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Guest Mike

Back swing catcher interference

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Guest Mike

USSSA tournament last weekend. Batters back swing hits catcher. He hit a foul ball dribbler down the infield first baseline. No one on base I was in A position and called foul. Plate up was slow to call foul from the back swing contact. Ruling no interference since I called foul. So with no one on base can there be back swing interference at that level or any level of play? Does the foul call play into the decision? Defensive team asked but did not make a fuss. I’ve done some rule reading and most of what I’ve read doesn’t cover this scenario And eludes to no interference if bases are empty. Thanks 

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I'm a little confused on the play.  You ask about contact on a backswing (I assume you mean "follow through" -- even though OBR also uses the term backswing here), but then also seem to ask about catcher interference, so maybe you really do mean "backswing" ((as in the batter's motion in preparing to hit the pitch.

 

Or, maybe I'm just not reading it correctly.

 

In any event, if the contact was the batter's follow through after hitting the ball, then the play stands -- foul ball.

 

If the contact was the better's backswing (preparation for hitting the ball), then it's CI and the batter is warded first.

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Would it be considered runner (batter-runner) interference if his follow through hit the catcher and that contact made the catcher unable to run down the line and grab the ball as it rolled fair?  It was still in foul territory and called foul in the OP so the play is dead, but what if the BU had not called it foul and what I proposed had happened?  Would this be an example of the OP's question about interference with no one on base?  Thanks.

 

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Of course, all the following depends on what you actually meant by backswing (before or after the pitch?). USSSA uses Official Baseball Rules (OBR--also known as pro rules). All my rule citations are from the 2019 OBR.

It is not catcher’s interference if the batter accidentally strikes the catcher with his bat during a practice swing while the pitcher prepares to pitch (see rule 5.05b3 Comment). It is catcher’s interference if the catcher contacts the batter or his bat during a swing or bunt at a pitch. If the batter’s follow-through contacts the catcher, it is a strike only and not interference (the ball is dead and runners remain at TOP bases). The rules that cover catcher’s interference are listed in the 2019 index as 5.05(b)(3), 5.06(b)(3)(D,E), and 6.01(g). Please note that the rules do not differentiate a fair batted ball from a foul batted ball on the catcher’s interference—only that the catcher hindered the swing. If the catcher interferes and the pitch is batted foul, the batter is awarded first base.

2019 OBR rule 5.05(b) The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:

(3) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.

Rule 5.05(b)(3) Comment: If catcher’s interference is called with a play in progress the umpire will allow the play to continue because the manager may elect to take the play. If the batter-runner missed first base, or a runner misses his next base, he shall be considered as having reached the base, as stated in Note of Rule 5.06(b)(3)(D). Examples of plays the manager might elect to take: 1. Runner on third, one out, batter hits fly ball to the outfield on which the runner scores but catcher’s interference was called. The offensive manager may elect to take the run and have batter called out or have runner remain at third and batter awarded first base. 2. Runner on second base. Catcher interferes with batter as he bunts ball fairly sending runner to third base. The manager may rather have runner on third base with an out on the play than have runners on second and first.

If a runner is trying to score by a steal or squeeze from third base, note the additional penalty set forth in Rule 6.01(g). If the catcher interferes with the batter before the pitcher delivers the ball, it shall not be considered interference on the batter under Rule 5.05(b)(3). In such cases, the umpire shall call “Time” and the pitcher and batter start over from “scratch.”

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Mr. NavyBlue, the batter would be out for interference because his whole, unbroken bat took out a defensive player trying to make a play.

2019 NFHS Case Book Play 7.3.5 Situation J:  With R1 on first base, B2 swings and misses the pitch for strike one. His follow-through hits the catcher while he is attempting to throw out advancing R1. RULING:  B2 is out, and R1 is returned to first base.

Also see 2019 NFHS Case Play 7.3.5 situations B and C for examples of follow-through interference and see 7.3.6 for the concept expressed in its ruling.

2019 NFHS Case Book Play 7.3.6:  In hitting a slow roller to F5, the (a) whole bat slips out of his hands and interferes with F5 or (b) his bat breaks and hits the ball or F5 as F5 attempts to field the ball. RULING:  In (a), the ball is dead immediately. B1 is declared out for interference, because B1 is responsible for controlling his bat and not allowing it to interfere with a defensive player attempting a play. In (b), there is no penalty and the ball remains live.

2019 NFHS Case Book Play 7.3.5 Situation K:  With less than two outs, R3 attempts to steal home. B2 swings and misses the pitch for strike two. On the follow-through, his bat releases and strikes F2 in the facemask. RULING:  The ball is dead and R3 is declared out. With two outs, the batter is declared out.

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By “back swing”, we’re equating it to “follow through”, right? As in, at the completion of his swing, the batter’s bat makes contact with the catcher, yes?

The reason you’re having a bit of trouble on finding it, is one of the two Rules, I can’t remember exactly which (while I’m here on the elliptical at Planet Fitness; I think it’s NFHS), refers to “back swing” contact as contact made between bat and catcher prior to the pitch. We (as umpires) are to call Time, let everyone reset, and caution the batter (if warranted).

What you’re describing is after the swing. So, since that contact can affect how a catcher receives the ball and/or making a subsequent play (such as a steal attempt, pickoff attempt, etc.), we (as umpires) have to address that. On a ball put into play, unless that contact directly affects the catcher’s ability to field it (such as a pop-up, or retrieving the ball on a “sawed-off” squibber near the plate), we typically “allow” it. There are a bunch of particular rule citations that other umpires here are responding with.

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