Baseball Catcher Interference Rule
Catcher interference is a rule in baseball that penalizes the defending team for obstructing the batter’s swing during a pitch. Formally, this rule applies to interference from any of the nine fielders, but the catcher interference is a specific instance of this rule.
Catchers are most likely to commit interference due to their proximity to the batter’s box. The purpose of this rule is to discourage catchers from purposefully obstructing the batter’s swing.
An umpire will call catcher interference when the catcher or their equipment makes contact with the batter or bat during the pitch. Catchers will usually position their gloves close to the strike zone, which makes them prone to contact with the batter’s swing. In Major League Baseball, catcher interference is a fairly rare occurrence.
The batter is awarded first base when catcher interference is called during the pitch. If a runner already occupies first base, then they are forced to second base. In terms of official scoring, catcher interference is defined as an error on the catcher. Also, even though the batter reaches base, the at-bat will not count toward the batter’s on-base percentage (OBP).
Furthermore, if the batter ends up scoring, the score will be marked as an unearned run. No penalty is given if contact between the catcher and batter occurs before the pitch.
Additionally, a ball that is put into play after catcher interference is a delayed dead ball. If the outcome of the play is more desirable than taking first base, then the manager of the batting team can choose to accept the play.
Two examples of why a manager would do this are as follows:
There is a runner on third base with no outs. The catcher interferes with the batter’s swing, and they hit a fly ball to an outfielder that is deep enough to score the runner on third base. Even though the batter hit a flyout, the runner scoring from third base is more desirable than sending the batter to first base.
There is a runner on second base. The batter puts the ball in play after catcher interference is called. The runner on second advances to third base, but the batter is thrown out at first base. The manager may prefer to have a runner on third base rather than having two runners on second and first base.
- The catcher sets their glove close to the plate to frame the pitch but is hit by the batter’s swing (this is by far the most common occurrence of catcher interference).
- The catcher makes contact with the batter when reaching for a ball out of the zone.
- The catcher tries to throw the ball to second base to catch a runner trying to steal. While doing so, their timing is off, and they make contact with the batter during the throw.
- The catcher accidentally makes contact with the batter before the pitcher begins their delivery. This is not catcher interference and no penalty is assessed.
Before the 1900s, catchers would set up further behind the batter’s box than catchers today. The goal was to let the ball bounce before catching it rather than receiving the ball directly from the pitcher. Infamously, Hall of Famer Connie Mack became the first catcher to set up right behind the batter’s box and attempt to subtly obstruct the batter’s swing during his career in the 1880s-1890s. Despite this, catcher interference would not be properly penalized until the 1910s, with the rule officially exempting a batter from their at-bat if interference is called.
Similar Rules to Catcher Interference
- Coach Interference
- Fielder Right of Way
What is catcher interference in baseball?
Catcher interference is a rule that penalizes the catcher for making contact with the batter during their swing. If the umpire calls catcher interference, then either the batter will be awarded first base, or the team on offense will accept the play despite interference.