On this weeks post I am going to Explain the Infield Fly Rule.
The infield fly rule can be very confusing for a lot of people. In order for one to really understand the game of softball, they really need to understand how the infields fly rule works. To begin with, the reason this rule was introduced was to prevent cases where a team on the defense would drop or refuse to catch an infield fly ball on purpose. Normally, they would do this to get a double play. The game would certainly be a lot different without this rule. Let me give you an example of what would happen without the infield fly rule. With runners on first and second, and less than two outs, if a fly ball was hit to the third baseman he could drop the ball intentionally, then pick it up, touch third, and throw it to second base for a double play. In short, without the infield fly rule there would be a lot more double plays. The double play would be easy since the two runners would be staying near their bases, because they were expecting the ball to be caught.
The infield fly rule is normally called under two circumstances. The first one is when there are less than two outs. This is normally called to put a stop to a double play. The only other instance when the infield fly rule is called is when either runners are on first and second, or the bases are loaded. There has to be a force at third base.
What Confuses People with This Rule comes from the details pertaining to the infield fly rule, including all the combination of events that can take place. To begin with, for the most part people usually imagine that this rule applies during the time when a runner is on first base. However, that is not right and is a very misleading notion. A force play is normally required at home or third to turn the double play by dropping the ball. However, in the event that this force play is missing at home or third to make the double play, the batter should avoid running to first base. It would still turn a double play. This is where the infield rule becomes null and void and the defensive team can capitalize on the situation to make a double play.
To understand the situations that could result in the infield fly rule being called, it is vital for us to understand the call itself. Ultimately, it is crucial to note that the infield fly rule can only be called by the umpire. All judgment is left to their discretion as to when it is right to call it. There are instances for example, where umpires feel that players would have caught the ball with normal effort and they applied the rule. For instance, once the ball has been hit in the air, the umpire should be heard yelling, “Infield fly, the batter is out.”
On the other hand, if the umpire does not make that call, you should immediately make the assumption that the rule is null and void in that scenario. This is the main reason why it was found worthy to leave the discretion of calling the infield fly rule to the umpire. They have the full authority to apply the rule when they see fit.
However, there are some circumstances where the rule may not be applied by the umpire. For example, when runners are on first and second, and a charge is made by the third baseman towards home during bunt coverage, the batter could swing away so as to pop up the ball by the third base. In this scenario, the umpire normally concludes that the ball could not be caught using ordinary effort. Therefore, the umpire will say nothing. This implies that the infield fly rule does not apply here. The third baseman can therefore pick the ball from the ground if they had missed it to touch the third base. This would make a force out in case the runner had not made it to third by that time. However, it is important for players not to make the assumption that the infield fly rule will come automatically during such scenarios. It is still up to the discretion of the umpire.
Something else that really confuses people is when the ball is being called fair or foul. Actually, this has been extremely confusing for a very long time. For instance, the umpire could call the infield fly rule by saying that the batter is out, but in real sense, the batter may not be out. Most people do not understand how that can happen, yet the infield fly rule should only take place on a fair ball. To understand this, lets look at the following case.
Imagine a pop up has been hit down the third base line. Due to that, the umpire makes his or her call, yet the ball eventually moves to the foul territory. It does matter whether the ball is caught or not, in this situation, the infield fly rule will not apply. On the other hand, if the third baseman drops the ball in foul territory, it will just be a foul ball. If the batter is up at this time, the umpire is supposed to call, “infield fly if fair.” The umpire could make the first call simply because the batter is out. However, this would be a wrong call, and it should just be a normal foul ball situation.
In the same vein, the ball could hit the fair territory, ahead of the bases, then rolls to foul even prior to being touched by any defensive player. The ball could be missed, causing the backspin to take the ball foul. Just like the previous situation, the infield fly rule will not apply, resulting in a normal foul ball.
Another situation would be , if the popup gets hit to first base, then the umpire calls “infield fly, batter is out.” Thereafter, the ball is missed by the first baseman and rolls to the fair territory, and then goes into foul territory after it has gone past the first base. To begin with, this would be a hit. In other words, the infield fly rule will be effected and the batter will rightly be out as called by the umpire.
If you thought that was all the confusion there was, well, you would be wrong because there is more confusion regarding the infield fly rule. Take for instance that the second baseman takes some steps back from the dirt to the outfield grass in order to get hold of the popup. Then, you hear the umpire calling out for the infield fly rule. In normal circumstances, a good number of people imagine that the umpire should not call for the infield fly rule since the player was in the outfield grass. However, that is not the case. Remember that the rule is normally flexible enough to allow the umpire to make the calls using his or her discretion.
Actually, this should make sense in this case. How will the umpire know where the ball is going to land? The ball could land on the dirt or on the grass. In fact, there are some fields where grass is in close proximity to the infield. Yet again, how would you expect the umpire to make the call when the whole field is made of dirt? This is why it was very important to write the rules that allow umpires to call for the infield fly rule upon their best judgment. The best way an umpire would judge this situation is to determine if the second baseman was in a position to complete a normal catch. The umpire could also make a visual judgment on how deep the fielder was. Even when the ball eventually gets caught in the grass at the outfield, the umpire could still call for the infield fly rule based on the previous accounts.
In addition, the same situation could have the right fielder calling off the second baseman to catch the ball, and he actually does it. What happens in this situation? Well, the infield fly rule will still hold water. Normally, the umpire will make his or her judgment when the ball is in air. Now that the right fielder called off the second baseman, the second baseman would be holding a ball that had already been found to be an infield fly by the umpire.
Other base runners normally take a risk by advancing on fly balls. The same case applies here. In the event that the ball gets caught, these runners will be compelled to tag before making any other advancement. On the other hand, if their risk pays and the ball does not get caught, they will not be forced to tag up. That notwithstanding, the runner will still not advance even when the ball does not get caught. The difference is that normally the batter is out, which neutralizes the effect of a force play. Therefore, there will be no need for the runners to advance.
What Is the Case with a Bunted Ball or Line Drive? Here, the rule is straight and simple. The infield fly rule is null and void when it comes to both a bunted ball and a line drive. However, when a defensive player drops the ball intentionally so as to gain a defensive lead by avoiding catching the ball, the batter is deemed to be out. This rule also applies to bunted balls and line drives.
For example, when a runner is on first then a line drive gets hit near the second base to the shortstop close, the shortstop would drop the play so as to try and create a double play. The rule here is different to the infield fly rule in many ways.
Essentially, a good softball player should understand the infield fly rule and how it is applied. On the other hand, all fans of softball and baseball too should acquaint themselves with this rule. It makes it easy to understand the game.
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