Foul ball

A foul ball is any ball that lands in or is caught in foul territory, which is the area on the field that’s outside of the first and third baselines, extending out to the fence and upwards at a perpendicular angle. The foul territory is demarcated by the foul lines and foul poles on the field. Both the foul lines and foul poles are not considered to be foul territory, only the areas beyond them.

When Does a Pitch Qualify as a Foul Ball?

Foul balls are called in a range of situations:

  • If a batted ball makes first contact with a fielder while the ball is within foul territory
  • If a batted ball makes first contact with the field in foul territory beyond the first or third base without being touched by a fielder in fair territory
  • If a batted ball makes first contact with the area of the field between the home plate and the first or third base and it doesn’t then bounce over or make direct contact with either of these bases, pass either base in fair territory, or end up in fair territory between the home plate and either of these bases
  • If a batted ball is hit out of the park on the left side of the left-field foul pole or the right side of the right-field foul pole and doesn’t make contact with the pole in question
  • If a batted ball makes contact with an umpire, person, or any object foreign to the natural ground in the foul territory

What Happens When a Foul Ball is Called?

Generally speaking, once a ball has been called a foul ball, any baserunners on the field are required to return to their time-of-pitch base and the hitter must return to the home plate to continue their at bat. If the hitter has two or less strikes, they will receive a strike; if the hitter has two strikes at the time of the foul ball, a strike and strikeout is only issued in the case that the ball was bunted by the hitter.

Foul balls are notoriously a complicated aspect in the game of baseball, as the rules surrounding them can be confusing.