Common Baseball & Softball Rule Myths

There are many myths about the rules of baseball and softball. A lot of these originated on the playground or sandlot where, as kids, we played by neighborhood rules. "Ties goes to the runner" is one of the most common of the sandlot rules (see Myth #16).

In the table below we debunk a long list of rules myths. We present the myth, then we explain what the facts are. Finally, we give you the rules reference so you can look it up and see for yourself.

The Myth The Facts Rule Ref
1 The hands are part of the bat. The hands are not part of the bat; they are part of the batter. If a pitched ball hits the batter's hands while trying to avoid being hit, you have a batter hit-by-pitch. The ball is dead and the batter is awarded first base. If the batter is swinging at the pitch when hit, you do not have hit-by-pitch. You have a strike. The ball is dead, but there is no base award; and, if it's strike three, the batter is out. Rule 5.09(a)(6)
Definitions (person)
Definitions (touch)
Definitions (strike (e))
2 When over-running first base, the batter-runner must veer to the right into foul territory. The batter-runner may cross first base and veer in any direction, provided the runner makes no attempt (not even a feint) to advance to second. After over-running or over-sliding first base, the runner is required to return to the base immediately. Rule 5.09(b)(4)
Rule 5.09(b)(11)
3 If on a checked swing the batter breaks his wrists, it's a strike. A swinging strike is a judgment call. Breaking of the wrists, passing of the bat barrel over the plate, and other similar actions are guidelines, not rules. Definitions (strike)
4 If a batted ball hits home plate, it's a foul ball. Home plate is fair territory, as are the foul lines and first and third bases. A batted ball striking home plate is like any other batted ball and has no bearing on the determination of fair or foul. Rule 2.01
Definitions (fair ball)
Definitions (foul ball)
5 The batter cannot be called out for interference if he is in the batter's box. The batter's box is not a safe haven. Interference is a judgment call. The key words to interpreting interference are impede, hinder, confuse or obstruct can apply in the batter's box as well as outside of it. 6.03(a)(3)
Definitions (interference)
See also Batter's Interference
6 The ball is dead on a foul-tip. A foul-tip is not a foul ball, and the ball is not dead. It is a live ball strike (strike three, if appropriate), and all activities of a live ball are available. Be sure you know the definition of a foul-tip. Definitions (foul tip)
Definitions (foul ball)
Definitions (strike)
See also Foul Ball/Foul Tip
7 The batter may not switch batter's from one batter's box to the other after two strikes. The batter may switch from one batter's box to the other at any time, except when the pitcher is set and is ready to deliver the pitch. Rule 6.03(a)(3)
8 A batter who bats out of order is called out out when properly appealed Nope. Instead, it is the batter who failed to bat at his proper time in the batting order (the "proper" batter) who is called out. Any hit, walk, or other advantage gained by the "improper" batter is nullified and, if on base, the improper batter is returned to the dugout. The next batter due up is the person in the batting order who follows the proper batter (who was just called out). Rule 6.03(b)
See also Batting Out of Order
9 The batter may not overrun first base when he gets a base-on-balls Rule 7.08(c) simply states that a batter-runner must immediately return after overrunning first base. It does not specify how the player became a runner, nor specify exceptions on that basis. It could be a hit, walk, error or dropped third strike. Note that to "overrun" means that the runner's momentum carries him straight beyond the base after touching it. Rule 5.09(b)(4)
Rule 5.09(b)(11)
10 On a third strike not caught, the batter is out if he fails to attempt to advance immediately. This rule varies considerably from rule set to rule set. In OBR, the batter is out once he leave the dirt area surrounding home plate. This is a judgment call. Under high school (NFHS) and Little League rules, the runner is declared out once he or she enters the dugout or other dead ball area. 5.05(a)(2)
11 If the batter does not pull the bat out of the strike zone while in the bunting position, it's an automatic strike. A batter must make an attempt to contact the ball with the bat (to "offer" at the pitch) for a pitch that is out of the strike zone to be called a strike. In the bunt position, a pitch that does not pass through the strike zone, and which is not offered at, is a called ball. If in the strike zone, it is a called strike if not offered at, or a "swinging" strike if offered at whether in the strike zone or not. The defense may appeal if the plate umpire calls a ball and the defense believe the ball was offered at. Definitions (strike)
12 The batter is out if a bunted ball hits the ground and bounces back up and hits the bat while the batter is holding the bat. Two things here. First off, the bat doesn't hit the ball a second time; rather, it's that ball that rebounds and hit the bat.  Foul ball. That is, IF the batter is still in the batter's box.  However, if the batter has left the batter's box and the ball hits the bat (or the batter-runner, for that matter), then he's out. Rules 5.09(a)(8)
Rule 6.01(a)(2)
13 The batter is out if his foot touches the plate. Not true. For a batter to be out for an illegally batted ball, his foot must be on the ground entirely outside the batter's box when the ball is struck. It is possible for the foot to be "in" the batter's box and touching the plate. Note that the chalk line that defines the batter's box is considered to be part of the batter's box. Also note that the rule only applies if the bat contacts the ball.

