Baseball Fair or Foul Ball Rules

The Foul Lines

The foul lines extend from home plate to the outfield fence and distinguish foul territory and fair territory. The foul lines are used by the umpires to judge a fair ball and a foul ball.

Baseball Foul Line

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.

Baseball Foul Pole

Fair and Foul Territory

So what does fair and foul even mean? The area in between the foul lines is considered fair territory. While the area outside the foul lines is foul territory. 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. Foul territory is outside the first base and third base lines extending to the fence. When the ball is in play, all defensive players, otherwise known as fielders, (except the catcher) must be in fair territory.

Baseball Foul Territory

Baseball Fair Territory

Fair or Foul Ball Examples

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.

Here is a list of example scenarios:

Scenario

Fair or Foul Ball

The ball lands and stops rolling in fair territory between home base and first base or home base and third base.

Fair Ball

The ball touches first base, second base, or third base.

Fair Ball

The ball touches a fielder, umpire, or any other person in fair territory.

Fair Ball

The ball goes over the fence in fair territory.

Fair Ball

The ball lands and settles on the foul lines.

Fair Ball

The ball touches the foul pole while traveling in fair territory.

Fair Ball (Home Run)

A flyball lands past first base or third base and then bounces into foul territory.

Foul Ball

The ball is hit directly into foul territory.

Foul Ball

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.

Foul Ball

A ball hits the rubber and bounces into foul territory without being touched by a fielder.

Foul Ball

The ball originally lands in fair territory then bounces and settles in foul territory before passing first base or third base.

Foul Ball

The ball is touched by a fielder in foul territory.

Foul Ball

Touching The Lines

What about the lines themselves? Are they considered fair or foul? If the ball stops rolling and remains on the foul line, it is a fair ball. The ball must be touching part of the foul line to be considered fair.

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.


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