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2 - Playing Terms & Definitions


2-1-1   For brevity in the play rulings, the home team is H and the visiting team V.

2-1-2   Players of the team at bat are B1, B2, etc. The player who bats first in his half of an inning is designated B1. The second player to bat is B2, etc. Substitutes are S1, S2, etc. Runners are R1, R2, or R3, and R1 is the runner who has advanced farthest.

2-1-3   Fielding players are F1, F2, etc., in accordance with Diagram 1.


When bases are awarded, it is the responsibility of the runner to legally touch those bases. In actuality, it is the right to advance without a play being made that is awarded.

3 - BALK

A balk is an illegal act committed by the pitcher with a runner(s) on base which entitles each runner to advance one base.


2-4-1   The ball is one of the playing implements (See 1-3-1). The term is also used to designate a pitch which is not touched by the bat and is not a strike as in 7-2-1 and 7-2-2.

2-4-2   A base on balls is an award of first base (often referred to as a “walk”) if a batter receives four such balls. The batter must go immediately to first base before time-out is called.

2-4-3   An intentional base on balls may be given by the defensive team by having its catcher or coach request the umpire to award the batter first base. This may be done before pitching to the batter or on any ball and strike count. The ball shall be declared dead before making the award.


2-5-1   A fair ball is a batted ball which:

  1. settles on fair territory between home and third base or between home and first base; or
  2. contacts fair ground on or beyond an imaginary line between first and third base; or
  3. is on or over fair ground when bounding to the outfield past first or third base; or
  4. first falls on fair ground on or beyond first or third base; or
  5. touches first, second or third base; or
  6. while on or over fair territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, their clothing or equipment; or
  7. while over fair ground passes out of the playing field in flight. (1) A fly ball or line drive, which passes over or inside first or third base in flight and curves to foul ground beyond such base, is not a fair hit; but a hit which goes over or through the fence is a fair hit if it is over fair ground when it leaves the field.

2-5-2   A base hit (also called a safe hit or single) is one which enables the batter to advance to first base without being put out (9-3-2).

2-5-3   An extra base hit is one which enables the batter to advance to first base and then to one or more succeeding bases (9-3-3). A two-base hit (double), three-base hit (triple) or home run enables him to reach second, third or home base, respectively.


2-6-1   A batted or thrown ball is in flight until it has touched the ground or some object other than a fielder.

2-6-2   A fly ball is a batted ball which rises an appreciable height above the ground.

2-6-3   A line drive is a batted ball which travels parallel, or nearly so, with the ground through most of its flight.

2-6-4   A ground ball is one which is neither a fly nor a line drive.


2-7-1   The batter is the player of the team at bat who is entitled to occupy either of the two batters’ boxes as shown in Diagram 2.

2-7-2   The batter’s box is the 4 foot x 6 foot area in which the batter shall stand when batting. The lines are part of the box. (See Official Measurements in Diagram 2)

2-7-3   A batter-runner is a player who has finished a time at bat until he is put out or until playing action ends.

8 - BUNT

A bunt is a fair ball in which the batter does not swing to hit the ball, but holds the bat in the path of the ball to tap it slowly to the infield. If an attempt to bunt is a foul ball, it is treated the same as any other foul ball, except that if the attempt is by a batter who has two strikes, such batter is out as in 7-4-1e.


2-9-1   A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a live ball in flight and firmly holding it, provided he does not use his cap, protector, mask, pocket or other part of his uniform to trap the ball. The catch of a fly ball by a fielder is not completed until the continuing action of the catch is completed. A fielder who catches a ball and then runs into a wall or another player and drops the ball has not made a catch. A fielder, at full speed, who catches a ball and whose initial momentum carries him several more yards after which the ball drops from his glove has not made a catch. When the fielder, by his action of stopping, removing the ball from his glove, etc., signifies the initial action is completed and then drops the ball, will be judged to have made the catch. The same definition of a catch would apply when making a double play. It is considered a catch if a fielder catches a fair or foul ball and then steps or falls into a bench, dugout, stand, bleacher or over any boundary or barrier, such as a fence, rope, chalk line, or a pregame determined imaginary boundary line from the field of play. Falling into does not include merely running against such object. (See 2-24-4 for fielder juggling ball and 8-4-1c for intentionally dropped ball; 2-16-2 and 5-1-1d for ball striking catcher before touching his glove.) It is not a catch when a fielder touches a batted ball in flight which then contacts a member of the offensive team or an umpire and is then caught by a defensive player.