FED/NFHS: The high school rule differs by adding that the batter is out if hitting the ball "while either foot or knee" is "touching home plate."

Rule 6.03(a)(1)

NFHS Rule 7-3-2

14 The batter-runner is always out if he runs outside the running lane after a bunted ball. Interference on a running-lane violation. only takes place if there is a throw, and if the runner's position outside the base path actually interferes with the baseman's ability to field the throw. Note that the catcher's ability to make the throw is not relevant to the judgment of interference. It is not interference if the throw is not catchable.
The runner is permitted to step out of the running lane for the last step or two to first base in order to touch first base
Rule 5.09(a)(11)
Definitions (interference)
See also The Running Lane
15 A runner is out if he slaps hands or high-fives other players or base coach when rounding the bases. That's just ridiculous. The issue is coach's interference, wherein a base coach physically assists a running in advancing or retreating. A high-five is not an assist and is not an infraction. Note, too, that on a home run the only out that can occur is if one runner passes another runner on the base path, or if a runner is called out on appeal for failing to touch a base. Rule 6.01(a)(8)
16 Tie goes to the runner. This is a sandlot rule. In fact, it's the opposite: at first base or on a force, the runner must beat the ball to the bag. Furthermore (umpire axiom): "There are no ties in baseball." Rule 5.06(a)(1)
17 On a ball thrown out-of-play the runner gets one-plus-one. Base awards on overthrows are tricky. Depending on circumstances, the award is either one base or two bases (most commonly two), and depending on other circumstances the award is from the runner's position at the time of the pitch (TOP) or at the time of the throw (TOT). The most common scenario is an overthrow at first base on an infield hit, in which case the batter-runner gets two base award from TOP, which puts him on second base. Note that base awards for overthrows apply to all runners on base. There is no such thing as a "one-plus-one" rule. 5.06(b)(4)(G, H)
See also Awarding Bases
18 Anytime a coach touches a runner, the runner is out. Same issue, basically, as Myth 15. It is not interference if a coach just touches a runner. The coach must physically assist the runner for interference to occur. Rule 6.01(a)(8)
19 Runners may not run the bases in reverse order. Nope. In fact, it's just the opposite. When a runner is retreating (when retreating to tag up on a caught fly ball, for example), the runner must retouch the bases in reverse order. (However, if the ball is dead due to foul ball, the runner need not retouch intervening bases.) Rule 5.06(b)(1)
Rule 5.09(c)(2)
FED/NFHS Rule 8-2-2
20 A ball that is tipped by the batter and shoots back sharply over the catcher's shoulder to the backstop is called a "foul tip." Foul tip and foul ball are two different things. A foul tip is a live ball and a strike (including strike three). A ball that is struck by the batter is a foul tip when and only when it goes "sharp and direct to the catcher's glove and is legally caught." Anything else is a foul ball, which is a dead ball; and is only a strike when there are fewer than two strikes on a batter. Definitions (foul tip)
Definitions (foul ball)
See also Foul Ball/Foul Tip
21 A runner may not steal on a foul-tip. A foul tip is not a foul ball. A foul tip is a live ball (and a strike) and runners may advance at their peril. You must be sure to understand the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Definitions (foul tip)
Definitions (foul ball)
Definitions (strike)
22 The runner is always safe (protected) if touched by a batted ball while he is touching a base. The base does not protect a base runner from being called out for interference when he is touched by a batted ball. If the base runner is touched by a batter fair ball, the runner is out for interference, irrespective of contact with the base. However, if a portion of the runner's body that is in foul territory is touched by a ball in foul territory, it is simply a foul ball. There is one exception: In the case of an infield fly, the runner is not out if touched by the ball while in contact with a base. Rule 5.06(c)(6)
