Baseball is a unique sport filled with situations that you may only see once every few years if at all. Umpires must be prepared to rule on these situations in real time, but we have our own expert. Brandon Magee explains the ruling on the field when a baseball is lodged in the catcher’s equipment with at least one runner on base.
Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. And yet, it still provides long-time fans events they have never seen before – or will again. For example, this Ross Stripling 58-foot pitch that bounced off the face mask of catcher Yasmani Grandal and… disappeared:
However, Major League Baseball has thought of almost all contingencies and this situation is no different. In this case, there is a written rule covering this situation – 5.06(c)(7) – which states:
The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when:
(7) A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base
The MLB rule book allows for comments clarifying the specific rules, and it provides the following in this case:
If a foul tip hits the umpire and is caught by a fielder on the rebound,the ball is “dead” and the batsman cannot be called out. The same shall apply where such foul tip lodges in the umpire’s mask or other paraphernalia.
If a third strike (not a foul tip) passes the catcher and hits an umpire, the ball is in play. If such ball rebounds and is caught by a fielder before it touches the ground, the batsman is not out on such a catch, but the ball remains in play and the batsman may be retired at first base, or touched with the ball for the out.
If a pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, on the third strike or fourth ball, then the batter is entitled to first base and all runners advance one base. If the count on the batter is less than three balls, runners advance one base.
It is the second-to-last sentence that matters here, as the ball disappeared inside Grandal’s chest protector. As it was the first pitch of the specific at-bat, only the runners on base are allowed to advance if the rule is applied correctly. We go back to the tape to see the final outcome:
Once the umpire confirms that the ball was in Grandal’s equipment, Jake Lamb is given a free pass to advance home. That’s something you don’t see every day.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.