Catch and Carry

It is very important for umpires to understand Catch and Carry in baseball, especially amateur baseball. The Official Baseball Rules (OBR) do not address specifically the situation of a fielder carrying a live ball into Dead Ball Territory (DBT). The term used in baseball in the awarding of bases is “catch and carry”. However, during a catch the rules seem to allow a fielder to glove a ball on the Live Ball Territory (LBT) and to enter DBT while completing control of the baseball. This is commonly called “catch and carry” and comes from a non-specific sentence in OBR 5:10(f). The sentence reads, “If a fielder after making a catch, steps into a bench but does not fall, the ball is in play and runners may advance at their own peril,” or risk. The work “bench” has been in practice, expanded to include all DBT areas, usually marked with chalk lines. 

The awarding of bases in baseball when explained as “catch and carry” has, in practice, often been extended to include bounding batted balls, thrown baseballs, and pitched baseballs that are possessed on LBT and carried into DBT due to the fielder’s momentum. If such baseballs are bobbled as the fielder enters DBT, they are considered as deflected out of play.

Over the years the exception of the “catch and carry” was expanded and uncaught batted baseballs (usually fair/foul extra base hits) possessed on LBT and carried into DBT were kept live. This was sometimes, but not always, addressed in the ground rules, and pitched and thrown balls usually remained unmentioned. Later the exceptions grew to include pitched and pitched and thrown baseballs.

A reflected issue to the “catch and carry” exception(s) is the question of whether a throw can be made from DBT. Such a throw is usually not a problem unless there are DBT items or people the throw might touch, resulting in the throw going out of play in an unusual manner. Since throws from DBT usually have not been a problem and were not specifically prohibited, umpires have traditionally allowed them (most often from a dugout). There is now a specific exception. The 2002 MLB manual, in a roundabout way, provided a new rule designed to prohibit a throw from a spectator area. The provision, a significant rule addition, is found buried in example plays. If a fielder gloves a fly ball, enters a spectator area, and remains on his feet, the ball is dead and all runners are awarded one base. Note: Some teams may say the fielder has to come back into LBT to throw the ball. If this is their ground rule, it must be shared at the pregame meeting.

If bounding batted balls, thrown balls, and pitched balls are bobbled as the fielder enters DBT, they are considered as deflected out of play.

Defining when a baseball or a fielder is “on” or “in” DBT

BASEBALL:  A baseball is “on” or “in” DBT if any position of the baseball touches the surface of an object that is on DBT or area that is DBT.

FIELDER:  A fielder is “on” or “in” DBT if

  (a) he is standing and any portion of his foot is touching an object on DBT or an area that is in DBT

  (b) he has fallen and the greater portion of his body is touching an area in DBT

  (c) he is leaping and his leap originated from the surface of an object on DBT or from an area that is DBT

There have been many arguments of the awarding of bases in baseball concerning “catch and carry” and the rule must be talked about in the pregame conference. This will help if any instances or situations happen during the game, especially in the amateur baseball game.

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