Hey Blue: What is the “Infield fly rule?”

By Bob Downey, Hanover LL UIC 2014

Per Little League Rule 6.05 (d), it is a scenario that results in the batter being automatically being declared “OUT” regardless if the ball is caught or not. The purpose is to protect the runners from a cheap double play. Without the rule, the Defense could act as though they are about to catch the fly and cause the runners to hold at their bases, but then allow the ball to  fall to the ground and then turn an easy double play.

Because the rule was originally brought into existence for older, better playing players, some leagues chose not to invoke the rule for younger players who probably could not pull off the double play if the ball were to fall to the ground and because they do not want to give the Defense an automatic out. So depending on your child’s Division and current ruling by the Board, you may or may not hear the rule called by the umpire.

The scenario is described in Little League Rule Section 2 – Definition of Terms, which defines an Infield Fly as:

“a fair fly ball (not including line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out.  The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder stationed in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. “

It goes on to state,

“The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of that ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.”

League Board of Directors and Umpires, often look to the intent of a rule when deciding to apply a rule or not.  If the rule is allowed to be called by the Board, it still remains an umpire’s judgement as to whether it actually will be called. There are subtle factors that come into play and individual umpires have different understanding and philosophies on what is “ordinary effort” or what qualifies as a “line drive” which may influence their decision. So it is not uncommon that spectators, coaches, and players are sometimes confused to why an umpire did or did not make the call. There is a lot more on the internet about the rule. Just remember though, Little League is not the Major Leagues so you need to consider skill level and its influence on the rule application when reading internet articles.