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In Baseball, what is the Infield Fly Rule?

By D Frank
Updated May 23, 2024
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The infield fly rule is one of the most misunderstood rules in the game of baseball. Little league coaches struggle to understand it, and the rule has even mystified professional managers at times. To begin, the rule can only come into effect when the following conditions are met:

  1. there are fewer than two outs in the inning;
  2. there are baserunners on first and second base or first, second, and third base; and
  3. the batter hit a fly ball in the infield area.

If these three elements are present, the umpire should call "infield fly rule — The batter is out." At that point, even if an infielder dropped the ball, the batter is still out.

The infield fly rule originated to protect baserunners from crafty infielders. Before the rule came into being, for example, if baserunners were on first and second and a fly ball was hit in the infield to the third basemen, the third baseman might let the ball fall in front of him on purpose. He could then pick up the ball, tag third base to force out the runner on second base, and then throw to second base to force out the runner on first. The third baseman was, therefore, able to secure two outs for his team rather than just one if he caught the ball.

This rule is a judgment call for the umpire. If he deems a fly ball catchable in the infield with the appropriate baserunners on base and fewer than two outs, then the batter is out — even if an infielder drops the ball. If the umpire calls an infield fly, however, and the ball drifts into foul territory and the third baseman, for example, drops the ball, the batter is no longer out. It is simply a foul ball at that point, and the batter can again step up to home plate. In such a situation, the proper call by the umpire should be, "infield fly rule, if fair."

Baserunners are often confused when an infielder drops the ball after the umpire calls the rule into play. They are under no obligation to advance, and they cannot be forced out. If the infielder drops the ball, the baserunners can advance at their own risk, and should they choose to advance, they need not tag up because the ball was not caught. If the ball is caught in the infield area after the rule has been called into effect, the baserunners can attempt to advance should they so desire, but they must first tag up, as with any other regulation fly ball.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon342854 — On Jul 24, 2013

The ball doesn't need to be hit in the infield. It just needs to be catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort.

By Vlkingr — On Oct 21, 2011

lazydoc2004: Not all infield fly balls are part of the Infield Fly Rule. So if your pitcher, (or any other player), catches a fly in the infield the batter is out and he can run to first, but he is out and will then have to go to the dugout and wait for his next at bat.

If your first basemen dropped a fly ball in fair territory, the ball is live and in play and the batter can run the bases as he see's fit. If he then ends up at third base, good for him!

By Vlkingr — On Oct 21, 2011

@anon154604: There has to be fewer than 2 outs for the Infield Fly Rule to be in effect. -V

By anon154604 — On Feb 21, 2011

How many outs can there be for the infield fly rule to be in force?

0? 1? 2? or 0c0r 1?

By JerseyJoe — On Sep 13, 2008

TO: lazydoc2004

Additional information is needed to provide an answer. Please provide answers to these questions:

How many outs were there?

How many base runners were on base? (was first and second base occupied?)

Did the batter hit a pop fly ball to the infield?

Did the umpire call “Infield Fly”?

Was the ball caught?

What is the level of participation (Little League, Babe Ruth etc?)

JerseyJoe

By lazydoc2004 — On Sep 12, 2008

when a batter hits an infield fly and the pitcher catches the ball, why can the batter run to first base. in this case the first baseman missed the ball and batter when on to third. why???

By JerseyJoe — On Jun 19, 2008

Andreas Feininger, a world famous photographer, gave this reason for a successful career, “In every art or craft know how useless unless guided by know why.” Likewise, too many times, we talk baseball rules and come up short on the why. I hope this simple explanation of why for the Infield Fly Rule will suffice.

A two for one sale tends to catch our eye; however, applying the Infield Fly Rule marks “no sale” on this trickery. The baseball rules are designed to protect a team from trickery and/or deceit, but not from stupidity. Therefore, one must know the rules in order to play by the rules. Too many baseball folks overlook reading and knowing Rule 2: Definition of Terms. With Feininger’s admonition of “why” in mind, let us review Rule 2. There are 16 baseball terms, repeat 16 that have a bearing on the why understanding of the Infield Fly Rule. Far too many terms to repeat here, but you have access to online baseball rules. Summary of Infield Fly:

--Less than two outs for Infield Fly Rule to be operative. With two out there is no need for trickery.

--First base occupied. Rule not in effect; however, double play possible if batter-runner fails to run (remember stupidity?)

--First and second base occupied. Rule in effect (double FORCE). Batter out, runners protected, but may advance at their own risk.

--Bases full, Rule in effect, however, I prefer not to mention third base. It has been my experience that folks tend to get confused with First and Third bases occupied. Rule not (repeat not) in effect. Best thing is to refer to a double FORCE (first and second bases occupied)

--Letting the batted ball fall untouched. Batter ruled out. Ball is in play for the runners who may advance at their own risk.

--Intentionally dropping any batted fair fly ball. (Rule 6.05 L). Batter is out ball is dead. Runners hold their bases. No further play possible.

--When a situation arises where you have an intentionally dropped ball and an infield fly situation, on the same play, the infield fly rule takes precedence. Jersey Joe

By JerseyJoe — On Jun 18, 2008

Anon3104/2183 (added) In some instances, a force play can be completed long after runners have crossed the plate and nullify the runs. SITUATION: Bases loaded with two out. Batter hits an inside-the-park home run. The runner from first fails to touch second base. After the batter has crossed the plate, the second baseman calls for the ball, steps on second base and appeals. What is the ruling?

RULING: The side is retired and no runs scored. The appeal play becomes a simple FORCE out, nullifying all four runs. (See Rules 7.08e, 4.09a, 10.06b)

ADDED TWIST: Let’s say same situation but it was an over the fence home run. (See Rule 6.09(d)).

HINT: The umpire will ignore an appeal of a missed base under these circumstances. See MLB Rule 5.11 resuming play after a dead ball.

By JerseyJoe — On Jun 18, 2008

Anon3104/2183 Here are the rule references: MLB Rule 4.09 HOW A TEAM SCORES.

(a) One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three men are put out to end the inning. EXCEPTION: A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

MLB Rule 2.00 A FORCE PLAY is a play in which a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner.

By anon3433 — On Aug 29, 2007

the infield fly rule has been in effect since 1895!

By Pumpertwo — On Aug 28, 2007

When was the infield fly rule enacted?

By anon3104 — On Aug 11, 2007

Yes, the two runs count. Take a scenario where there are runners at second and third. The batter hits the ball to the outfield wall and it is not caught. The runners from second and third both cross home. The batter safely reaches second, and attempts to take third, but is tagged out. In that situation the runs count. As long as it is not the batter making the third out at first base on a ball that hits in fair territory, then any runners that cross home plate before the third out is made score.

By anon2183 — On Jul 02, 2007

Here’s the scenario:

Bases loaded, one out.

Batter pops up to the pitcher who catches the ball (out #2)

Runner from first ran on contact (doesn’t tag up).

Pitcher throws the ball to first but sails it down the right field line.

Baserunner from third goes home.

Baserunner from second goes home.

Baserunner from first (the one the initial paly was made on) goes to third.

Ball finally gets back into the infield where it is thrown to first for the third out (again the runner never tagged up).

My question- Do the two runs count that came across between the 2nd and 3rd out?

By jvjgofnut — On Jun 14, 2007

is there any certain distance off the infield dirt that designates whether or not it would be considered an infield fly?

By anon1235 — On May 21, 2007

what happens if the umpire fails to call whether or not the infield fly rule is in effect?

By anon406 — On Apr 24, 2007

can the runners be doubled off the bases if the ball is caught and their not on the base, or do they have to be tagged

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