Baseball Ground Rules

Baseball Ground Rules

You have probably heard of the main rules in baseball, such as “three strikes, you’re out,” and what is considered a fair versus a foul ball. To understand how the game works, you need to know these rules. But part of what makes some sports challenging to understand are the lesser-known rules that are still very important. An example of these in baseball are the ground rules. Read on to learn about what these rules are, the penalties for violating them, their history, and examples of baseball ground rules.


In the MLB, the ground rules are a set of rules regarding potential factors that could interfere with the game. Ground rules encompass a wide range of rules, including rules that cover the overflow of fans onto the playing field, live balls getting stuck in certain parts of the field, and other specific circumstances.

The Commissioner's Office sends out a list of ground rules that must be followed in every ballpark each season. However, each individual ballpark can also have its own specific ground rules regarding conditions that only apply to that ballpark; these are called “special ground rules.” For example, Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, has a set of special ground rules for its non-retractable domed roof, the only one currently in the MLB. These rules account for a batted ball that strikes a catwalk, light, or other suspended object.

The manager of the home team must present any ground rules they find necessary to the umpire-in-chief and opposing manager. If the opposing manager accepts these rules, they are considered legal. If they are not accepted, the umpire-in-chief makes and enforces any special ground rules they think are necessary by judging the ground conditions, which cannot conflict with the official playing rules.

MLB Ground Rules

Here are the most important universal ground rules for all 30 MLB parks:

  • Players are not allowed to enter the dugout to make a catch, but can reach into it to do so.
  • Balls that become lodged in the roof of an indoor stadium over fair territory result in two bases being awarded to all runners.
  • Batted balls which hit the face of a high wall that is above a lower wall, and then bound back over the lower wall, are considered home runs.
  • Fair balls that become unplayable by the umpire’s discretion result in ground rule doubles, and all runners are awarded two bases.


baseball ground rule example
  • The ball hits the top step of the dugout, commonly known as the lip, and it is in play. If a ball hits equipment that was left on the top step, it is considered dead even if the ball falls into fair territory, and a foul ball is called.
  • A ball that is hit or thrown and ends up lodging in the rotating signage behind home plate or along the first or third base stands is considered out of play. A batted or thrown ball that is resting on any of these areas is considered in play and is a live ball.
  • Robotic cameras and audio equipment that are attached to the facing of the backstop screen are considered part of the screen. A ball that is batted and hits the backstop camera is considered a dead ball. A foul ball is called
  • A ball that is thrown and strikes the backstop camera is a live ball and is considered in play. The fielding team must play the ball and runners may advance.
  • A batted ball hits a wall lower than out-of-bounds, then bounces out of the stadium. According to ground rules, the batter and all other runners advance two bases.


The implementation of ground rules can have a range of results, from a batted ball being declared dead to a team forfeiting the game. For example, a batted ball going into the dugout results in a live ball, while one that hits equipment left on the top step of the dugout results in a dead ball.

A form of ground rule enforcement in baseball is the ground rule double, which results in two bases being awarded to all base runners, including the batter, after a batted ball hits a wall and then bounces out of the stadium. Two bases are also awarded to runners if the ball gets lodged in a stadium's roof while in fair territory, according to Tampa Bay’s special ground rules.

The home team is also responsible for providing police protection against people who aren’t authorized to come on the field from doing so. If someone unauthorized does enter the field and interfere with the game, the visiting team can refuse to play until the field is cleared. The penalty for this is that if the field is not cleared in a reasonable amount of time, which is at least 15 minutes after the road team refuses to play, the umpire-in-chief can forfeit the game to the visiting team.

Between the games of a doubleheader or when a game is suspended because of problems with the field, the umpire-in-chief has control of groundskeepers and assistants for the purpose of making the field ready for play. The penalty for violating this rule is that the umpire-in-chief may forfeit the game to the visiting team.

As ground rules are designed to counteract various types of competitive disadvantages created by the variance among ballparks, the result of implementing ground rules are likewise varied.


One of the earliest examples of ground rules in the MLB can be traced back to the 1920s. Babe Ruth, a legendary slugger for the New York Yankees, hit left-handed and demolished home runs to right field. Because of this, when Yankee Stadium was built in 1923, they made sure the right field wall was the shortest part of the outfieldAlthough the earliest examples of ground rules can be found in the early 20th century, the term became more commonly used in the mid-1900s.

Similar Rules to Ground Rules


What are ground rules in baseball?

In the MLB, the ground rules are a set of rules that regard potential factors that could interfere with the game. Each individual ballpark can also have its own specific ground rules regarding conditions that only apply to that ballpark; these are called special ground rules. Ground rules in baseball are commonly based around equipment and fans interfering with gameplay, as well as what happens if the ball hits the roof of the ballpark (if there is one).