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Step & Reach



I want to see what everyone thinks about this very common situation, basepath during a rundown or pickle and basepath in general, that I have seen called both ways multiple times.

Rule set OBR

Case A - A runner coming home and is about 6-8 feet away from the catcher when he sees the catcher catches the ball. At that point the runner takes a huge turn around to go backto third, he would deviate from the alleged basepath by about 4-5 feet, but the catcher at that point is not close enough to attempt a tag but is running toward the runner. Do you call the runer out for being out of the basepath or not since he is not officially avoiding a tag yet?

Again there are interpretations.

New Baseline Rule (2017) Changes Umpire Interpretation

"A fielder’s movement toward the runner is sufficient.

The rundown rule has not changed. During a rundown, the runner’s restricted 3-foot baseline starts the moment the rundown begins. It is a line to the base he is going to and a line to the base he came from-and he has 3-feet in either direction of those lines. The baseline changes with every throw. A tag attempt is not necessary."

Base Path & Running Lane

"It gets tricky in a pickle. When a runner is caught between bases and fielders have the runner in a pickle (a rundown), each time the fielders exchange the ball and the runner reverses direction, the runner has created a new base path . Each time you have this reversal you have a new base path because you have a new fielder attempting to make a tag (and therefore a new "straight line to the base"), and so you have to adjust your view of the base path accordingly. (On a side note, obstruction also comes into play in this scenario.)

This clip shows a really good example of a pickle that goes on for several throws. Notice how, after each throw, the effort each fielder makes to get out of the way of the runner to avoid obstruction."

According to them, once the rundown starts the runner will be forced into the basepath, the latter is described as a 6 foot wide hallway from one base to another. So if a fielder with the ball, who is simply chasing him, is considered a tag attempt. But I thought that just chasing the runner, even during a rundown, did not constitute a tag attempt. So 3 feet violation only applies if there is a real tag attempt, am I right? I mean if the fielder is far enough to not be able to apply the tag, even if he’s running towards the runner,  then this is not considered an attempt tag and therefore even if the runner moves more than three feet is not punishable.

Actually the fielder must be close enough to realistically tag. If he is far from being able to apply the tag should not count. In addition, the sites declare that the basepath is recalculated whenever the ball is thrown and exchanged by the fielders. But this is completely wrong.

In umpirebible, the basepath would change every time the ball is thrown by the fielders, but this is not true.

"each time the fielders exchange the ball and the runner reverses direction, the runner has created a new base path . Each time you have this reversal you have a new base path because you have a new fielder attempting to make a tag (and therefore a new "straight line to the base"), and so you have to adjust your view of the base path accordingly. "

Although this is not true, the false myth is also perpetuated by baseballacademyrules.

"The baseline changes with every throw."

But actually the basepath would disappear during a launch and instead it changes every time the runner changes direction, not every time the fielder throws the ball, I think so, am I right?

"They have a direct line from that point to either base, and then once they start heading towards that base, that's what they're heading toward, and now once they turn and head the other direction again, they have a straight line from that point to that base."

GET OUT OF MY WAY! Umpire Coaching Podcast #2

As this podcast explains, the runner changes the basepath but only when a tag attempt occurs, neither before nor after.

Running out of the basepath

In this video, also, they explain that the basepath appears only in the point and moment of the actual tag attempt.

So during a rundown a fielder chasing behind a runner with the ball isn't a tag attempt, or is it?

I mean if a fielder chasing behind is far away from the runner is not considered a tag attempt, am I right?

Other scenario:

Case B - The runner is chased by a fielder with the ball, but the latter is 6 feet away from him, so a tag attempt is impossible at the moment, immediately after the runner moves sideways by 4-5 feet not to avoid the tag of the fielder behind, which would still be too far to tag him, but to adjust his physical position to avoid the possible and future tag of the fielder who is in front of him and who at the moment does not have the ball yet. What's the call? Is out of the basepath? I think he isn't.

Ask UEFL - Out of Base Path Considerations in Seattle

"A base path, on the other hand, is a direct line from the runner to the base being tried for, and is established at the moment of a tag attempt."

But when does the basepath reset?

For closecallsports is:

"The base path "resets" or must be recalculated from the runner's new position every time the fielder throws the ball to someone else or makes another play. For instance, the base path resets every time a fielder throws the ball to a teammate during a rundown."

The last sentence is partially incorrect, I think. Actually the basepath resets whenever there is a tag attempt.

