Infield Fly Rule Baseball and Softball: an Easy Explanation

John Means

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In Field Fly Rule Baseball

One of the most misunderstood rules in baseball, or in softball, is the Infield Fly Rule. There are so many things happening at one time to be understood. So, confusion arises.

So we’re going to cover today everything you need to know. So first, let’s define what is an infield fly rule and what is it doing for the game of baseball. What does it prevent from happening?

Definition of Infield Fly Rule

An infield fly is any fair fly ball (not including a line drive or a bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third base are occupied, before two men are out. The rule is in place to protect against a team allowing a shallow fly ball to drop in with the intention of causing a force play at second and third or second, third and home. Otherwise, the team would be able to force out baserunners who had stayed put on a routine fly ball.
In these situations, the umpire will declare “infield fly” for the benefit of the baserunners as soon as it is apparent that the fly ball qualifies as an infield fly. The batter is out even if the ball is not caught, and the baserunners can advance at their own risk. If the ball is caught, the baserunners can attempt to advance as they would on a typical ball caught in the air.


So the scenario in which the infield fly rule is is when there are fewer than two outs. That means zero out or one out and there are runners on first and second or the bases loaded in those situations.

If the batter was to hit a pop-up in the infield, the runners would have to stay close to their base because if they caught the ball and they were too far away, they would throw it back and then they would be caught in a double play. There would be a double-off that way.

So because this is the case that runners have to stay close basically on the bag when there’s a pop on the infield. Smart infielders back in the play, probably let these balls drop and then would immediately throw to third, throw to second, and get an easy double or triple play.

And everyone will think that “that’s not really well, that’s not really fair.”

The baseball is getting screwed over by its own rules of the fact you have to wait till after they catch the ball to tag and then move to the next base. So if you’re off the base and then catch the fly ball and they throw it back to the base before you get there. Then you’re going to be out.

That’s the rule that keeps you close to the base when there’s a ball hit in the air. So the infield fly rule, the umpire will use their discretion to call an infield fly when they believe. It only takes a little bit of effort to get camp underneath that infield pop up and be ready to make that out.

So they call the batter out automatically as soon as it leaves the bat. And they say “infield fly, batter’s out” and therefore the force out is now dead in the infield. So now no runners have to advance whether the ball is caught or not.

And so this solves that problem. Now the runners don’t have to go anywhere on this pop up and they’re not going to be caught in a needless double or triple play if the infielders let it drop. So whether the infield or let’s stop that pop up drop or catches it, the batter is already out.

No matter what it could drop, the batter is still out. They could catch the pop up, the batter is still out and no one has to advance.

So at the core of it is why the infield fly rule exists. It prevents this loophole sort of thing from happening where every pop up with multiple runners on base in a forced out situation might pretty much always result in a double or triple play.

And that was not good for baseball. So that’s why the infield fly rule and this automatically calling the batter out. That’s why this rule makes a lot of sense.

Preconditions for This Rule

Let’s summarize before we explain on an actual ball field let’s explain all the preconditions for the infield lateral. The Conditions are:

  1. Less than 2 outs (0 or 1)
  2. 1st + 2nd or Bases Loaded Only
  3. No line Drives or Bunts
  4. Batter is out if pop-up is caught or not
  5. Runners can try to advance if desired
  6. Ball must be in fair territory
  7. Umperis’s decision on an “ordinary effort”

Less Than 2 Outs (0 or 1)

There must be less than two outs. So one out or zero outs.

1st + 2nd or Bases Loded Only

There have to be runners on first and second or the bases loaded. The infield fly rule is not in effect with second and third, or runner only on second or runner only on first, or runner only on third. There has to be first and second or the bases loaded. That’s multiple runners where there’s a force out the situation.

No Line Drives or Bunts

Balls that are subject to the infield fly have to be hit up into the air. They can’t be bunts and they can’t be line drives. Line drives are hit pretty much like a rocket. Anything that’s hit up in the air is going to be available and the umpires discretion to potentially be called for an infield fly.

Batter is Out if Pop-up Caught or Not

Next, the infielder doesn’t have to catch the ball for the batter to be out again. The batter is going to be called automatically out as soon as the umpire makes this call.

So the batter doesn’t have to run to first base and the infield could let the ball drop or they could accidentally let it drop and the runner is out. The same way. So the batters out, no matter if they catch it or they don’t.

Runners Can Try to Advance if Desired

Next, all the runners can still advance. This is why you wouldn’t necessarily want to let the ball drop automatically as an infielder because it might have some weird spin.

It might hit a rock and it might bounce away where the runners could actually advance to the next base. So even though the batter is called automatically out, the runners can still advance at their own discretion if they want to.

The ball is not dead. So the runner on first base might decide, he did want to go off the base and the pop up falls and it bounces and it hits the runner in the leg. The runner will be called out so they can only be safe if they’re actually touching the base.

Ball Must Be in Fair Territory

The runners have the discretion to leave the base on infield fly, but they don’t have to. But if they do get touched with the ball while it’s in fair territory, they’ll be called out.

And lastly, a fair ball is the only one that can be called for an infield fly. Foul balls do not apply.

Why an Umpire Would Want to Call an Infield Fly?

So next, let’s go into why an umpire would want to call an infield fly and why they might say, this one is not subject to it. This can be a little bit tricky to understand. And the one thing to definitely understand is that an infield fly rule can be called when the ball’s not in the infield.

It can be like ten feet into the outfield. This is the umpire discretion. And a ball doesn’t have to be sky high. It can be slightly lower. It can’t be a line drive but let’s talk through a couple of the reasons that a like humpback liner or a short blooper into the outfield wouldn’t be the infield fly rule, but a pop up that makes it into the outfield might.

