Baseball Tag Out Rules

Baseball Tag Out

Tagging runners out is one of the main ways in which defending teams record outs. Read on to learn about the rules used to regulate tagging runners out and how they impact an average game of baseball.

Tag Outs

A tag out is when a fielder, while holding the ball in his hand or glove, touches a base runner who is not safe on a base. The result is an out, the base runner is removed from the field, and an out is recorded for the defense. If the base runner steps off the bag at any point, he is unsafe and can be tagged out. However, the runner being tagged is called safe if the fielder drops the ball while making the tag.

Instant replay is sometimes used by umpires to review a tag out to make sure the base runner wasn’t safe on base. Base runners will be called out if they try to avoid being tagged out by running outside of the base path or running lane, and on rare occasions, base runners have even been called out for trying to slap the ball out of a fielder’s glove while they attempt to make a tag.

Missing a Base

baseball missing a base

Base runners must touch the bases in order of first base, second base, third base, and home plate to score a run. If at any point the base runner fails to touch bases in this order, they can be tagged out by a fielder even if they are currently touching a base. For example, if a base runner fails to touch second base before reaching third base, but is safe on third base, the fielder can still tag him out.


Overrunning First Base

Contrary to second and third base, runners are allowed to run through, or overrun, first base. This means that the runner does not need to slow down when running to first base. They are allowed to tag the base and slow their momentum after touching it. The base runner must tag first base and stay within the running lane or in foul territory. If they run through first base but do not immediately slow their momentum and walk back towards first base, fielders will be permitted to tag them out.

When to Tag a Runner in Baseball

Fielders should tag runners any time they are trying to advance bases or occupy the same base as another runner.  Besides pitching, tagging runners is the most important way to get opposing players out and prevent them from scoring. Tagging runners is the main objective of all fielders.


Summary of Tag Outs

  • Anytime a base runner is advancing bases, they can be tagged out by a fielder who has possession of the ball.
  • Runners must touch each base in order before advancing to the next. If they miss a base, they are eligible to be tagged out.
  • If a fielder has the ball and is near a base runner who is in the process of running between two bases, the fielder can simply touch the base runner with their glove and the runner is out.
  • Two runners may not occupy the same base. If that is the case, one will be eligible to be tagged out.
  • A runner is permitted to run through first base so long as they do not make a motion towards second base after tagging first base.


What base can a player overrun and not be tagged out?

The only base that a runner can overrun without being tagged out is first base. This is done by design, as players trying to beat out ground balls would find it extremely difficult to stop in place on first base after running full speed. However, the runner must also make sure not to turn towards second and head immediately back to first. If they fail to overrun first base in this specific fashion, they are eligible to be tagged out.

Does the ball have to be in a player’s glove in order to tag a player out?

Technically speaking, the ball does not have to be in a player’s glove in order to tag a player out. However, to tag a player out, the fielder must tag the player out with the ball. So, theoretically, a fielder can tag a player out by holding the ball in their bare hand, but if they were to tag a runner empty-handed, it would not count as an out.

Can you tag a runner heading for first base?

If the ball is live, fielders can tag out a runner headed to first base. This is a semi-common occurrence in situations where a throw pulls the first baseman off the base. They will then catch the ball while off the base and make a swipe tag on the runner in order to tag them out.