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Before we talk about interference, two fundamental concepts of baseball and softball should be mentioned:

  1. The defense is entitled to the baseline on a batted ball.
  2. The offense is entitled to the baseline on a thrown ball.

The job of the umpire is to find middle ground or fair play when considering both concepts on the field.

Rule 2 : Definition of Interference:

(a) Offensive interference~ is an act by a member of the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders, or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. A.R. - Interference does not have to be intentional to be called.

(b) Defensive interference is an act by the fielder which hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch. (c) Umpire's interference occurs (1) when an umpire hinders, impedes, or prevents a catcher's throw attempting to retire a runner, or (2) when a fair ball touches an umpire in fair territory before passing a fielder. A.R. - Only the plate umpire may interfere with the catcher and only on a cleanly caught ball or a pitched ball that doesn't cause the catcher to move from his/her position. If the catcher errs on the ball, the umpire will be considered part of the field, and no interference results. (d) Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands or goes on the playing field, and touches the ball. (e) On any interference the ball is dead.

Offensive Interference Explained

Like Obstruction, Offensive Interference is a rule that is relatively unknown by players, parents, and many coaches. When the umpire calls Offensive Interference during a game, it is often met with shock and frustration (or even anger) as it leads to an out, the end of an inning, the erasing of a run, or all three.

Here are some common examples of offensive interference:

  • On a passed ball, the runner on third attempts to steal home. The batter, without awareness of where the passed ball has gone, inadvertently is in the throwing line from catcher to pitcher and is hit by the throw from the catcher.
  • A fielder fields a ball (grounder or pop fly) in the base line and the base runner runs into them before or during their fielding of the ball
  • A runner attempting to steal a base doesn't realize the ball has been hit by the batter and the ball hits the runner before the hit ball has passed all infielders in the area (see 7.09(k) below)

PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE:The runner is out and the ball is dead.

The key is to coach players to always be aware of the ball on offense. Too often, it's early in the count, a wild pitch occurs and the batter breathes a sigh of relief that they weren't hit. Meanwhile, they're oblivious that the runner on third is charging home and the passed ball has ricocheted behind them and they are now in the direct line of throw from the catcher to the pitcher. Or on a steal, they are so focused and concerned about sliding into the base that they don't hear the ball being hit or see it coming right at them.

Here are the applicable rules from the Little League Rulebook: Rule 6.00- The Batter, and Rule 7.00- The Runner. Knowing and teaching these rules will prevent giving away outs and confusion among players and parents.

6.06 - A batter is out for illegal action when - (c) interfering with the catcher's fielding or throwing by:
(1) stepping out of the batter's box, or;
(2) making any other movement that hinders the catcher's actions at home plate or the catcher's attempt to play on a runner, or;
(3) failing to make a reasonable effort to vacate a congested area when there is a throw to home plate and there is time for the batter to move away. EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is retired or if the
runner trying to score is called out for batter's interference.

7.09 - It is an interference by a batter or a runner when - (a) the batter hinders the catcher in an attempt to field the ball. (b) the batter intentionally deflects the course of a foul ball in any manner; (c) before two are out and a runner on third base, the batter hinders a fielder in making a play at home base; the runner is out; (d) any member or members of the offensive team stand or gather around any base to which a runner is advancing, to confuse, hinder, or add to the difficulty of the fielders. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of a teammate or teammates; (e) any batter or runner who has just been retired hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of a teammate; (f) if, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of the runner. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner; (g) if, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who advanced closest to home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference; (h) in the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists that runner in returning to or leaving third base or first base; A.R.-When a play is being made on the assisted runner, the runner is out and all runners return to the bases occupied at the time of the interference (dead ball). If no play is being made on the assisted runner, the runner is out and play continues (delayed dead ball). (i) with a runner on third base, the base coach leaves the box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder; (j) the runner fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball; (k) a fair ball touches the batter or runner in fair territory before touching a fielder. If a fair ball goes through or by an infielder and touches a runner immediately back of said infielder or touches the runner after having been deflected by a fielder, the umpire shall not declare the runner out for being touched by a batted ball. In making such decision, the umpire must be convinced that the ball passed through or by the infielder and that no other infielder had the chance to make a play on the ball. If in the judgment of the umpire, the runner deliberately and intentionally kicks such a batted ball on which the infielder had missed a play, then the runner shall be called out for interference;

PENALTY FOR INTERFERENCE: The runner is out and the ball is dead.

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