Rule 5.09(b)(7)
Definitions (infield fly)
23 It is a force out when a runner is called out for not tagging up on a fly ball. Not a force, but an appeal. To successfully appeal, the defense may tag either the offending runner or simply tag the base where the offense occurred. Therefore, if the appeal results in a third out, then any runs that may have scored on the play (except runs scored by the offending runner and any runners following that runner) will count. Rule 5.09(c)
Definitions (force play)
24 An appeal on a runner who missed a base cannot be a force out. Here's the other side of the "appeal play" coin. IF there is a successful appeal of a runner at a base to which he was forced, then the successful appeal results in a force out. Therefore, if the appeal results in the third out, then no runs score on that play. Rule 5.09(b)(6)
Rule 5.09(c-2)
Definitions (force play)
See also Proper Appeals
25 A runner is out if he runs out of the baseline to avoid a fielder who is fielding a batted ball. Wrong. In fact, a base runner is required to do whatever is needed to avoid a fielder who is fielding a batted ball. This is sometimes confused with the rule that results in the runner being called out if running more than three feet outside the basepath when attempting to avoid a tag. Rule 6.01(a)(9)
Rule 5.09(b)(1)
See also Basepath & Running Lane
26 Runners may not advance when an infield fly is called. This is a common misconception about the infield fly rule. The result of an infield is only this: the batter is out whether the ball is caught or not, so that runners are not forced off their bases. In all other respect this is just an ordinary fly ball. If caught, the runners must tag, and may then advance at their peril. If not caught, the runners are not required to tag up, of course, and again, may advance at their peril. 5.09(a)(5)
Definitions (infield fly)
See also Infield Fly Rule
27 No run can score when a runner is called out for the third out for not tagging up. See Myths 23 and 24. An out on appeal for not tagging up is not a force out, so any runs that cross the plate before the out is called on appeal stay on the board. But again, the offending runner may not score, nor following runners if his is the third out. Rule 5.08
Rule 5.09(c)(1)
Definitions (force play)
See also Proper Appeals
28 A pitch that touches the ground before reaching the plate cannot be hit. Sure it can. Ichiro does it all the time. The only thing outstanding about a pitch that bounces prior to reaching the plate is that it cannot be a called strike. However, it can still be a swinging strike, a foul ball, a called ball, or a clean hit. Definitions (pitch)
Definitions (strike)
29 The batter is not awarded first base if hit by a pitch after it bounces. Same issue as Myth 28. Hit by pitch is hit by pitch. So long as the batter is not swinging at the pitch, he is awarded first base if touched by a pitched ball. All of the normal features of the hit-by-pitch rule apply when the pitch bounces first. Rule 5.05(b)(2)
Definitions (pitch)
30 If a fielder holds a caught fly ball for 2 seconds it's a catch. There are two components to the definition of a catch – secure possession and voluntary release. There is no time requirement involved. Definitions (catch)
See also The Catch
31 On a force out or appeal, you must tag the base with your foot. So long as you have secure possession of the ball "in hand or glove," you can touch the base with any part of your body. Rule 5.09(b)(6)
Definitions (person)
Definitions (tag)
Definitions (force play)
See also Tags
32 The ball is immediately dead when there is a balk. Balks are live. The exception is in high school (FED) baseball rules. In all other other leagues, however, a balk results in a delayed dead ball. At the end of the play the balk may be enforced or not depending on what happened. Rule 6.02(a)
