the same ordinary effort in the 50's as in the 70's.. the purpose of the rule is to protect the runners.. as far as a fielder just letting the ball drop without moving.. it would depend on where the ball was hit.. if it is near a fielder then I would call it.. if in my judgement the ball could not be caught with ordinary effort then I wouldn't call it.. the best thing is never call IF to early.. you can always call it after the play
May 25, 2018
lb16
Men's 50
151 posts
Ump got it right on this one by your description of play.
May 25, 2018
titanhd
Men's 50
546 posts
UMPIRE GOT IT RIGHT!????

when first and second are occupied or bases loaded (I think) with less than two outs." Batter hits a fair infield fly ball(not a line drive) which can be caught by an infielder, pitcher or catcher. By rule Infield Fly should have been called by the umpire. No matter any "physical challenges".

If the ball fell in the infield with or without being touched infield fly rule would still apply (if called). Batter out-runners advance at their own risk.
May 25, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
Generally that’s true Floyd but there are situations where the rule doesn’t apply. Just last weekend I had a play like that. It wasn’t in your game but it was 1st and 2nd no outs. Pop up between pitcher and first baseman. No one moved. Players looked at each other and still no one moved. I didn’t call anything. The ball bounced then the catcher ran out and fielded it but too late, he didn’t have a play. They argued but someone has to come over and try to make a play before I’m calling infield fly.
Did you guys end up winning?
May 25, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
titanhd.. the rule also says with ordinary effort.. how does an umpire judge the ordinary effort of a fielder if no effort is given.. if fielders just stand still and let the ball drop and it is no where near a fielder then I have no call.. play on.. if the ball was hit "near" a fielder who never moved then I would call IF just to protect the runners
May 25, 2018
lb16
Men's 50
151 posts
titanhd as usual not reading the whole description of the rule "A fair fly ball … that can be caught by any fielder with ordinary effort" . A ball hit between the pitcher and catcher not very high would fall in to this situation some of the time. Just because a fly ball is hit in the infield doesn't mean infield fly will be called. Just as I have called infield fly when I determine an infielder is going to catch a ball in the grass sometimes.
May 25, 2018
Garocket
Men's 55
256 posts
If you are going to judge the defensive players you will also have to judge the baserunners.
If the base runners are slow and cannot run very fast and the ball has a backspin on it and comes back to the catcher and he picks it up and throws to 3rd then to second for a double play. If that was to happen than the umpire has not protected the runners and that is his job. If I am on 1st base and a runner is on second and the ball is popped up to the infield you can bet I am staying on the base. and as slow as I am I am sure I would be doubled off at second.

If the ball is popped up to the infield the best bet is the umpire should call batter out and all runners can advance at their own risk.
May 26, 2018
titanhd
Men's 50
546 posts
Stick.The call or the lack thereof revolved around an inability of the players "physical challenges".An umpire can't circumvent the rule as written because a player or players don't or can't react to a fair batted ball. In the Turbo Bob case "infield fly" should be the only call.The "physical inabilites" of the player was what made the play "not ordinary".That is not in the rule book!


hypothetically: You being an umpire and I'm catching and I turn to you in an infield fly situation and say. I have a hamstring and may not be able to catch a fly ball between home plate and the mound. So "don't call infield fly I won't be able to make a play on the ball".(Or even in your judgement the thought- these guys can't make a play").C"MON MAN! lol!!!

