Rulebook 101: Running Inside the First Base Line

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 to rely upon. Brandon Magee looks at an example of a player in Paolo Orlando running inside the first base line and mistakenly thinking he got away with one.

Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. And yet, it still provides long-time spectators events that they have never seen before – or will again. As baseball fans, we are well aware of the written – and unwritten – rules that govern the game. Baseball is often called a game of inches, but how does that axiom manifest itself in a batter running to first base?

On August 18, Kansas City’s Paolo Orlando attempts to lead off the Royals’ first inning offensive attack with a bunt single. Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki pounces out of the crouch but his throw to first gets past first baseman Trevor Plouffe and goes down the right field line. Orlando races into second base with an apparent single and throwing error.

Running Inside the First Base LineHowever, he is quickly apprised by the umpires that he is, in fact, out. The rule that Orlando ran afoul of is 5.09(a)(11):

A batter is out when:

In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of ) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of ) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of ) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.

As with many of the rules we have discussed in this series, this one also has a comment:

The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter-runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.

Let’s take a closer look at Orlando’s run to first.

Running Inside the First Base LineLook closely at where Paolo’s feet are as he runs towards first base, especially as he runs the last 45 feet to first. For the entire last half of the run, his strides are entirely to the inside of the foul line – running on the infield side of the foul line.

However, simply running inside the foul line is not an infraction. It is the combination of the run and the throw by Suzuki and the attempted catch by Plouffe. Given the nature of the play, it is likely to be a bang-bang play at first, and with Orlando running on the inside of the baseline, it gives Suzuki a very narrow angle to throw to Plouffe. An angle that just so happens to include the runner.

While manager Ned Yost and first base coach Rusty Kuntz pled their case to no avail to home plate umpire Todd Tichenor and first base umpire Brian Knight, hitting coach Dale Sveum voiced his disgust with the call from the dugout, earning the heave-ho. But all three coaches were pleading from an untenable position. The rule in place is clear. Paolo Orlando did not run in the designated lane as required, and, by being in that illegal position, hindered Trevor Plouffe from making the catch on the throw from Kurt Suzuki. The videotape doesn’t lie: the umpires called this one correctly by the book.


Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.

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