During a baseball or softball game, you will witness foul balls. Baseball/softball diamonds and fields have lines running from the top left and top right corner of home plate, or batter’s box, to the foul pole out in the outfield. Fair territory lies inside both of those lines, while foul territory lies outside of them.
What is the rule for a foul ball in baseball and softball? What is the process of foul balls in a professional game? If a batted ball is fair or foul, how can fans and players tell? Does the umpire signal fair or foul when a ball is hit? During regular-season Major League Baseball games, how many foul balls are thrown?
The complete guide to foul balls in baseball and softball can be found here.
Table of Contents
The Baseball Diamond
There are 90 feet between home plate, first base, second base, and third base on a professional baseball field. Every ballpark has the same infield because the diamonds are equal distances apart. Despite the same distance and length of the infield, the dimensions of the outfield can be different from the home plate, making baseball and softball unique.
Each ballpark has white lines running from the top left and right corner of home plate, or the batter’s box, to the foul pole, regardless of the distance between the outfield wall and home plate. On a field, this line represents fair and foul territory. In most baseball stadiums, there is a yellow foul pole to indicate where the white line runs.
What are the Rules for a Foul Ball?
If a hitter hits a foul ball, their at-bat is counted as a strike. When a hitter has two strikes on him and hits a foul ball, he continues to hit with two strikes against him. It is impossible for a batter to get out on a foul ball unless they attempt to bunt with two strikes and hit a foul ball. A hitter who bunts the ball on two strikes and it goes foul counts as a strikeout.
What is an example of a Foul Ball in Baseball and Softball?
Let’s pretend that the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics are playing Major League Baseball. As the Athletics pitch to the Yankees, the Yankees’ player at bat keeps hitting balls into the stands to the right of the foul line in right field. Whenever a Yankees player hits a fly ball that keeps going right of the right-field foul line, it counts as a foul ball.
As another example, the Yankees’ hitter keeps grounding the ball foul when they make contact. Before it passes the bag, the baseball keeps rolling right of the first base bag in foul territory. As a result, the baselines indicate that the ball is to the right of the foul line, so it is foul.
What Happens if a Baseball Lands Fair and then Bounces into the Stands?
A ground-rule double occurs when a ball lands in fair territory in the outfield and bounces into foul territory in the stands. After a ground-rule double, all baserunners move up two bases from where they began the play. In general, you see the ball bounce into foul territory when a base hit lands close to the outfield foul line and has a spin on the bounce.
A ground-rule double is also called if the ball bounces into the stands and falls back onto the field. When a baseball or softball connects with a fan, the play is over.
How Should Defenders Play a Potential Foul Ball?
First and third base fielders should know where they are playing in the infield. When a hitter grounds the ball over the fair line in the diamond, they have a choice to make. The fielder should attempt a force-out if they feel they can gather the ball and throw it to a base.
When the grounder is hit softly and the runner is fast, infielders may watch the ball and touch it as soon as it rolls foul before passing the base. When a ball rolls foul before passing a base, it is now in foul territory. When the ball is in foul territory, the fielder will touch it before passing the base.
How Do Foul Balls Work in Game?
Generally, foul balls don’t return to the game in professional baseball or softball. In the professional leagues, a new ball is given to the pitcher after a foul ball. For the hitter and fielders’ safety, the umpire issues a new ball to the pitcher. The baseball can be difficult to see if it is scuffed up from a foul ball.
To learn more about why baseballs are changed so often during games, visit Baseball Boom!
How Many Foul Balls are there in an MLB Game?
During the 2019 season, professional baseball games average 53.8 foul balls per game.
Can Fans Keep the Foul Ball?
A spectator can keep the ball that goes into foul territory if the batter hits it in foul territory. A fan might give back the ball if it is an impressive home run, but that only happens when the ball was in fair territory.
The most famous foul ball/homerun catcher is Zack Hample. Visit his official website to learn more about catching balls at MLB stadiums!
How Do Fans and Players Know if the Batted Ball will Be Fair or Foul?
Knowing the foul lines on the field is the best way to determine whether a batted ball is fair or foul. A foul ball is one that travels far left of the left-field foul line or vice versa. As soon as it becomes a foul ball, the play is over. Moreover, no fielder or runner is running anymore, indicating that the play is over.
Fans and players can also determine whether a batted ball is fair or foul by watching the umpire. A third-base referee pointing to their right indicates the ball went left of the third-base bag and is foul. The ball is in fair territory if the umpire points with their left hand.
Finally, instant replay reviews have become increasingly important for determining fair and foul calls. A foul fly ball and a home run are vastly different, so umpires review the video replay when a manager requests it. Due to the height of the ball in the air, the lights, and the angle of the umpire, the field of play at ballparks can be tricky, so using video replay can help determine the right call.
Do Umpires Do Anything to Signal a Fair or Foul Ball?
It is common for umpires to yell out “foul ball” and point to the foul side of the bag when they are playing. Everyone on the field is alerted to the end of the play by yelling foul ball and pointing to the foul side of the bag.
Is There a Max Number of Foul Balls a Batter Can Hit?
It is not possible for a hitter to hit more than the maximum number of balls. The action may have to be stopped during a Little League game if they run out of balls due to foul balls. Unlike professional baseball games, Little League games don’t have hundreds of baseballs on hand.
Conclusion: What is a Foul Ball in Baseball and Softball?
Baseball and softball fields have fair/foul lines that run from home plate or the batter’s box corner to each foul pole. Fair territory lies inside these foul lines, while foul territory lies outside. Hitting a foul ball as a hitter does not result in a strikeout, but bunting with two strikes will result in a strikeout.
After three strikes, they’re out, and the next batter comes up to bat. It is impossible for a batter to strike out on a foul ball. There is no limit to the number of foul balls they can hit if they have two strikes.
In softball, an illegal pitch occurs when the pitcher violates a rule while delivering her pitch. The umpire calls the illegal pitch, awarding the ball to the batter. An illegal pitch awards the next base to the runner on base when there is a runner on base.