NOTE: When a batted ball or a pitch is involved, the above definition of a catch applies. For any other thrown ball, the term is used loosely to also apply to a pick-up or to the trapping of a low throw which has touched the ground. A fielder may have the ball in his grasp even though it is touching the ground while in his glove.

2-9-2   The catcher is the player to whom the pitcher throws when delivering the ball to the batter.

2-9-3   The catcher’s box is an area 43 inches by 8 feet. See official measurements in Diagram 2.


2-10-1   A charged conference is a meeting which involves the coach or his non-playing representative and a player or players of the team. Defensive – See 3-4-1; Offensive – See 3-4-2.

2-10-2   A pregame conference is a meeting involving the umpires, both head coaches and team captains (if available) near home plate. The meeting should begin approximately five minutes prior to the game. The purpose of the pregame conference is to exchange and check each team’s lineup cards and to discuss ground rules. Umpires also shall ask the head coaches of the two opposing teams if their players are legally and properly equipped. In addition, the expectation of good sporting behavior is shared with both teams and representatives (4-1-3a). Both teams shall remain in their dugout (bench) or bullpen area until this meeting has concluded.


The ball becomes dead when acts listed in 5-1 occur or play is suspended as in 5-2-1. See table in Rule 5.

12 - ERROR

2-12-1   An error is a misplay by a fielder or a team (9-5-5), which is recorded in the error column of the player’s or team’s record.

2-12-2   Other misplays that are not recorded in the error column but are included in the game summary include a balk (6-2-4), wild pitch (9-6-1), batter hit by pitched ball (8-1-1d) and passed ball (9-6-1).


2-13-1   A fielder is any one of the nine players of the defensive team.

2-13-2   The players who play left field, right field and center field are outfielders.

2-13-3   The others are infielders.

2-13-4   The pitcher and catcher are the battery.

2-13-5   In the play rulings, a fielder is referred to as F1, F2, etc.


2-13-1   A fielder’s choice is the act of a fielder with a live ball, who elects to throw for an attempted putout or to retire unassisted any runner or batter-runner, thus permitting the advance of another runner(s). The scorer decides whether the batter is credited with a safe hit or an extra base hit in accordance with 9-2-2, 9-3-3. Scorers use the term in the following ways:

  1. to indicate the advance of the batter-runner who takes one or more bases when the fielder who handles his batted ball plays on a preceding runner;
  2. to indicate the advance of a runner (other than by stolen base or error) while a fielder is trying to put out another runner; and
  3. to indicate the advance of a runner due to the defensive team’s refusal to play on him (an undefended steal).


A forfeited game is one awarded to the opponent of the offending team (4-4).


2-16-1   A foul is a batted ball:

  1. which settles on foul territory between home and first base or between home and third base; or
  2. that bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory; or
  3. that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base; or
  4. that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or a player or any object foreign to the natural ground; or
  5. that touches the ground after inadvertently being declared foul by an umpire.

2-16-2   A foul tip is a batted ball that goes directly to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught by the catcher. It shall be called a strike and the ball is in play.


2-17-1   A regulation interscholastic game is seven innings (turns at bat) for each team unless shortened as in 4-2-2 and 4-2-3, or unless extra innings are necessary to break a tie score.

2-17-2   A called game is one which is ended by order of the umpire in accordance with 4-3.

2-17-3   A suspended game is a called game to be completed at a later time.


An illegal pitch is an illegal act committed by the pitcher with no runner on base, which results in a ball being awarded the batter. When an illegal pitch occurs with a runner, or runners, on base, it is ruled a balk.


