Tag out

What is the Definition of a Tag Out in Baseball?

In baseball, a tag out is a critical defensive play that occurs when a fielder touches a baserunner, who is not in contact with a base, with the ball or with their hand or glove holding the ball. This action must happen while the ball is live, meaning it is in play and not dead or out of action due to a foul or other stoppage. The tag out results in the baserunner being called out by the umpire, ending their attempt to reach the next base and effectively removing them from the base paths.

Understanding the tag out is essential for appreciating the strategies and skills at play in baseball. A successful tag out not only prevents a baserunner from advancing or scoring but also records an out for the defensive team. This can be a game-changing event, especially in situations where baserunners represent potential runs. Tag outs are often seen during steal attempts, when runners advance on hits, or if a runner is caught off a base. Precision and quick reflexes are required from fielders to execute a tag out effectively, as timing and the accurate placement of the ball are paramount in this swift action.

Definition of Tag Out

In baseball, a tag out is a critical play that results in a baserunner being out by direct contact with the ball.

Basic Understanding

A tag out occurs when a fielder, with the ball securely in their hand or glove, touches a baserunner who is not on a base. To complete a tag out, the following conditions must be met:

  • The ball must be live
  • The fielder must have full control of the ball
  • The baserunner must be in jeopardy of being put out, meaning they are not in contact with a base

Role in Game Strategy

The tag out plays a vital role in baseball strategy. Fielders must quickly decide whether to attempt a tag out or a force out, assessing the situation and baserunner’s position. Speed and awareness are critical for both fielders and baserunners, as a successful tag out can shift the momentum of the game and prevent the opposing team from advancing runners or scoring.

Executing a Tag Out

In baseball, a tag out is a pivotal defensive play where a fielder makes contact with a baserunner using the ball or the glove containing the ball to record an out.

Player Responsibilities

Each player involved in executing a tag out holds specific responsibilities to ensure the play is successful.


  • Must possess the ball or have it in the glove.
  • Must visibly and clearly touch the baserunner when they are not in contact with a base.


  • Must attempt to evade the tag while staying within the base path.
  • Must not overrun or vacate a base without the risk of being tagged out.

Required Skills

For the Fielder:

  • Quick reflexes: to react promptly and apply the tag.
  • Awareness: to recognize baserunner movement and opportunities to execute a tag out.
  • Coordination: to maintain possession of the ball during the tag.

For the Baserunner:

  • Agility: to maneuver and avoid the tag.
  • Speed: to reach the base as quickly as possible.
  • Base running intelligence: to know when to advance or retreat to a base.

Rules and Regulations

The tag out is a fundamental aspect of baseball, governed by well-defined rules and susceptible to common misinterpretations.

MLB Official Rules

In Major League Baseball (MLB), a tag out occurs when a fielder with possession of the ball touches a base runner with the ball or with the glove holding the ball, while the runner is not on a base and the ball is live. For a tag out to be valid:

  • The fielder must have secure possession of the ball; mere contact with the ball is insufficient.
  • The runner must be tagged before reaching a base safely; if the runner’s body part on a base when tagged, they are safe.

Common Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions about tag outs that often lead to confusion among fans:

  • A tag out does not require the fielder to touch the runner with the glove if the ball is held in the fielder’s bare hand.
  • A runner who overruns first base may be tagged out on their return, but they are safe while in direct contact with the base.