The rule was written to protect the baserunners from jeaopardy.The lack of a call here does not do that.
May 26, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
Floyd, respectfully I can empathize with physical limitations of players at the senior level. I understand about protecting the runners but Ive never heard of a rule or a courtesy that says umpires need to take into account certain physical limitations players may have in calling the infield fly rule. Rule of thumb: run it out until you hear the umpire call infield fly. The combatants in this game did it right.
May 26, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
let me clarify what I mean by judging ability.. I recently worked a 50's major tour.. there was a SS who had the best range and arm that I have ever seen.. his "ordinary effort" was far superior to any one else at the tour.. so if a fly ball is hit short or deep he is probably going to get to it.. that being said if the ball is in the air and he is running to it and using "his ordinary effort" then I would call IF.. That same ball hit to a lower division SS or say a 70's SS would have no chance at being caught "with ordinary effort" so I would not call IF.. Now if somehow they did get to the ball and let the ball drop to try to turn a double play ... I could always call it after the play... The point I'm trying to make is many times IF is called way to early on uncatchable balls or on balls that sometimes no one attempts to go after
May 26, 2018
The Screamer5
65 posts
As umpires, I don't know if we should be judging the physical abilities or inabilities of the fielder in determining whether or not to call the infield fly rule. That can be so subjective depending on the player and situation. To me, either the fair infield fly ball can be caught with routine "ordinary effort" or it cannot be. I judged it way more on where the ball is in relation to the fielder than anything else. BJ is totally correct in that many umpires make the IF call way too early on what turns out to be an uncatchable ball. I also have made the IF call AFTER the play many times...which I think is way better than calling it too early.
May 27, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
The Screamer5, unless a rule specifically states it, its not for me to make a call based on physical abilities or inabilities of anyone on an infield fly. I always look for someone to make the effort or ordinary effort to catch it before I call it. I do agree that some umps call it way too early
May 27, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
whether you realize it or not you actually do judge a fielders physical ability on every IF..

screamer here is your 4th sentence.. (I judged it way more on where the ball is in relation to the fielder than anything else.)

here is a scenario.. 1) 2nd baseman has a ball hit a few feet behind him and with ordinary effort he goes back and makes the catch.. 2) the exact same fly ball hit to a 2nd baseman who has pulled a hamstring early in the game or is just old and slow.. lol.. and he hobbles back but just cant get to the ball and it falls in ..
the ball was hit in the same spot and the same distance away from both fielders would you call IF on both plays?




May 27, 2018
Wes
Men's 65
333 posts
Where I play the infield does not have any grass---to many ump's call IF
out in the grass--we have so many player on the infield if someone would
just hold out there hand the ball should fall into one of them
May 29, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
Wes, presuming bases are loaded or runners are on first and second with 0 or 1 out respectively, if an infielder happens to go out few steps on the outfield grass and camps under a high pop-up I’m still going to call infield fly, batter is out. Just because it’s referred to as the infield fly rule doesn’t mean the infielder must be on the dirt.
May 29, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
All, BJ is about one of the most straight forward and logical people in explaining these things. The infield fly all boils down to the umpire's judgement. He is right. I definitely will see a routine catch for that differently in 12 and under vs Men's B vs Men's 70. Even without knowing the players, the level of play dictates what would be routine in a given division. That being said sometimes we may misjudge. Stick8, I do not like to disagree with you, but since the rule is to protect the runners, I am probably going to call the infield fly whether the infielders have a senior moment or not. I will say that the one that I might not call in seniors is the pop up between the catcher and pitcher. In seniors that seems to be one of the hardest plays for them. Young guys just run and get it, but it is often not that easy depending on the level of senior play. Wes, it is not really based on the infield; it is based on the infielder. Yes, it is a common argument that we get when we call one in the grass, but there are many short stops that have no issue getting right under it much deeper than the infield and also behind 2nd base. I know sometimes that I do misjudge and might have wished that I called one if I knew that the infielder was going to make something difficult be so routine, but that is still better than calling one that they didn't get to. I still think that it is correct to call if they don't make the effort because they should have. It is not about awarding the defense but about protecting the runners. BJ, feel free to share your thoughts with me. Once we call it, we cannot un-call it. You really cannot write umpire judgement; it is all situational. Hopefully we always get it right.
May 29, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
Nancy in the situation I had in Lansing the pop up was between the pitcher and catcher on the first base side. Neither moved. I can’t be a judge on whether they were physically limited, had a senior moment or thought the other was going to catch it and call infield fly because of that. Someone had to make an effort, no matter how clumsy or silly it looks, before I call it.
May 29, 2018
mitch1414
12 posts
Most people here are trying to find a black and white solution to a judgement call. Every pop up is its own entity and will be judged by the umpire at that time. Like any other judgement call by the umpire, some will agree and some may not......
May 29, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
Nancy, 100% correct it's about protecting the runners.. that is why it was good for umpires when SSUSA added to the rule a few years ago that IF can be called after the play..

