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Running Lane to First Base

A rule that I occasionally get asked about occurs when a batter/runner is running to first base and either gets called out for interference (and maybe shouldn't have been) or not called out for interference (and maybe should have). This could either be because he was hit with a thrown ball (usually from the catcher or pitcher on a bunt) or if there is contact with the first baseman.

baseball running lane The hardest part of this for the player is that first base is in fair territory and the batter/runner is supposed to run to first base in the running lane which is not in fair territory. A right handed batter can easily and will often run out a ground ball and never run in the running lane that is chalked 45 feet down the line. The majority of the time this isn't an issue as interference won't be called simply because a player is not running in the running lane.

Rule 6.05 (k) covers this rule and is (from the Major League Rulebook):

In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball; Rule 6.05(k) Comment: The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter- runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.

Of course there is always going to be controversy because the enforcement of the rule is based on the umpire's judgment. I think the easiest way to gain an understanding of the rule is to go over some situations where the rule comes into play.

Dropped third strike or bunt where the thrown ball hits the runner on his way to first

(So far, so good, fairly straight forward in those two situations.)

Hopefully that gives you a good idea of the rule and how it applies to different situations. A runner can also be called out for interference by making contact or interfering with the first baseman's ability to field the thrown ball. So in the previous example if the runner is running in the running lane and runs into the first baseman or interferes with his ability to catch the ball, the runner should be called out even though he is in the running lane. Just as you are not automatically out by running outside the running lane, you're not automatically safe by running in the running lane. The umpire needs to judge where the runner is intentionally interfering or not and then make the call based on that.

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