If you ever watch or play baseball, you’re probably aware of how close the catcher and the batter stand to one another. While there is a batter’s box designed to protect both players by providing boundaries, there are times when a catcher might reach into the space unintentionally and get called for “catcher’s interference.”
So, what is catcher’s interference in baseball?
Catcher’s interference occurs when the catcher touches the batter or their bat, interfering or impeding with the batter’s ability to hit the ball. The most common occurrence of catcher’s interference is when the batter swings and makes contact with the catcher’s glove.
Understanding the basics of catcher’s interference can go a long way to ensure that batters and catchers play their positions properly. For more information on the rule surrounding catcher’s interference and all the nuances that surround it – keep reading!
When and How Does Catcher’s Interference Happen?
The boundary lines that are drawn around home plate delineate where catchers and batters take their positions. Assuming the batter has both feet inside the batter’s box, and the pitch is getting delivered, the catcher cannot reach into the box, touch the batter or the bat.
Most of the time, catcher’s interference occurs because the catcher accidentally reaches into the strike zone or the batter’s box in anticipation of catching a pitch. Many catchers must learn to wait for the pitch to come to them, rather than reaching out to grab the pitch and possibly hindering the batter.
When the bat hits the top of the catcher’s mitt in a batter’s attempt to contact the baseball during a swing, then catcher’s interference can be called. When interference is called, the batter is awarded first base, and any runners on base advance if needed. Catcher’s interference is ultimately at the discretion of the umpire behind home plate.
While the catcher can speak to the batter, they cannot reach out and touch any part of the batter or bat during the process of batting. The batter must be allowed to swing freely at the pitch.
Once the pitch has been delivered, then the catcher can violate the batter’s box, for instance, when throwing to second on a steal. If contact is made during this situation, catcher’s interference is not called.
Catcher’s Interference Rule
According to baseballreference.com, under rule 5.05 (b) (3):
“Catcher’s interference is a specific type of interference that occurs when the catcher makes contact with the batter (or his bat) during a pitch or otherwise hinders or impedes a batter’s ability to hit a pitched ball. In order for catcher’s interference to be enforced, the batter must have been in a legal batting position with both feet within the batter’s box.”
What Happens When Catcher’s Interference Is Called?
The home plate umpire will normally allow the play to progress and then give the option of accepting the outcome of the play or taking the award of first base to the batter.
For example, if a runner were on second and the catcher impedes the batter as he’s swinging, resulting in the runner on second advancing to third and the batter being thrown out at first, the manager might prefer to have a runner at third and the batter called out, rather than have two players as baserunners on first and second.
How Often Does Catcher’s Interference Happen?
Catcher’s interference is pretty rare in baseball. There have only been six players who have had catcher’s interference called on them twice in one game.
Which Batter Has the Most Interference Calls?
Jacoby Ellsbury holds the major league record for reaching first base the most on catcher’s interference calls with 31.
What Is Catcher’s Obstruction?
Catcher’s obstruction differs from catcher’s interference in that it addresses the fact that the catcher cannot block or prevent the runner from advancing home if he is not making a play on the ball. Every runner should have an unimpeded route to the plate, without having to worry about working around the catcher.
The most common call of obstruction involves catchers standing in the base path, blocking access to home plate. The penalty for an obstruction call is that the ball is immediately called dead and the runners are allowed to advance one base past the last base that they touched.
What Is a Delayed Dead Ball?
There are several situations where a ball should be called dead after the result of a play. The most common incident is when a batter interferes with a catcher attempting to make a play on a runner.
For example, if a catcher attempts to throw a runner out who is stealing a base and the batter obstructs his ability to do so, the umpire waits until the runner is called out or safe, before calling the ball dead.
If the runner is tagged out at second, the interference by the batter is disregarded and the play stands. If the runner is out, then the delayed dead ball (interference) is called, and the baserunner returns to the base they previously occupied.
There are other situations where a delayed dead ball could be called. For example, if an attempt is made to interfere with a runner by tossing a piece of equipment, or if a manager or opposing player shouts something in an attempt to force the pitcher to balk during a pitch. A player who removes their batting helmet while the ball is in play can force a delayed dead ball call.
How Do You Score Catcher’s Interference?
If the catcher’s interference is accepted by the opposing manager when the play occurs, then the batter is awarded first base, and all runners advance one base (if first was already occupied). If the runner on third scores as a result of the interference call, the run is counted. An error is charged to the catcher, but an at-bat is not recorded for the batter.
Has an MLB Game Ever Been Decided Due to Catcher’s Interference?
There is only one instance of a game being decided due to catcher’s interference. The game was played on Aug. 1, 1971, when the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers had two outs and the bases loaded in a 4-4 game when the catcher, Johnny Bench, noticed the runner on third attempting to steal home.
Bench jumped up and blocked access to home plate as the pitcher tossed the ball to him. The umpire called both catcher’s interference and a balk, which resulted in a dead ball and the runners automatically advancing. This led to the runner scoring from third and the game ended immediately despite furious protests from the Reds.
There has never been a championship or World Series game decided by a catcher’s interference call. Catcher’s interference has only been called in the World Series 5 times, the last being in Game 5 of the 1982 World Series contest between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.
The contest was dubbed the “Suds Series” because St. Louis is the home of Anheuser-Busch and Milwaukee is the home of Miller Brewing Company.