An infield fly is a fair fly (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, (rule does not preclude outfielders from being allowed to attempt to make the catch) and provided the hit is made before two are out and at a time when first and second bases or all bases are occupied.

When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an infield fly, the umpire immediately announces it for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near a baseline, the umpire shall declare, “Infield fly, if fair.” (See 8-4-1j for batter being out and right of base runner to advance after retouching his base.)


2-20-1   An inning is that portion of the game which includes a turn at bat for each team.

2-20-2   A half-inning is the interval during which one team is on offense (batting) and the other is on defense (fielding). A half-inning ends when there is a third out or when, in the last inning, the winning run is scored. In either case, if there is a delayed out declared by the umpire for a base running infraction, a possible fourth out may be recognized (9-1-1d, e).

2-20-3   An extra inning is one which extends the game in an attempt to break the tie score.


2-21-1   Offensive interference is an act (physical or verbal) by the team at bat:

  1. which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play; or
  2. when a runner creates malicious contact with any fielder, with or without the ball, in or out of the baseline; or
  3. a coach physically assists a runner during playing action.

2-21-2   It is umpire interference when he inadvertently moves so as to hinder a catcher’s attempt to throw, or when a fair ball touches an umpire as in 5-1-1f, or thrown ball as in 5-1-1g.

2-21-3   Spectator interference is an act by a spectator which impedes the progress of the game.

2-21-4   Follow-through interference is when the bat hits the catcher after the batter has swung at a pitch and hinders action at home plate or the catcher’s attempt to play on a runner.

2-21-5   Backswing interference is when a batter contacts the catcher or his equipment prior to the time of the pitch


2-22-1   Obstruction is an act (intentional or unintentional, as well as physical or verbal) by a fielder, any member of the defensive team or its team personnel that hinders a runner or changes the pattern of play as in 5-1-3 and 8-3-2; or when a catcher or fielder hinders a batter as in 5-1-2b, 8-1-1e, 8-3-1c and 8-3-2. When obstruction occurs, the ball becomes dead at the end of playing action and the umpire has authority to determine which base or bases shall be awarded the runners according to the rule violated (Exceptions 8-4-2c, 8-4-2d).

2-22-2   A fake tag is an act by a defensive player without the ball that simulates a tag. A fake tag is considered obstruction.

2-22-3   The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve.


An on-deck circle for each team is a circle five feet in diameter located 37 feet to the side and away from home plate if space permits. Otherwise, it should be a safe distance to the side and away from home plate (See Diagram 2).


2-24-1   A force-out is a putout during which a runner who is being forced to advance is tagged out, or is put out by a fielder who holds the ball while touching the base toward which the forced runner is advancing (9-1-1 for special case.)

2-24-2   A putout is the act of a fielder in retiring a batter or runner. For putouts credited to the catcher and to other fielders, see 9-5-2. An “out” is one of the three required retirements of players of the team at bat.

2-24-3   A strikeout is the result of the pitcher getting a third strike charged to a batter. This usually results in the batter being out, but does not so result if the third strike is not caught and the batter-runner legally reaches first base.

2-24-4   A tag out is the put out of a runner, including the batter-runner, who is not in contact with his base when touched with a live ball, or with the glove or hand when the live ball is held securely therein by a fielder. The ball is not considered as having been securely held if it is juggled or dropped after the touching, unless the runner deliberately knocks the ball from the hand of the fielder (8-4-2h2).

2-24-5   A throw out is a putout caused by a throw to first base to retire a batter-runner, or to any other base to which a runner is forced or is required to retouch.


2-25-1   Overrunning or over-sliding is the act of a runner who, after touching the base to which he is advancing, allows his momentum to carry him past the base so that he loses contact with it.

For the right to overrun first base, see 8-2-6. For cases where a runner is not credited with a stolen base or a batter with an extra base hit, see 2-5-3, 9-3-3, and 9-4-1. If a force is involved, 2-29-3 states that touching a base ends a force.


A passed ball is a pitch which the catcher fails to stop or control when he should have been able to do so with ordinary effort, and which enables a runner including the batter-runner to advance.


