Baseball Fair Or Foul Ball Rules
In order to understand baseball, it is important to know what signifies a fair ball. This can be fairly straightforward, but there are some plays that will confuse even the best baseball players. Read more to find out about the rules that determine fair and foul balls.
Fair and Foul Territory
What is fair territory and foul territory? Why are they important when determining a fair or foul ball?
Fair territory is the area including the first base and third base lines extending from home plate to the fences at left field and right field. Before the ball is in play, all fielders (except the catcher), must be in fair territory.
Foul territory is everything outside the first base and third base lines extending to the fence. Foul territory includes the stands, dugouts, and on-deck circles.
The Foul Lines
The foul lines extend from home plate to the outfield fence and separate foul territory and fair territory. The foul lines are used by the umpires to judge a fair ball and a foul ball. It's important to know about the foul lines since the ball can travel along them when it is hit.
Is the ball fair or foul if it is hit along the foul lines? First base and third base are along the foul lines. They are used to determine a fair or foul ball.
If the ball lands in foul territory before first base and third base it is a foul ball. If the ball travels beyond the bases and then goes into foul territory it is fair.
What if the ball stops rolling on the foul line? As long as the ball is in contact with the foul line it is fair.
The Foul Poles
The foul poles are tall yellow poles that mark where the foul lines meet the outfield fence. They have wire netting attached that is parallel to the outfield fence. Each field has two foul poles, one for the left foul line and one for the right foul line.
Are the foul poles fair or foul? If the ball hits a foul pole it is a fair ball. Not only is it fair, but it is also a home run.
What is a foul ball?
A foul ball is when the umpire declares the ball as "dead" and play temporarily stops. Below are examples of when a foul ball will be called in a baseball game:
- The ball is hit directly into foul territory.
- A flyball lands in the infield between home base and first base or home base and third base and then bounces into foul territory without being touched by a fielder.
- The ball originally lands in fair territory then bounces and settles in foul territory before passing first base or third base.
- The ball is touched by a fielder in foul territory.
What is a fair ball?
A fair ball is when the ball is "live" and in play. Below are some examples of when a fair ball in a baseball game:
- The ball lands and stops rolling in fair territory between home base and first base or home base and third base.
- The ball touches first base, second base, or third base and remains in fair territory.
- The ball touches a fielder or any other person in fair territory.
- The ball goes over the fence in fair territory.
- The ball lands and settles on the foul lines.
- The ball touches the foul pole while traveling in fair territory.
- A flyball lands in fair territory past first base or third base and then bounces into foul territory.
- A ball hits the rubber of first or third base and bounces into foul territory without being touched by a fielder.
Whether the ball lands in fair territory or foul territory, it influences the result of that play. The ball is determined to be fair or foul once it stops rolling, if a fielder touches the ball, and if it passes first base and third base while remaining in fair territory. Umpires will use the fouls lines and foul poles to easily judge if the ball is fair or foul. Umpires have the right to make the final decision.
Managers can challenge an umpire's ruling on the field only in some situations. The new MLB Review rules state a manager can challenge an umpire's call of a fair or foul ball, only if it lands at or beyond the position of the first-base or third-base umpire. If the ball lands in front of these umpires, their judgement on the call stands.
Fair/Foul Ball Statistics
For more advanced baseball fans and statisticians, there may be situations where a fielder is in fair territory and makes a catch in foul territory and vice versa. In either case, the result is the same, an out. However, it may be recorded differently.
Are the foul poles fair or foul?
The foul poles are fair. If the ball hits the foul balls then it is also a home run.
Are the foul lines fair or foul?
The foul lines are fair as long as the ball remains in contact with them. If the ball moves past the foul lines into foul territory it is foul only if it is before first base or third base.
What is fair and foul in youth baseball?
While certain rules are different in younger levels of baseball such as Little League, fair and foul rules almost always stay the same.
What happens if a fan grabs a fair ball?
If a fan interferes with a fair ball before a fielder gets a chance to make a play, it is considered a dead ball. It is then up to the umpires' discretion to decide what the outcome of the play would have reasonably been without any interference. They then can properly position the baserunners, or rule an out.