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Guest Joe S

Bunt Ruling

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Guest Joe S

This is a very obscure and certainly rare incident but the thought crossed my mind and I couldn’t find anything definitive on the internet.

Say the batter lays down a perfect bunt down the 3rd base line. I mean one that rolls parallel to the foul line and within 6 or so inches of it. Is it legal for a fielder to carve a diagonal trench in the dirt with their cleat so the ball is directed into foul territory when it rolls over the trench? I’m suggesting the fielder doing this quickly after the ball is bunted while it is in play.

My guess is it is an illegal play. I found attempting to blow the ball over the foul line is illegal so I’m sure this falls under the same ruling. 

I also know coaches and umpires have to agree upon the playing field parameters and rulings before the game so the field should not be altered in any way to change the way the game is played on it after the first pitch.

Just thought I’d get a professional opinion and see how umpires would rule this play if it happened.

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Your guess is correct—it is illegal. A fielder cannot interfere with the course of a batted ball by official interpretation. Here’s how it appears in the 2015 Major League Baseball Umpire Manual (paragraph 64, p. 80):

"When a batted ball is rolling fair down the foul line between home plate and either first or third base and a fielder stoops down over the ball and blows on it or in any other manner does some act that in the judgment of the umpire causes the ball to roll onto foul territory, the umpire shall rule a fair ball. The ball is alive and in play."

And, Joe S, you’re also right about this being a rare occurrence. I know of only three instances and the interesting thing about them is that all involved the Kansas City Royals. The most famous instance, of course, is when Lenny Randle actually succeeded in blowing the ball foul in a game between the Mariners and Royals in 1981.

In 1987, Kevin Seitzer of the Royals tried it in a game against the Twins. Finally, in a spring training game in 2012 between the Dodgers and Royals Jerry Hairston tried it.

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