The only time I would call IF when there was no effort given to catch the ball was if the ball was hit a step or two from the fielder.. again just to protect the runners.. I wouldn't call it if the ball was hit between the pitcher, catcher and 3rd baseman and they all stood and watched it.. there has to be some effort made in a play like that..

No fielder or runner should ever assume that IF will be called and if they do that is on them.

May 29, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
Stick8, thanks for explaining it. I kind of stated it above, but it is just harder for that pop up between the pitcher and catcher to be gotten to in seniors. I get it although I do not get why they would not even try. Senior moment? I am pretty sure that I would agree with you not calling it when it was between those two. BJ, thanks. I know that you have heard it too, but so many players think of it as for the defense. Oddly in my experience the one that usually argues it the most is the offense even though it is to protect their runners. Darn, I love this silly game of ours.

The older I get, the better I was. ;-)
May 29, 2018
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
512 posts
A related question: When you get to the 70+ age group (65+ in SPA) and have the 11th fielder, how do you determine when he/she is an infielder and when he/she is an outfielder? The most common alignment I see is to place the 11th man in the center of the infield, somewhere immediately behind 2nd base, but it's not uncommon to see this player 20, 30, or 40 feet into the outfield and possibly in LC or RC depending upon the situation. When does he cease being an infielder for purposes of the IF rule?
May 29, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
TT.. any fielder can catch an IF
May 29, 2018
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
512 posts
B.J., I will grant your point that any fielder might conceivably catch an infield fly, but it must be a ball that CAN BE caught BY AN INFIELDER with ordinary effort. Here's a good synopsis of the rule from the umpire section of the Softball Fans board:

"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."

My question is when does a player, in this case the 11th man who frequently moves around the field, cease to be an infielder? If he positions himself 50 feet behind second, is he still an infielder for purposes of the IFR? 100 feet? What if his team elects to play him at the same depth as its "regular" outfielders?
May 30, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
TT .. your rule is correct for ASA, but in SSUSA the wording "Any fielder can catch an infield fly." was added a couple years ago.. so it doesn't matter where a defensive player is before the pitch.. just that he can make the catch with oridnary effort.. SSUSA rule is below

1.41 • INFIELD FLY
A fair fly ball (not including a line drive) that can be caught by any fielder with ordinary effort when first and second bases or first, second and third bases are occupied with less than two outs. Any fielder can catch an infield fly.
May 30, 2018
DCPete
369 posts
So the SSUSA amended rule doesn't seem to make any sense as it's written; if any fielder is eligible to create the IFR then how does the Ump draw the line between an Infield Fly vs an Outfield Fly?
The way this wording reads, the ump could call IFR on a fly ball caught on the Warning Track!!!
May 30, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
DC.. I think you are pushing the warning track scenario a little bit.. but I have seen many great SS's go back 15/20 ft and make that catch.. again the rule is to protect the runners..that is why in my earlier posts I said that you must somewhat judge the fielders ability to get to the ball with ordinary effort.. and never call it to early..wait and see how the play develops
May 30, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
DCPete, show me an umpire who calls infield fly on a ball hit to the outfield warning track and I will show you an umpire that has no business umpiring.
May 30, 2018
Turbobob
Men's 65
59 posts
BJ, i have to agree with your assessment of the scenario that happened in my game, and would make the same call as the umpire (self-umpiring league) made. Ball lands about 25 feet from the pitcher or catcher, little or no effort is made to catch it, no IF rule is called.

Nancy, for those "senior moments" you spoke of. You, stick8 and I agree that the fly ball between the pitcher and catcher is a difficult one. Most pitchers and catchers in my 70 plus league have difficulty walking least ways trying to run a step or two. I would call it a "senior physical moment" which doesn't allow them to get the ball which falls around 20-25 feet from them. Not calling the IF rule is the more appropriate call, and I agreed with the ump in my game.

Certainly is scenario based, isn't it.
May 30, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
Hmmm, the infamous outfield fly joke.