The main scenario that this rule trying to prevent like:

It’s runners on first and second base and infielder is playing short and there’s a pop up hit overhead and there’s no one out, right?

So the infielder camped under it almost likely to catch the ball. Being smart, he might let the ball drop. And he run over and tagged the runner out. So it’s an easy double play.

And basically their ending is ruined, right? So if there’s one out, the inning would be over. And if there was no one out there, basically the whole threat that they had going is now pretty much dead.

So that’s what the infield fly rule is mainly trying to prevent that just cheap, really easy double play that just doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel like a good part of baseball.

Umperis’s Decision on an “ordinary Effort”

The actual rule is that the infielder needs to give ordinary effort to catch the ball. So that means if infielder is playing short and there’s a ball hit in Shallow Left, (this happens all the time). The infielder run back and camped there. The umpire can still call it an infield fly rule as it is an “ordinary effort”.

In another scenario, the infielder can still let this drop. Then toss the second and then the first for an easy double play. So it doesn’t have to be in the infield properly. It can be close basically as long as the infielder is camped underneath it.

Now, this distinction is really important because we don’t want to call the runner out, which is what the infield fly rule does.

When the infield fly rule in baseball or softball is called, the batter is automatically out, which means none of the runners are now pushed to the next base via the force out rules.

So we don’t want to automatically call a runner out when they hit, maybe like a humpback liner. And the infielder may or may not catch it in the outfield. That’s not what the infield fly rule is designed for.

The infield lateral is designed for: The infielder can easily go underneath it, whether it’s baseball or softball, is pretty much a guaranteed out.

Has to Be “Ordinary Effort”: But if the out is not guaranteed the infielder is still going back on it and he might not get there. That’s not an ordinary effort. And the infield fly rule would not apply. This is why it doesn’t apply to bunts because they happen so fast.

Even if you pop up a bunt, it’s going to happen so fast. That it’s not really going to be a situation where you can make that easy. Double play and line drives would never be infield flies because they’re hit so hard they’re going to be a hit a lot of times.

What Happens After the Infield Fly Rule is Called?

When the infield fly rule is called, the batter is automatically out, no matter the infielder catch the ball or not.

You would never want to call the batter automatically out when they hit a line drive or even like a humpback liner. That’s not a pop up.

So as umpires watch this develop, so if the bases are loaded and one out or first and second and one out, they’re going to watch the pop-up go up and they’re going to be ready to call an infield fly but they’re going to wait and see what happens.

Is it drifting into the corner where they might not catch it?

They don’t want to call the batter automatically out and they won’t call the infield fly rule but they’re looking for the same thing.

Is an infielder camped underneath it? Are they going to make this play? Is it pretty much a certain out for the batter?

That’s the main distinction for calling an infield fly rule in baseball or softball.

Why It doesn’t apply if only Runner on 1st Base?

But you might be asking yourself, why can’t we have the infield fly rule with just a run on first base? Couldn’t they get an easy double play when there’s just a runner on first base and less than two outs?

Well, the answer is no. So let me explain. When there’s only a runner on first this scenario doesn’t really happen. You might think, couldn’t they just throw out a second or the first?

Yes, hypothetically. But the batter’s job when they hit this pop up is to run the first base. That’s their only job at that point.

They could certainly be super lazy and just walk and knock it down here.

But in almost all scenarios, the runner is going to get to first base, which means if they let the pop up drop at most, they’re going to flip it to second to get the base runner out at the second base, or the runner is just going to retreat and be right here.

And if they catch it, the runner is there. If they let it drop and they toss the second the runner’s out. So in this case the runner or the hitter on the 1st base. So when there’s only a runner on first, it’s really just a human exchange.

Either the runner and the batter are safe at first or the batter is out and the runner is safe at first, if they drop the pop up. You get a double play on a dropped pop up with a run out first if the batter just does not run. They realize this and then they toss the second and throw the first to get both of us out.

But again, unless you’re your batter is a terrible person, that’s not going to happen.

What are Some Examples of the Infield Fly Rule?

Here are some examples of how the infield fly rule works in different situations:

Example 1: There are runners on first and second base with one out. The batter hits a high pop-up to the shortstop. The umpire calls “infield fly, batter’s out”. The shortstop catches the ball and throws to third base, where the runner from second base is tagged out. The runner from first base stays on his base. The result is a double play.

Example 2: There are runners on first and second base with one out. The batter hits a high pop-up to the third baseman. The umpire calls “infield fly, batter’s out”. The third baseman drops the ball on purpose and picks it up. He throws to second base, where the runner from first base is forced out. The runner from second base advances to third base. The result is a force out at the second base.

Example 3: There are runners on first and second base with one out. The batter hits a high pop-up to the pitcher. The umpire calls “infield fly, batter’s out”. The pitcher lets the ball fall to the ground and picks it up. He throws to third base, where the runner from second base is tagged out. The runner from first base advances to second base. The result is a tag out at the third base.

Example 4: There are runners on first and second base with one out. The batter hits a high pop-up to shallow right field. The umpire does not call “infield fly”. The second baseman runs back and catches the ball. He throws to first base, where the runner from first base is doubled off. The runner from the second base stays on his base. The result is a double play.

Final Words

The infield fly rule is one of the most confusing rules in baseball, but it is also one of the most important ones to prevent unfair tactics by the defense. In this article, we try to explain as well as we can. Hope you understand.

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John Means

John Means is a professional baseball player who has played in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 2009. He was traded to the Athletics in 2012. Baseball is his favorite sport. His passion about the game is evident in his play. Now he write blogs about baseball and other things whenever he has some free time. LinkedIn

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