If a batted ball hits third-base umpire Travis Reininger, Brighton, Colo., in this situation, does the ball remain live? Umpires must know the parameters for when the ball remains live, becomes immediately dead or is delayed dead.

Play is stopped when the ball becomes immediately dead by rule. It is obvious the ball becomes dead when a foul is not caught or a batted, thrown or pitched ball goes out of play; however, there are many other acts that also cause the ball to become immediately dead. The vast majority of those cases involve interference by the offense, but there are several situations for which a cookie-cutter approach does not work. Umpires must recognize those acts and know how to react. Except where noted, the material applies equally to NFHS, NCAA and pro rules.

The umpire. When an umpire does more than make a call, it could be an immediate dead ball, with or without consequences; a delayed dead ball; or the ball simply stays live.

The ball is immediately dead if a fair ball touches an umpire in fair territory before touching an infielder, including the pitcher, or passing an infielder other than the pitcher. It is interference and the batter is awarded first base; other runners advance only if forced.
However, if a fair ball touches an umpire after having passed an infielder other than the pitcher, or after having touched an infielder, including the pitcher, the ball remains live and in play (NFHS 5-1-1f1; NCAA 6-1h, 6-2f Note; pro 5.06c6).

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Play 1: With the bases loaded and one out, B5 hits a line drive past F5. The fair ball hits the third-base umpire in the foot and deflects to F6. R3 scores, but B5 is thrown out at first. Ruling 1: The ball is live and in play; the run scores and B5 is out.
The ball also remains live and the contact is ignored if a pitch or thrown ball touches an umpire (no possession) (NFHS 3-2-3; NCAA 6-1b, 8-3i; pro 6.01f).

Play 2: B1 swings and misses for strike three. That pitch is missed by F2, and B1 starts for first. The ball strikes the umpire and is easily retrieved. F2 fires to first to retire B1. Ruling 2: The play stands, B1 is out.

Play 3: R2 attempts to steal third. F2’s throw hits the base umpire. Ruling 3: The play stands.

Play 4: With runners on first and third and one out, B4 hits a one-hopper to short. F6 fires to second to start a double play, but the throw hits the umpire. All runners are safe and R3 scores. Ruling 4: The play stands.

A delayed dead ball occurs when an umpire hinders or impedes the catcher’s throw to prevent a stolen base or pick off a runner (NFHS 5-1-2c; NCAA 6-3a; pro 6.01f Cmt.). If the throw is prevented or does not retire the runner, interference is called. The ball becomes dead and runners return to their bases occupied at the time of the pitch. However, if the throw retires the runner, the interference is ignored (NFHS 8-4-2h; NCAA 6-3a Note; pro 5.09b4).

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Play 5: R1 is attempting to steal second. F2’s arm accidentally strikes the umpire’s mask. F2 hesitates briefly, then fires to second (a) in time, or (b) not in time to retire the runner. Ruling 5: In (a), the contact is disregarded since the runner was retired. In (b), runners may not advance when the plate umpire interferes with the catcher’s throw. R1 is returned to first.

Play 6: With a runner on first, F2 receives the pitch and pivots to throw behind R1. He steps on the umpire’s foot and throws wildly into right field. R1 advances to second. Ruling 6: The ball is dead and R1 returns. Since F2’s throw did not retire the runner, it is umpire interference.

An example of an immediate dead ball with no consequences is when the umpire hinders the catcher on an attempt to throw the ball back to the pitcher; no runners may advance.

Play 7: With a runner on first, F2’s throwing arm strikes the plate umpire as he is throwing the ball back to F1. The ball rolls toward a dugout. R1 takes off and makes it to second safely. Ruling 7: The ball is dead. Since F2’s throw did not retire the runner, umpire’s interference is ruled and R1 must return.

The catcher. Contact between the catcher and batter-runner on a batted ball can also result in any of three ball statuses: live, dead or delayed dead. If there is contact while the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation if they are both “where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to do.” Neither interference nor obstruction is called if neither player attempts to alter the play; the contact is considered incidental (NFHS interp.; NCAA 7-11f Exc. 4; pro 6.01a10 Cmt.). Flagrant contact on the part of either player is a violation and the appropriate call, interference or obstruction, should be made. If interference is called, the ball is immediately dead. If obstruction is called, play continues in NFHS, but is immediately dead in NCAA and pro because the batter-runner is being played on (NFHS 2-22-1; NCAA 8-2.3e1; pro 6.01h1).

Play 8: B1 chops a ball down the first-base line. F2 starts for the ball as B1 is leaving the batter’s box. B1 collides with F2 from behind. Ruling 8: When the catcher is in the act of fielding a batted ball and a serious collision occurs from behind, the batter is out for interference.

Play 9: Right-handed B1 bunts the ball down the first-base line. He starts for first as F2 starts to field the ball. They brush shoulders as both proceed toward first. Ruling 9: The play stands. The contact is incidental.

Play 10: B1 tops a ball down the first-base line. He is advancing toward first base while F2 comes up from behind to field the fair ball. F2 inadvertently trips B1, retrieves the ball and tags him. Ruling 10: When the batter-runner is tripped from behind, obstruction should be called. B1 is awarded first base.

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