I thought of you all last night because the timing was perfect. It was a very hot humid night so I had a lot of interesting things happen anyway, but then comes the infield fly. Runners are on 1st and 2nd, routine pop up to the 2nd baseman. It falls right through his glove. Those of you who know me well know that I call it pretty loud (right, Dave?). The runner takes off from 2nd to 3rd. After I call time, the runner walks back to 2nd. I am "No, go to 3rd." The 3rd baseman of course loses his mind a little because of course it's a dead ball situation, and their coach had been yelling time for some unknown reason. No, it's not a dead ball; runners advance at their own risk. That doesn't make sense. Then he wants to appeal the runner leaving early. Um, the ball wasn't caught. But... So I get to pull the coaches out and have a nice conversation with them on how the infield fly works. Can't appeal from where ball would have been caught? No. If it gets dropped, it's a dead ball? No. I am so thinking that someone is going to get ejected if they don't calm down and think about what just happened. Anyway they got through it, and the 3rd baseman became one of the sweetest players ever, probably because I asked his coach to have a nice long talk with him about what is really going on even if it doesn't make sense to him. Anyway I wish that I had a video for you because this was probably the craziest infield fly that I ever had but only because the players didn't get it.

Turbobob, a 70 year old catcher years ago made me realize that this was not routine anymore. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. What I don't understand is the ball between the pitcher and 2nd baseman with no one making the attempt. That call I am going to make. I will not call the one right between the pitcher and catcher.
May 30, 2018
tc4whlr
28 posts
Nancy one for you, with a long break between games (asa) our pitcher and catcher caught up on past times over quite a few beers. game time arrives infield fly between the 2 of them, neither tries to catch it (or can function good enough to get it) so it drops between them to this starts a shouting argument between the two of them of WHO is going to get the ball, F you you get it, I am not getting it you get it, This went back and forth till the 3rd baseman went and picked up the ball. So to me nothing is routine on an infield fly :)
May 30, 2018
HJ
Men's 70
481 posts
I play in a senior rec league. I have constantly seen IF called on balls which are never touched by a fielder. Everyone understands the purpose of the rule is to protect the runners from a cheap DP. If the fielders can't get to the ball do you really think they have the ability to turn it into a DP. You aren't protecting the runners, you are giving the defense an out they don't deserve. In younger leagues where the arms are better and the reflexes faster more IF's makes sense;in older divisions it is a gift to the defense.
May 30, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
HJ, I get what you are saying, but the umpire is not taking into account what routine is if you are constantly having balls that the infielder cannot get to. Their judgement is what is turning it into a defensive bonus. I maintain that it is always there to protect the runners. The only place that I have seen the infield fly not used was 10 and under slow pitch because nothing is truly routine for them. The only disadvantage is that if they go to a tournament, they are not familiar with it.
May 30, 2018
titanhd
Men's 50
546 posts
Nancy I’ve had you and Stick as umpires in games that I’ve played. 2 of the better ones I might add. Hopefully INF rule never happens again in one of your games.
The last game I played and every game that I’ve ever seen, the area between Home Plate and the Pitcher’s mound was in the infield. However because we play Senior INF somehow doesn’t apply for a ball hit between home and the Pitchers mound????
The ball “plays itself”. INF and most other calls are called in relationship to the ball. We are not calling INF because of where the infielder is playing , if the infielder has the capability to catch the ball, if the infielders didn’t move, or if he stayed in a” Holiday Inn last night”. It’s where the BALL is hit (infield), first and second base bases occupied - less than 2 outs. “INFIELD FLY”

Major plus SS, 2nd baseman, 3rd base can all be found to play deep and on the outfield grass. So in your “what routine is” scenario there would is no INF called because the SS, 2nd baseman couldn’t get to the ball with ordinary effort because they play so deep (short left field)? You might find it fair to” judge” it that way but, that’s not the Rule.

As a Player I would much rather here from an Umpire? ” That’s the Rule” than “in my judgment”. I’ve seen many Umpires and Tourney Directors pull Rule books out of their pockets but, never have I seen one pull out a “Judgment” . Those come from a bit farther south!

Just IMO
May 30, 2018
B.J.
603 posts
WOW!!! this really is not a hard rule to understand and to much is being made of it... it's relatively simple..

If a play on a fly ball can be made with ordinary effort then IF should be called..

If a fielder or fielders are playing deep into the grass and cannot get to the ball to make a catch then IF should not be called..

The same goes for a little pop up between the pitcher and catcher-- pitcher and 3rd and pitcher and 1st.. If the ball CANNOT be caught with reasonable effort then IF should not be called..

