Baseball Neighborhood Play Rules
The “neighborhood play” has a deep-rooted history in the game of baseball but has recently been taken out of the game with the addition of instant replay and the changing of sliding rules. Although not explicitly outlined in the MLB rulebook, neighborhood play was an unwritten rule, an agreement between both teams and umpires to ensure the safety of the middle infielders.
The neighborhood play rule was an unwritten rule that allowed second basemen or shortstops the ability to be in the “neighborhood” of the base while turning a double play instead of touching the base.
This was the case because the runner coming to second base was allowed to slide hard into the base, which could cause a possible collision or injury. The neighborhood play rule was never an official rule in the MLB rulebook.
Since this is not directly a rule, there was never a penalty for breaking it or following the “neighborhood play.” Before 2016, you could get away with being a foot or two away from second base while turning a double play.
Now, players must make contact with the base, with the ball in their glove, for an out to be recorded at second base in a double or triple play situation. If a shortstop or second baseman is not touching the bag when they attempt to turn a double play, an out will not be recorded at second, resulting in a runner safe at second base.
- Prior to 2016: There is a runner on first base with zero outs. A ground ball is hit to the shortstop. They field and throw to second base. The second baseman avoids the sliding player by standing one foot to the right of second base while catching the ball. The runner is out at second base.
- After 2016: There is a runner on first base with zero outs. A ground ball is hit to the shortstop. They field and throw to second base. The second baseman avoids the sliding player by standing one foot to the right of second base while catching the ball. The runner is safe at second.
The original point of the neighborhood play rule was to prevent injuries and collisions during double-play opportunities. In these scenarios, base runners going to second base were taught to break up the double play by sliding hard into the legs of the player covering second base.
This led to numerous injuries. It is also important to note that sliding rules changed quite a bit, mainly in 2015. This prohibited slides that may have caused collisions or injury in the past.
With the implementation of replay review in 2016, fielders must catch the ball while touching the base for an out to be recorded.
This rule was removed from the game in 2016 with the implementation of video replay and the challenge system. The challenge system gave coaches the option of going to video replay to overturn a possible bad call.
Major League Baseball made it known they would no longer allow the neighborhood play, and fielders would have to make contact with the base with the ball in their glove for an out to be recorded.
Similar Rules to Neighborhood Play
Since neighborhood play is not an actual rule, it is quite unique in nature. However, baseball has many unwritten rules, many of which have been challenged by a younger generation of players.
Another example of an unwritten rule is teams aren’t supposed to steal bases while up by seven runs or more. The “slide rule” helped pave the way for the abandoning of neighborhood play.
Some other unwritten rules of baseball include:
- No bunting to break up a no-hitter.
- No swinging on a 3–0 count when your team is well ahead.
- No spending your time watching a home run you hit.
- No stealing bases if your team is significantly ahead.
- No swinging at the first pitch of an at-bat if the last two have been back-to-back home runs.
- No working the count if your team is winning or losing significantly.
What is neighborhood play in baseball?
The neighborhood play is when in a double play situation, the fielder covering second base does not have to directly touch the base for an out to be recorded for safety purposes. This unwritten rule has been abolished since the implementation of the replay review system.