Situation

With a left-handed batter in the batter’s box, the batter hits a fly ball to right field that carries over the outfield fence. The right fielder hustles to the fence and reaches over the fence to try to catch the ball. As she extends and attempts to secure the catch, a spectator seated beyond the fence, jumps up to catch the “home run” ball. In so doing, the spectator contacts the right fielder’s glove, knocking the glove off her hand and onto the ground. The ball rolls out of the glove and onto the ground outside of the fence. The home plate umpire indicates home run. After the batter-runner rounds the bases and before the ball is put back in play, the defensive manager approaches the home plate umpire. The manager asserts that her outfielder was interfered with because she made the catch and the spectator knocked the ball out after the act of the catch was completed. Therefore the batter should be ruled out and no home run credited. The umpire explained that the outfielder reached over the fence to attempt to make the catch. When the outfielder’s glove was contacted by the spectator and the glove came off, the attempt to complete the catch ended at that moment, prompted her to rule, “home run.” Should the home plate umpire change her call from “home run” to “out?”

Explanation

In the judgement of the home plate umpire at the time of the call, the outfielder made contact with the ball after it was over the fence, and reached her glove beyond the fence in an attempt to make the catch. Because the outfielder reached outside of the playing field, and that is where contact occurred, it is not considered fan interference, and therefore the play stands as originally ruled. According to the current Little League® Official Regulations, Playing Rules, and Policies – Rule 3.16 Situation B – This is not fan interference because the fielder reached her glove beyond the limits of the field. The spectators are allowed to be there and their actions beyond the confines of the field cannot be judged as interference. Rule 3.16 Situation A – If a batter hits a foul fly ball along the first base or third base fence, and as the fielder prepares to catch the ball, a spectator reaches over the fence and touches the ball, this would be considered spectator interference. In this situation, the batter is be declared “out.”  Foul Territory: The part of the playing field outside the first and third base lines extended to the fence and perpendicularly upwards.

Note: This rule is applicable in all levels of Little League play. If a player catches a ball that clears the fence or goes out of play, the act of the catch must be completed to be able to record the “out.”