Among the huge set of rules that govern the game of softball, you must want to know what is the infield fly rule. The governing bodies made all these rules to promote fair play and healthy competition among the softball players. One such rule is that of the Infield fly that saves the defense team from playing unfair where the players would intentionally drop catches to execute double or triple plays.
This article is dedicated to you by us where we solve all your queries related to what is the infield fly rule in softball. We will be taking you through all the necessary information about the rule to enable you to know the game better.
What is the infield fly rule?
Going by the definition of it, the infield fly is just another fair ball that could have just been easily caught by an infielder if there were runners present over the first and the second, or even at the third too, with not more than two outs. This situation invites the umpire to call the infield fly. This declares the batter as out, no matter the ball has been cropped or caught.
The ball remains to live, and the runners who are already there have two options- they can advance if the ball doesn’t get caught or advance with tagging up if the ball is a catch. The rule doesn’t include bunts and line drivers under its ambit.
This rule can be considered as the one which has been majorly misunderstood in the world of baseball. Although, no doubt about it is certainly a little bit hazy as the decision of declaring the infield fly solely rests with the umpire. It is purely a judgment call and the umpire raises an arm straight into the air for signaling the rule and also yells “Infield fly, if fair”.
The decision can be called out immediately once the umpire understands the certainty of it. How it is called out depends upon the condition of the games and the umpire too.
What is the aim of the rule?
The rule was brought into existence to promote good sportsmanship along with a fair play in the game. It deals with all those strategic advancements that might cause deterrence to the game and make any of the party able to take unfair advantages like double and third plays out of that. Now the reasoning behind it is tricky and will require your patience to be understood.
Before that, let’s see the conditions that have to be ascertained before applying the infield fly rule as it will help you to understand the situation better
Only a fair ball is eligible to qualify for an infield fly. If it falls or gets caught up in the foul zone, it cannot be infield fly anymore. Even if the ball started as a fair fly, the moment it goes into the foul area, it cannot be called infield fly no matter what.
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What is the history of the rule?
The rule was first introduced by the baseball National League in the year 1895. They aimed at responding to the infield players who were dropping the fly ball catches intentionally to force out many runners at the same time. Although back then the rule only allowed one man to be declared out.
The rule in its present form was institutionalized in 1901. The later amendments in the year 1904 let to the exclusion of the bunts and then drive line fly balls in 1920 from being eligible. The 5th game in the World Series of 2008 saw the umpire not declaring the rule to be applied as the events did not fulfill the required conditions and this re-instated the importance of correct judgment.
How does the infield fly rule work?
Now that you know the basics of what is the infield fly rule in softball, we can advance to understanding the reasoning behind it. Every game has certain loopholes that create a situation for any of the two teams to take advantage out. There can be a lot of events where the rule may be applied and the details of the rule itself make it all the more confusing.
As soon as the ball is popped up in the air, the base runners are subjected to the dilemma. What they will do depends upon the anticipation about the ball getting caught or not. They analyze the fielder and move only at a considerable distance from their base that is safe enough for them to easily return to.
In case of the ball getting caught, the runners must run back to the original base. If the ball is dropped out of the catch, the batter has to be the runner now and the other runners have to compulsorily move towards the next base. Now in the cases where an anticipated catch fails, the forced runners have then to run forward in place of going back.
So there emerges the first opportunity of advantage for the defensive team to intentionally miss the catch. Now think of a scenario where the bases are loaded in the softball field. The batter hits a ball, popping it in the air, and this falls back near an infield player on the third-base.
This infield player can easily catch that ball, tagging the third-base runner, and go back to the base for stopping the second runner from proceeding and getting forced out thereby. The third-base infielder can also throw the fly ball to any second player, causing the first runner to get out too. These cases make up to be double or triple plays.
Now put the runner’s dilemma as we described and the double play opportunity for the defense in a play together. As per the trajectory of the ball, the runners have to think if they want to be close near their base only as they expect the ball to be caught by the third base defense player. Now, these players can act unfairly and let go of the catch.
This way they can out multiple players like on the third base and then on the first base as well. Now the infield fly rule stops exactly that from happening. When there are not many runners on the base and at least the first or second bases are occupied, any missed catch can only cause a single out which is fair.
When can the Infield Fly rule not be applied?
Let’s consider a situation where the first two bases have runners on them and no outs exist. In the case of the batter being left-handed, the players are moved to another place in the field. This makes the defense player situated away from the third base.
Any ball hit in the direction of the third base in such a scenario cannot be easily caught by the defense players. Here the ‘ordinary effort’ condition is not being fulfilled. Hence, the umpire cannot declare infield fly.
Any infield fly declaration only declares the batter to be out. This is a wise decision as it saves the runners from being unnecessarily out and no dead-ball scene is created. It also acts as protecting the offense since it prevents the other team from misplaying by using the accidental on purpose trick.
Similarly, in other cases where any of the four conditions are not being fulfilled, the umpire cannot give a call for the infield fly.
Another very tricky thing to remember is that despite the name of the rule, there is no need for any infield players to catch the fly ball in the infield. To even catch the infield fly ball within the infield is not necessary at all.
On top of that, there is no need for catching the ball at all in the infield fly ball situation. If the call for the infield fly ball is given by the umpire, that batter has to go out, no matter what happens then. So it’s like the batter’s destiny is sealed and this is the only permanent thing about the rule.
However, the only thing that can stop this is a foul ball as have talked about earlier too. If the infield fly ball turns out to be a foul, the batter is saved from being out and everything proceeds normally then.
Now that you know all about what is the infield fly rule, you can better understand the game and the importance of fair play. It is; no doubt, a little exhaustive to learn what is the infield fly rule in softball due to its technicalities and situation dependence. We hope that this article helped you through that as we tried to curate the knick and knacks comprehensively.