Fair or Foul?

On this page we will look at fair ball and foul ball distinctions.

General Definitions

Foul Ball: Under Section 2.00 of the rule book a foul ball is defined as a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base, or that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.

FOUL TERRITORY is that part of the playing field outside the first and third base lines extended to the fence and perpendicularly upwards.

Fair Ball: A fair ball according to 2.00 is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base, or that touches first, second or third base, or that first falls on fair territory on or beyond first base or third base, or that, while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player, or that, while over fair territory, passes out of the playing field in flight.

FAIR TERRITORY is that part of the playing field within, and including the first base and third base lines, from home base to the bottom of the playing field fence and perpendicularly upwards. All foul lines are in fair territory.

Quick Hits

1)      The fielder’s body or feet, has nothing to do with judging whether a ball is fair or foul. Your decision on a ruling should be based only on the relationship between the ball and the foul line when the ball comes to complete stop or when the fielder touches the ball.

2)      Any part of the foul line is part of fair territory.

3)      The foul pole is also considered part of fair territory.

4)      If a fly ball lands on or beyond first or third base and then bounces to foul territory, it is a fair hit.

5)      If the ball hits the first of third base bag it is ruled fair. (Similar to any part of the foul line being ruled in fair territory.)

Ball Hit in the Infield

This is one of the more difficult situations in the fair or foul ruling. Say for instance a ball is hit on the ground between home and third or home and first. In this particular instance an umpire cannot make a ruling of fair or foul, until the ball is touched by a fielder, comes to complete stop or goes past one of the corner bases. In theory the ball could enter and exit fair territory a number of times before being ruled one way or the other.

Balls Hit to the Outfield

Unlike the ball hit in the infield, a ball hit to the outfield is determined to be fair or foul by the ball’s relationship to the foul line at the moment it first touches a fielder or the ground. Remember again that it is where the ball is when it is touched or where it lands. The relationship to the fielder is irrelevant. It is imperative for you to always look at the ball and the foul line.

Umpire Training Video #15

Home Plate

This is one that always seems to trip up new umpires. Home plate is in fair territory, so if the ball is hit and comes to a rest on the plate it is a fair ball and must be played as such. An easy way to think of this is that home plate is like any other part of the ground in fair territory and should be treated like any other ball hit in the infield.

Ball Hit in the Batter’s Box

This is another one of those situations where umpires face some confusion and deservedly so. Again what will keep you out of trouble is looking at where the batter box is located. Since most of the box is in foul territory (front portion is in fair territory) it would be ruled as a foul ball in most instances assuming the ball stops in that area or is touched there. If however, the ball hits in the box and rolls into fair territory and stops or is touched it is fair.

Also:  If the batter makes contact with a batted ball while in the batter’s box, it is a ruled dead and deemed foul. However, if the batter hits the ball, and it comes to a stop in the batter’s box or the batted ball is touched by a fielder while it is in the batter’s box, and the ball did not touch the batter, it is either fair or foul, depending on the position of the ball at the time it came to rest or was touched by the fielder.