This month, we will explain and outline a plate umpire’s parameters for declaring a ball foul when it is played by a corner infielder in Little League®. The situation described below is contingent on the corner infielder (playing first base or third base) contacting a ball in foul territory while maintaining both feet in fair territory; and is applicable in all divisions of Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball®.
With no outs and the bases empty in the second inning of a Little League Softball Major Division game, the pitcher delivers an 0-1 pitch that is struck by the batter, resulting in the ball bounding toward first base. Moving to field the batted ball, the first baseman charges in, catches the ball outside of the foul line, and then tagged the batter-runner for an apparent out. Note that the fielder’s feet were in fair territory when she touched the ball. Reacting to the ball contacting the bat on the swing, the plate umpire, moved into position on the first baseline extended, and put his hands out and verbalized, “foul!” Before the ball is put back in play, the manager of the defensive team approaches the plate umpire, and asks him to check with the base umpire, claiming that the ball should be ruled fair and that the runner is to be ruled out because the player fielded the ball while standing in fair territory.
For guidance on this situation, look to Rule 2.00, Definition of Terms which applies to both baseball and softball.
According to the definition, a foul ball is a batted ball that settles in foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base in or over foul territory, or that first falls in foul territory beyond first or third base, or that while in or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.
In this instance, the umpire is correct to rule a foul ball and assess a strike to the batter’s count. Any attempt by the defensive player to record the out was nullified at the time she contacted the ball in foul territory, despite her feet remaining inside of the baseline. It is the location of the ball in reference to the baseline that determines whether it is fair or foul.
Additional related information on common rules misconceptions and misinterpreted rules is available on Little League University.