Think the Game

The Running Lane to First Base (2018)

The Situation:

It’s a 0-0 game in the top of the 4th as the lead-off man comes up to the plate.

The Play:

The pitcher goes into his delivery and throws a fastball in the zone. The left-handed batter drops his hands into the bunting position and lays down a drag bunt to the third base side. The ball sticks in the dirt a little more than normal and the catcher is the first one to pounce on it. He gets around the ball and fires it to first.

The Outcome:

The batter has good speed and has made it down the line. He’s a step inside the foul line and about 2 steps from first base when the ball strikes him in the back and glances down the line. As he brushes off the sting, he is hit with a different kind of blow. He is called out for interference, he was running out of the baseline. Despite his protests and a visit from the manager, the batter is sent back to the dugout for the first out of the inning.

What Went Wrong:

There are no tricks on this play. Sometimes thinking the game simply has to do with knowing the rules and following them. The legal running lane to first base can be a bit confusing. The base is inside the foul line, but the runner must be outside the foul line in the last 45 feet to first base unless he is reaching (stepping) towards the base. This rule is more difficult for left-handed hitters like the bunter in this situation, because they often start off inside the foul line after making contact. Take a look at a similar play right here.  The batter’s trajectory to first base is a step inside the foul line, which puts him directly in line with first base. However, because the rules states he must get outside of the foul line in the last 45 feet to first base, he is correctly called out.  You’ll hear the announcers in the video say “he never got back [outside the line]” which is what he would have needed to do to be in the allowed running lane.

It’s always a good idea to brush up on the rules. Baseball is famous for having very detail oriented and even obscure or confusing rules. As we know, anything is possible on the field. Knowing what you are allowed and not allowed to do can be very helpful. Grab a rule book and think the game!