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Ask the Ump – Play 21

Play: Batter hits low line drive that strikes the front of the pitching rubber and caroms into the air. Before it hits the ground, an in-fielder catches the ball. Is it an out?

I’ve been playing for 35 years and never saw this call: The ump called the batter out. I always believed the rubber was like a base in the sense that a carom is treated as if it hit the ground. Am I right and the umpire wrong?

The game is played on a diamond-shaped playing field. The four corners of the diamond are the home plate, first base, second base and third base. In the middle of the infield is a raised mound – known as the pitcher’s mound – where the pitcher stands when pitching the ball to the batter. The area beyond the infield, which is bordered by the first and third baselines, is called the outfield.

Ruling: A batted ball that strikes the pitcher’s plate and rebounds into foul territory before passing 1st base or 3rd base is a foul ball. If it stays in fair territory, the ball re-mains a fair ball, and the defense may make a play.

The pitching rubber is part of the playing field. In that sense, you are correct in saying that the ball has hit the ground when it touches the pitching rubber, much the same as if a batted ball strikes a base.

A difference arises between the two situations in that when a bat-ted ball hits a base it immediately becomes a fair ball. This is not the case when a batted ball hits the pitcher’s plate, in which case it depends on where the ball caroms. In the situation you describe, the fielder has caught a batted ball that has already touched the ground – i.e., a ground ball. The batter is not out, as in a caught fly ball, until put out .

Sources: MLB 1.04 and Diagram 1, 2.00; 1.2.6 and Diagram 2, 1.2.11; www.everysinglesport.com

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