See also Balks & Illegal Pitch
33 If the fielder's feet are in fair territory when he touches a batted ball, it is a fair ball. This isn't football. In baseball, fair/foul is determined by the position of the ball, not the player, with respect to the foul lines at the moment the ball is first touched. Definitions (fair ball)
Definitions (foul ball)
See also Foul Ball/Foul Tip
34 You must always return the ball to the pitcher before you can make an appeal. This is a common misconception. In fact, any defensive player can initiate an appeal at any time by (with possession of the ball) tagging the runner whose actions are being appealed, or by touching the base at which the appealable infraction occurred, and then appealing to the umpire with an unmistakable indication (by word or gesture) of the nature of the appeal. The only time the ball must go to the pitcher is if time is out and the ball must be made live to initiate an appeal. Rule 5.09(c)
Definitions (appeal)
See also Proper Appeals
35 When in the set position, the pitcher must come to a complete stop before making a pick-off throw. In the set position, the pitcher must come to a complete stop before delivering a pitch; however, when stepping and throwing to a base on a pickoff attempt he is not required to come to a complete stop as he moves to the set position. Rule 5.07(a)(2)
Rule 6.02(a)(13)
36 The pitcher must step off (disengage) the rubber before making a pick-off throw. The pitcher may step and throw to a base for a pickoff attempt from the set position without disengaging the rubber. Note that when a pitcher disengages the rubber he is no longer a "pitcher," but an ordinary fielder. Rule 6.02(a)(3)
37 If a fielder catches a fly ball and then falls over the fence it is a homerun. As long as the fielder catches the ball before going over the fence, it is a legal catch if he maintains possession and otherwise meets the definition of a catch, so it is not a home run but rather the batter is out. However, if the fielder is entirely in dead ball territory when he makes a catch, this is not a legal catch, the ball is dead, and base runners (if any) are awarded one base. Rule 5.06(b)(3)(C)
Definitions (catch)
38 The ball is dead any time an umpire is hit by the ball. If an umpire is hit by a batted ball before it passes a fielder, the ball is dead. On any other batted or thrown ball, the ball is alive when the umpire is hit with the ball. Umpire interference also occurs when the plate umpire interferes with the catcher's attempt to prevent a stolen base. Rule 5.06(c)(6)
Definitions (interference)
See also Umpire Interference
39 The home plate umpire can overrule other umpires' calls. No umpire may overrule another umpire's call. An umpire may, at his discretion, seek out advice or consult with another umpire on a play, but is under no obligation to do so. Rule 8.02(b, c)
40 You must ask for time out before appealing that a runner missed a base. A player may only initiate an appeal while the ball is live. If a ball becomes dead on a play in which a player wishes to make an appeal, he must wait for the ball to be made live and may then initiate the appeal. Rule 5.09(c)
See also Proper Appeals
41 If a base runner misses a base while advancing, but on the same play is awarded a base beyond the base he missed due to an overthrow or obstruction, he is not obligated to retreat to touch the missed base. Wrong wrong wrong. The base runner is not relieved of the obligation to touch all bases in order. In this scenario, if the defense properly appeals, the runner would be called out.

However, if the ball is dead due to foul ball, the runner need not retouch intervening bases.

Rule 5.06(b)(1)

FED/NFHS Rule 8-2-2

42 A pitcher must disengage the pitching rubber before throwing to a base for the purpose of making an appeal. This is a common myth and one that leads to a lot of tiresome misplays. It is not a balk for the pitcher to throw to an unoccupied base for the purpose of making an appeal. Rule 6.02(a)(4)