What Is a Ground Rule Double in Baseball? A Complete Guide

A view of AT&T Park.

If you don’t watch a lot of baseball, keeping up with all the different rules can prove exhausting. Luckily for you, many rules won’t pop up during a nine-inning game. One of these being a ‘ground rule double’.

So, what is a ground rule double in baseball?

A ground rule double is a play in baseball where a fair ball becomes unplayable. A ball can become unplayable when it bounces out of bounds, gets stuck in a fence or scoreboard, or in a ballpark-specific situation. All runners and the batter will advance two bases when one occurs, hence the name.

This article will explain how ground rule doubles work and the MLB rules regarding ground rule doubles. Also, the article details some situations in which they happen, and some other commonly asked questions about ground rule doubles.

How Do Ground Rule Doubles Work?

A ground rule double occurs when an initially fair ball becomes unplayable, not at the fault of the batter or a fielder. The ruling can happen in a variety of situations, but the result is always the batter and any runners advancing two bases. The runners are awarded two bases from the base they occupy when the pitch is thrown.

For example, if there is no one on base and the batter hits a ground rule double, the batter will go to second base.

On the other hand, if the bases are loaded, the runners who started on second and third base will score. The runner on first will go to third, and the batter will head to second.

When a ground rule double occurs, the runners can’t advance any further than their two bases. Additionally, the defense can’t make any plays on the runners until after the next pitch.

Since ground rule doubles always result in the batter and runners advancing two bases, a team can sometimes benefit from them. For example, the defense can benefit if a fast runner was at first base and likely would have scored on the play. Because of the ruling, that runner will remain on third base and will not score.

On the other hand, sometimes an outfielder with a good arm could have thrown the runner out at second base or hold them at first. Because of the ruling, the runner will be safe on second base with no chance at a play for the defense.

MLB Ground Rule Double Rules

Major League Baseball (MLB Official Rules) has a lot of specific rules that explain when ground rule doubles occur. These are all general rules that apply to all ballparks unless otherwise stated.

The list below includes the ways that a ground rule double can occur, which entitles the batter and any runners to two bases from their starting point.

  • A fair ball is hit into play; then it bounces out of play. Out of play could include, over or under the fence, in or under a scoreboard, or into any plants or shrubs growing in the field. This situation is the most common in which a ground rule double occurs.
  • A fair ball is hit into play; then it leaves the field less than two hundred and fifty feet from home plate.
  • A fair ball is hit into play, and it either bounces through or flys through a fence, scoreboard or gets stuck in a fence or plants.
  • A fair ball is hit into play, bounces on the ground, and a fielder, while attempting to play the ball, diverts the ball out of the field or over a fence.
  • A fly ball is hit into fair territory, and a fielder attempts to play the ball but deflects it over a fence or out of the park less than two hundred and fifty feet away from home plate.

After the first point, the situations on the list aren’t common, but they can occur during an MLB game. When they do occur, the batter and the runners will all advance two bases from their starting base when the pitch is thrown.

How Do Ground Rule Doubles Usually Happen?

Baseballs sitting on the grass.

There are a few usual ways that ground rule doubles happen. These are the most common ground rule double situations, but unexpected plays can occur, so there are other situations where this ruling happens.

First, a ball can be hit in fair territory, usually in the outfield, then bounce off of the ground out of bounds. A ball leaving the field on a bounce is the most common form of a ground rule double, which is why it is also referred to as an automatic double.

Next, there are items on the ground that can interfere with the ball, making it unplayable. A common example of this is when the ball gets stuck under a fence, in a scoreboard, or another object surrounding the field.

When a ball gets stuck under or in one of these items, the player who is trying to field the ball needs to raise their hands immediately to signal that the ball is unplayable. If the player tries to play the ball, they sacrifice their right to a ground rule double and the runners can freely run around the bases.

Finally, there are ballpark-specific ground rule doubles. One of these rules involves the ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. The ball can easily get stuck in the ivy and players know to raise their arms when this happens to signal that the ball is unplayable. Different rules apply to different ballparks, so umpires and players must know what ground rules are in effect for the park they are playing in.

How Do You Score a Ground Rule Double?

When you’re keeping score of a baseball game, you score a ground rule double differently than you would score a normal double or hit. You score the batter who hit the ground rule double as advancing to second base, but instead of marking the hit as a double, you mark it as a “GRD” for ground rule double.

After a ground rule double, any runners on base will be marked as advancing as normal, and if they score, scoring as normal. The batter who hit the ground rule double will also be scored normally if they advance more bases, score, or get out.

Ground Rule Double vs Automatic Double

There are two types of ground rule doubles. Some of them can occur in any ballpark or field, and others are specific to a certain ballpark or feature that does not exist in other ballparks. The terms ground rule double and automatic double are often used interchangeably, but there is a small difference.

An automatic double is a play that can occur in any ballpark. It is when the ball bounces in fair territory, then goes over the fence. Since this can happen anywhere, it is considered automatic, and the player attempting to field the ball does not have to raise their hands to signal that the ball is unplayable. A ground rule double has occurred in this situation.

Conversely, every ballpark has an outfield fence, so this is not a ground rule double. A ground rule double is a ballpark, or ground, specific ruling that is only common in that ballpark, or a few ballparks.

For example, Tropicana Field has a permanent roof that has catwalks above the field. If the ball lands on one of these catwalks but is not a home run, it’ll be ruled a ground rule double because the situation doesn’t apply to all ballparks.

The difference between the two ground rule doubles is minor, but the terminology makes a difference for official rulings. Therefore, an automatic double is a type of ground rule double, but not all ground rule doubles are automatic doubles.

Did Ground Rule Doubles Use to be Home Runs?

A batter in baseball swings at a pitch.

A ball that left the park on a bounce over the fence used to be considered a home run in the MLB, similar to how balls hit on the fly over the fence is considered home runs today. Both a bouncing home run and a fly home run were scored the same way.

Any ball leaving the field in fair territory was considered a home run in the American League until the beginning of the 1929 season and until the beginning of the 1931 season in the National League. The rule change put into place the ground rule double that is used today, with a few additions added over time.

The main controversy surrounding this rule change concerns how home runs that weren’t hit on the fly are listed in the record books since those home runs are now considered ground rule doubles. Because of this, some record books may not be 100% accurate with their home run numbers.


Does a Runner on Second Score on a Ground Rule Double?

Yes, a runner on second base will score when a ground rule double is hit. Runners advance two bases from the base they were at when the pitcher threw the pitch. So, a runner starting on second would get third base and home, therefore scoring on a ground rule double. There are no exceptions to the two base rule for ground rule doubles.

Do Umpires have Discretion on Ground Rule Doubles?

No, umpires do not have discretion on ground rule doubles. When a ground rule double occurs, the runners and batter advance two bases from their base at the time of the pitch with no disputes or exceptions. This discretion is often confused with other situations where the umpire’s discretion decides how many bases each player receives, such as during fan interference.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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