The only time IF should be called when no effort is given by an infielder to catch the ball is if the ball is hit in the general vicinity of a fielder..

No where in the IF rule does it say that when the ball is hit in the air and in the infield that IF is an automatic call
May 30, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
titanhd, thank you, I will take the compliment. Unfortunately I have to disagree with you. It is not about the ball; it is about the infielders and whether it is routine. I apologize that it is about judgement when correctly applying the rule. So it is both the rule and my judgement. Have I messed up on my judgement on what is routine before? Yes, occasionally. Was I wrong last night? No, but you would've thought that I was killing them even though it appears that only I knew what was going on. Thank goodness I was there to sort it out and calm them down.

BJ, you are so right on. I compliment you as always. Too bad you weren't hanging out last night to see the circus act. So many people assume too much about the infield fly situation. I don't think that I have ever had so many people so passionate about things that were wrong. You know like I do that this is just one of those things that happens sometimes. Apparently from this thread, the myth continues.
May 30, 2018
DCPete
369 posts
So this happened to us in a league game last year: other team had Runners on 1st & 2nd with 1 out.
Batter hits a routine pop-up between 2nd base & the pitchers mound and umpire calls IFR (correctly).
Our SS calls for it but our 2nd Baseman ignores him and they collide. The ball hits the 2nd baseman in the leg, rolls back towards the dugout and goes out of play.
Runner on 2nd awarded Home & runner on 1st goes to 3rd. Just wondering if any other runner on 2nd base has ever scored on a called Infield Fly Rule out?
May 31, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
BJ could accurately give the SSUSA version. In USSSA, that ump would be correct. It’s akin to an overthrow to first by an infielder that goes out of play. Runners are awarded 2 bases from the time of the pitch. The only difference in your scenario is the batter being out.
May 31, 2018
lb16
Men's 50
151 posts
titanhd - what you are failing to comprehend still is "it's the judgement of the umpire" if it's INF fly rule or not. Just like balls and strikes and safe and outs umpires judgement. Just because a ball is hit in the air in the infield under INF fly rule situations doesn't mean it is automatically going to be called infield fly by ump really not that hard to understand.
May 31, 2018
HJ
Men's 70
481 posts
Thank you Nancy. I totally agree that it is judgment and I think you have also correctly answered the original question of this post. That is, routine is a judgment call based on the ability of infielders and there original starting position.

For example, if a left-handed pull hitter is up who never hits it to 3rd and the defense is way over shifted to the right side then what would normally be a "routine" pop-up to the 3rd basemen is not routine because the defense chose not to be anywhere near where the ball was hit. Call IF here simply gives the defense a cheap out and awards a bad decision with an out. IMO the ump should always consider who the fielders are and where they are in making the judgment of "routine".
May 31, 2018
Nancy Allen
Men's 55
1259 posts
Thank you, HJ. You stated that very well. That is a very good example too.
May 31, 2018
stick8
1706 posts
Titanhd I do appreciate your kind words very much but in reality I consider myself a remarkably average umpire. I actually sat down the other night and asked myself given a choice would I rather play or umpire? I love doing both but I gave playing the edge only because, believe it or not, umpiring is more tiring and taxing than playing!! At least for me it is.
Replying to your last point about the infield fly I would call infield fly on a ball hit between pitcher and catcher if one or both would make the ordinary effort (that’s what the rule is) to catch it!
In my situation in Lansing no one made an effort, they stood there!! No one was really close to the ball.
What happened to Lee? I saw a post your team was looking for a ss due to year ending injury.
June 1, 2018
D0ubleZer0
Men's 55
3 posts
Basically, the rule here is to protect the runners in the situation of a routine fly ball that can be allowed to drop thereby creating the easy double play. Umpire has to make the decision to call to protect the runners based on the play presented to them. Plays that require effort that is not considered routine would be allowed to play without the call, in the umpires eyes, that even if allowed to drop, etc. a easy double play could not be turned.

Once called, runner are free to do what they want. But we have all seen the player that "intentionally" lets the ball drop to try to induce the double play. Even happened the other night where ball hit fielders glove, dropped and he tried to turn 2. I call it out as soon as it hit his glove knowing what he was intending.

Hope that helps..

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