Baseball's Infield Fly Rule

Baseball in a Glove

The infield fly rule in baseball is a judgement call by the umpire. It was put in place in order to prevent defensive players from dropping a fly ball hit to the infield on purpose in order to turn a quick double play. Here is the way Major League Baseball defines the infield fly:

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out...When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.”

The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.1

The items of note here are the fact that both first and second base must be occupied. The umpire must determine that the ball can be easily caught. There must be less than two outs. Note again that if the infield fly rule is not invoked a defensive player could drop the ball purposefully so that he could pick it up again and tag a nearby base (the forced runner would be out), then he could fire the ball to another base to get another out.

The batter is automatically out when the umpire invokes the rule (if the ball is fair). This can be a confusing as the ball can hit the field in-bounds, bounce out within the baseline, and although the batter has been called out, he is not out and returns to the batter's box to finish his at-bat.

The advantage of this rule for the offense is that, although it is an automatic out (unless foul), the runners are not forced to run. It should be noted that if they do opt to run they must tag up if the ball is caught by the defense.

The infield fly rule can seem complicated. Yet when the umpire calls the infield fly rule (which must be done before the ball is caught or hits the ground), all the players need to remember is to play as if the defensive player is certain to catch the ball. Even if it is subsequently ruled foul the offensive players can return to their previously held bases and the batter to the batter's box.

  1. Major League Baseball Terms


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