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Infield Pop Fly Rule In Baseball And Softball

By Biraj Khanal / 8 May 2023 03:31 AM

Two infielders trying to catch the same ball during the game.
Source : instagram

Infield Pop Fly Rule states runners must re-touch their bases at their own risk after the ball is caught. The batters only get out by the infield fly.

The rule doesn't seem complicated to understand if the purpose is known. It is mainly applied in baseball and softball.

The rule is created to protect the runners on base but is not a gift for the defending side. It prevents the defense from releasing their double play-by-catch failure, which an infielder can have a routine catch.

This rule is explained in the Official baseball rules. It was first introduced in 1985 by the National League after their infielders dropped their routine catches forcing the runners to the base. 

Though it came into effect in 1901 but was amended in 1904, evicting the line drives in the game.

Infield Fly Rule Explained

Why is there an infield fly rule? The infield fly rule prevents the defense's failure to take routine catches to make baserunners out.

The rule states that the runners are no longer forced to advance if the balls fall into the ground without being touched by the defense players.

The infield rule is explained through the following key elements:

  • There should be fewer than -1two outs
  • There must be runners on first and second base or first, second, and third base.
  • The fly ball can't be a line drive.
  • An infielder should catch the routine ball with his ordinary effort.

In the absence of this rule, defense infielders give the time for the ball to touch the ground so that baserunners advance and turn an easy double-play.

The infield fly couldn't create the dead ball situation but only called the batter out.

When Does Infield Fly Rule Apply?

Infield fly rule applies when a fair fly ball can be caught by the infielder's ordinary effort and is dropped untouched, forcing the play in the first and second base, which leads to batters getting out.

When the batter swings the ball high in the air over the infield, multiple fielders gather to catch but create a miscommunication during catching, which leads the ball to fall into the ground.

The miscommunication creates the baserunners in dilemma to run for the next bases when they got out by the infielders after throwing the ball to the base while running.

In some cases, the runners hold their existing places, and the play will end with the batter out and the runners at their same bases.

The rule was implemented first in the National League Wild Card game back in 2012.

When the Braves and the Cardinals were playing against each other in a do-or-die situation, Andrelton Simmons of the Braves lifted a shot to the left field, which was dropped by the Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma including Matt Holiday. 

As both left the ball in miscommunication to be dropped, the infield fly rule was implemented as Simmons was out, having the runners back at their existing position with two outs. 

Later, the Cardinals won the game with a 6-3 score.

Can Runners Advance On Infield Fly Rule?

Infield Fly MLB mentions baserunners can advance at their own risk of getting tagged out during the infield fly event. They should analyze the risk before progressing to the next base.

Baserunner advancing closer towards the next base during youth baseball game.
Source : instagram

Mainly there are options for runners provided while at the infield fly:

  1. Going back to the bag (recommended)
  2. Advances to the next base hoping the ball is dropped
  3. Tag up when the catch is made

Two situations are generated during the infield fly call by the umpires.

  • First, If the infield is caught, the runners can advance at their own risk of getting tagged out, and won't be any force play should get tagged.
  • Second, If the ball is dropped, there won't be any forced play, and after the umpire calls the infield fly, the fielder is responsible for marking the runners, otherwise will be safe.

Baserunners should analyze the fielder's position to advance far enough from the base to ensure the return safely if caught.

If the catch is missed, runners should move forward instead of returning to their back, creating an advantage for the defensive team.

Why No Infield Fly Rule With Runner On First?

There is no infield fly rule with a runner on first because if the rule is applied for the first runner, the defensive team can only gain the advantage of getting the lead runner out at second by letting the ball drop untouched.

The rules further aim to restrict the multiple outs by the defensive team if there are at least two runners on the base subjecting to a force play.

Softball Infield Fly Rule

Infield fly rule in softball depicts the fly ball, considered by the umpire as a fair ball, that can be caught by any infield players, pitchers, or catchers.

The infield fly can be a line drive or a bunt and is mainly applied when the runners are there on the first and second base or the first, second, and third bases and when there are fewer than two outs. 

The interesting aspect of this rule is the batter will get out when the umpires call for the fly ball despite having the fielders catches the Ball. The umpire signals the fly ball by raising one arm straight.

The major purpose of establishing the rule in softball is to restrict the fielder's double play or triple play techniques for getting the batter out. The absence of this rule will easily generate a loophole for applying double or triple play.

As mentioned in the Softball Canada rule book in section 52, the infielders, pitchers, or catchers can be called infielders when they position themselves to catch the Ball in the infield.

NCAA and UNCW softball players during the game on April 8, 2023
Source : instagram

Other notable things about the infield fly in softball:

  • Fly Ball doesn't need to be caught by an infielder in an infield position despite the call.
  • The batter will get out when the umpires call the fly ball, regardless of what happens in the field after the signal.
  • The batter won't get out if the fly ball ends up being a foul ball after the umpire calls it.
  • The use of "ordinary effort" is a crucial part to remember for the infielder observed by the umpires for the call.

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