Obstruction can be one of the most misidentified and least understood rules in baseball. A fielder can be guilty of obstructing a runner and only a split second later, he is the victim of interference by the runner (NOTE: whether the fielder was “in the act of fielding the ball” is a determining factor).
Obstruction is commonly and mistakenly described by broadcasters as “interference” and their explanation will likely result in even more confusion as they attempt to unravel and explain the complexities. To add even more to the discussion is the fact that there are two (2) types of obstruction as defined by the Official Rules of Baseball: 7.06 (a) and 7.06 (b).
During our opening series in Washington, we had an example of Type (b) obstruction and 3rd base umpire, Jim Reynolds was right on top of the play: You can watch the video here…
The essential point of emphasis to remember is that in Type (b) obstruction you signal the obstruction by pointing and then continue to let the play proceed as normal. You must, though, in your mind be conscious of where you are determining that runner would end up “had the obstruction NOT occurred.” In this type of obstruction it is NOT an automatic one base award.
There is quite a bit to review in the rule book concerning this rule, so make sure you look through it if you haven’t in a while. After even a short review I have no doubt you will inherently surpass the knowledge of many of our game’s television and radio broadcasters.
One final note: while I would never advocate ignoring or straying away from anything in the Official Rules, if you had followed 9.05 (General Instructions to Umpires), you would of missed this obstruction completely. For it states: “Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play.”
Well, in this case, do not read “everlastingly” as gospel.
Mike Di Muro has been a Major League Umpire since 1999. He is the author of the official blog of UMPS CARE Charities. Please leave any questions or comments below.