Game Management Principles Four

In Game Management Principles Four for Umpires we discuss stealing home, missing the plate, rundowns, and interference from the umpire-in-chief’s perspective.


What if the Batter Steps on the Plate? 

  • Both feet of the batter must be in the batter’s box at the time of the pitch
  • The batter’s box lines are part of the box
  • Before a pitch is thrown the umpire should insist that both feet are entirely in the batter’s box
  • Part of the foot can be touching the line (the key here is foot completely out of the line)
  • The batter is out if he hits the ball fair, foul, or foul tip and has a foot completely on the ground outside of the batter’s box
  • If the batter’s foot steps onto the plate when he hits the ball he is out if his foot is completely out of the batter’s box
  • When a batted ball goes directly to the plate, the call of fair or foul is determined by what subsequently happens

What if a Runner Steals Home?

  • The batter is entitled to an unhindered swing, but once he swings the batter is responsible for avoiding the catcher if he is attempting to make a play
  • If the batter interferes, he is out and all runners either remain or return to the base occupied at the time of the pitch
  • If the batter is out on strike three and there were less than two outs, the runner being played on is also out
  • If there were several steal attempts and the umpire cannot determine which runner the catcher would have attempted to throw out, the runner closest to home is out

A Runner Misses the Plate:

  • Runners missing a base or home plate may return to touch it unless a following runner has scored
  • No runner is out unless there is a proper appeal made
  • A runner who misses the plate can return to retouch after a third out is made.   

Example: Two outs, R2 scores from second and B1 singles but fails to touch the plate. B1 becomes the third out when he tries to go to second. Right after the out, R2 returns and touches the plate. The run scores and the missed base cannot be appealed after R2 touches it.

Ready Plays at Home Plate:

  • If the fielder does not have the ball when the runner arrives, it is obstruction
  • The catcher has the right to block the plate when he has the ball

Batter Interferes with the Catcher:

  • If the batter interferes with the catcher when a runner is trying to steal, the batter is out and the runner returned to the previous base
  • If the swing is also the third strike, the batter and the runner are both out

Catcher Interference with a Batter:

  • If the catcher catches the pitch before the batter has a chance to swing, it is interference and the ball is dead
  • No matter if the batter desires to take the pitch
  • There need not be contact
  • The batter gets first base
  • A balk is charged to the pitcher

Mutual Contact:

  • If the batter and catcher collide and they are doing what they are normally supposed to do, the contact is incidental
  • Neither interference nor obstruction is called

Base Runner Run Downs
Interference or Obstruction?

  • Obstruction seems to be more likely to happen
  • If a fielder does not have the ball, he must yield the base path to the runner
  • If there is contact, even unintentional, obstruction should be called
  • Call “that’s obstruction” and let the play continue without stopping the action
  • If a runner tries to advance a base, he is doing so at his own risk
  • If tagged out if attempting to advance beyond the base he would have achieved had there been no obstruction, the out would stand and the obstruction would be ignored


  • Not likely in run downs but it can happen
  • Probably will happen by an intentional action on the part of the runner being put out
  • Knocking the ball out of the glove
  • Using the body or part of to intentionally interfere with a ball in flight (thrown). When this happens the umpire needs to call time and immediately call “that’s interference” and declare the base runner out
  • Other runners who may have been attempting to advance at the time, either in front of or behind the play, will be required to return to the base last occupied at the time of the interference
  • If you, as the umpire, call interference, make sure it was intentional. A runner who interferes unintentionally has not violated any rule

Rundowns in the Base Path!

  • The runner cannot run more than three feet left or right of a direct line between the base and his location at the time of a play being made on him
  • When a runner changes direction and heads for another base, he establishes a new baseline
  • He is, however, locked into a three-foot wide zone directly between the two bases involved in a rundown
  • Watch for an evasive movement when the tag is being attempted 

Proper Position in Rundowns;

  • Be in position to see a swipe tag because it is crucial in a rundown
  • To have the proper angle, move laterally with the play. This will help
  • If you can’t see the tag, look for clues but don’t guess. Look for the reaction of the runner and look for the fielder’s outstretched glove to appear to meet some resistance
  • The plate umpire should hustle out to help his partner if no one is in position to score. One umpire takes one end of the play and the other umpire takes the other
  • Coaches and players like to see an umpire hustle out to help make a call for his partner
  • Remember – never call your partner off until you are in position to make a call

Two Runners on the Same Base:

  • The lead runner is entitled to the base
  • The trail runner is always out
  • Be ready to make the correct awards if a wild throw goes into dead-ball territory in a rundown
  • What is the base award? Two bases from the base occupied at the time of the throw



  • Courteous
  • Impartial/Fair
  • Firm



An important Proverb “Get wisdom and understanding”

Umpires must be able to explain rulings because judgment is relative. Ten people can see a play and judge it ten different ways, but the rules are explained correctly by wisdom and experience within the spirit of the game. An example would be the phantom rule on a double play. Most second baseman don’t touch second. The runners still are called out unless the foot of the infielder is way off the bag. Understand distances and angles. They are very important to your credibility. Common sense and fair play are important. Also know advantage/disadvantage principles. Pace of Play “keep the ball game moving.” Understand live and dead ball rules and whether it is immediately dead or delayed dead ball. Remember your code of ethics.

Knowing equipment and the dimensions of the playing field are very important.


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