So let’s get to the last scenario.

Other scenario:

Case C - If the fielder has the ball but is far from the runner, let's imagine he’s six feet or more away from him, a distance such that an attempt tag is not possible to do,  the tag attempt shouldn’t exist and runner is free to go where he wants, right?

Case D - The fielder attempts a tag but the runner avoids it legally so the fielder remains unbalanced and starts chasing him again only after the runner is already 6 or 7 feet away, At this moment the basepath would have disappeared and would have to be recalculated again only when the fielder will be close enough to the runner again to realistically try to tag him, right?

I mean a runner's base path is not established until the tag attempt occurs (begins) and the runner is restricted by the three-foot provision in OBR 5.09(b)(1) until:

A) the runner arrives at the next (or previous) base,

B) the fielder loses possession of the ball (e.g., by throwing it or dropping it),

C) the fielder stops the tag attempt (e.g., to play on another runner or simply stops and does not stay at close range.).

The tag attempt is valid only when there is a reasonable chance that the tag could be made, the runner’s basepath is established at that moment, as a straight line from the runner’s position when the tag attempt first occurred to the base they are attempting to reach. If the runner moves > 3 feet out of that straight-line basepath to avoid the tag, they are out. But if the fielder is far enough, so there is not a reasonable change that the tag could be made, there is not a basepath, am I right? I mean a fielder chasing behind a runner with the ball is not a tag attempt, correct?

However, the official baseball rules do not specifically delineate such a tag attempt's timing. OBR's Definition of Terms specifies that, "a tag is a touch of the base/runner with the ball/glove," so a tag attempt, logically, is an attempt to touch the runner in this fashion ("attempt" is not defined).

Easy way to think about this…would the runner have been tagged out if they hadn’t veered way ? Yes. So I think the answer could be that if the fielder is far away the rule does not apply. Am I wrong?

As regards cases C and D
As long as that same fielder who has attempted a tag still has a potential tag play (the fielder must retain the ball and must be close enough to tag him, i.e. a potential tag play on the runner), the runner is restricted from trying to avoid the fielder by running more than three feet to the left or right of the established base path. But if the fielder makes a tag attempt, fails, loses his balance and meanwhile the runner ran away and is now 6 feet away I think the tag attempt is gone.

The other point of view on the subject is this: 

When the fielder with ball starts chasing the runner, although the latter is very far from him or anyway so far away that he can’t make a tag attempt, the runner is constrained in basepath.

So they say that If you allowed this, then the runner could run all over on the field since the the fielder can’t yet physically reach them yet.
In a rundown, a fielder is running at the runner, directly behind them… is the runner then allowed to veer way left or right to avoid them?
I think if the fielder is near with a reasonable expectation to touching the runner, yes but if the fielder is 7 or more feet behind him, no.
It is a simple enough rule, but it lacks needed specifics.

What needs to be within 3 feet?  Anything?  Something?  Everything?

When does a tag attempt really start?  When the fielder conceives of it in his mind?  When he is 7-10 feet away?  I think only when actual possible contact is evident and imminent, am I right?

On 11/4/2023 at 4:20 PM, Senor Azul said:

Here's something that might help you. In 2017 OBR changed/clarified its interpretation of the term "tag attempt."

A fielder no longer has to have ball in glove or hand extended toward the runner to restrict his baseline. A fielder's movement toward the runner is sufficient.

I, too, have read the "skunk in the outfield" blog analysis. The reminder that a runner must move directly toward a base is a good one. The Jaksa/Roder manual puts it this way, "A runner must prove by his actions and the way he positions himself that his intent is to reach a base safely (and to stay on the base if it cannot be overrun)."

I don't think running away (backward) from the base meets that requirement.

I’ve also read this from  baseballaccademyrules :

"Prior to the 2017 season, a runner’s baseline (excluding a rundown) was restricted by the fielder’s tag attempt with ball in glove or hand and extended toward the runner. This season, however, there is a rule change. A fielder no longer has to have ball in glove or hand extended toward the runner to restrict his baseline. A fielder’s movement toward the runner is sufficient."
What is the rule that would have been changed? Where? Where can I read this rule change?
Finally, my curiosity:
Case E - If a runner, for example R1, tries broken mirror play, he runs to the pitcher and stands at a spot near the pitcher’s mound but slightly towards the path between 2B and 3B, in this case, I know it’s absolutely bizarre, would R1 have considered that he miss  2B? So could a fielder appeal?
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