A penalty is the action taken by the umpire against a player, coach or team for a rule infraction. Penalties include:

  1.  restricting the coach to the dugout;
  2. ejecting an offending player or coach;
  3. declaring a batter or runner out;
  4. awarding a base to a batter or runner;
  5. awarding a ball to a batter (for an illegal pitch when there is no runner or for delay by the pitcher);
  6. charging a batter with a strike (for delay);
  7. forfeiting a game; or
  8. removing nonplayers from the bench or field.


2-28-1   The pitcher is the player who is designated in the lineup as being responsible for delivering (pitching) the ball to the batter.

2-28-2   A live ball delivered to the batter is a pitch. The term implies a legally delivered ball unless otherwise stated. When a pitcher commits a balk and completes his delivery to the batter, or delivers an illegal pitch, it is not considered a pitch, because the ball became dead at the time of the infraction.

2-28-3   Time of the pitch is when the pitcher has committed himself to delivering the pitch to the batter. For the windup position, the “time of the pitch” occurs when the pitcher, (a) first starts any movement of his arm(s) or leg(s) after stepping onto the pitcher’s plate with his hands already together in front of his body; (b) with both hands at his side, first starts any movement with both arms or leg(s) prior to the pitch; (c) with either hand in front of the body and the other hand at his side, after bringing his hands together, first starts any movement of his arm(s) or leg(s) prior to the pitch. For the set position, the “time of the pitch” occurs the instant the pitcher, after coming to a complete and discernible stop, starts any movement with arm(s) and/or leg(s) that commits him to pitch.

2-28-4   A pitch ends when:

  1. the pitched ball is secured by the catcher
  2. comes to rest
  3. goes out of play
  4. becomes dead
  5. or the batter hits the ball (other than a foul tip)

2-28-5   A feint is a movement which simulates the start of a pitch or a throw to a base and which is used in an attempt to deceive a runner.

2-28-6   The pitcher’s pivot foot is that foot with which the pitcher contacts the pitcher’s plate when he delivers the ball. For example, the pivot foot is the left foot for a left-handed pitcher (6-1-1).


2-29-1   “Play” is the order given by the umpire when it is time for the game to begin, or to be resumed after having been suspended when he called “time.” The term is also used to denote a unit of action which begins when a pitcher has the ball in his possession in pitching position and ends when ball becomes dead or pitcher again holds the ball while in pitching position.

2-29-2   A double play is continuous activity which results in two putouts during a play as defined in 2-29-1.

2-29-3   A force play is a play in which a runner (or two or three runners) loses his right to the base he occupies and is forced to advance because the batter becomes a batter-runner. For a given runner, a force play ends as soon as he touches the next base or a following runner is put out at a previous base. When a runner advances beyond a base to which he is forced without touching it, the force play remains. Also, a force situation is reinstated when a runner retreats past the base to which he was forced to advance.

2-29-4   A play ruling is a statement of a play situation and the correct ruling. It is considered an integral part of the rules and applies to analogous situations.

2-29-5   A squeeze play is one in which a runner advances toward home plate from third base as the ball is being pitched, and during which the batter bunts to permit the runner to score.

2-29-6   A defensive appeal of a runner failing to touch a base or tag up is not a play.


2-30-1   A run is the score made by a runner who legally advances to and touches home plate (9-1).

2-30-2   A runner is a player of the team at bat who has finished his time at bat and has not yet been put out. The term includes the batter-runner and also any runner who occupies a base.

2-30-3   A retired runner is a player of the team at bat who has been put out, or who has scored and is still in live-ball area.


A sacrifice is a bunt which enables any runner to advance, or a fly ball (sacrifice fly) which enables a runner to score. In either case, the result is the batter-runner being put out before he reaches first base, or would have resulted in his being put out if the batted ball had been fielded without error, and provided two were not out when the ball was hit. A sacrifice is not listed as a time-at-bat (9-3-4).

32 - SLIDE

2-32-1   A legal slide can be either feet first or head first. If a runner slides feet first, at least one leg and buttock shall be on the ground. If a runner slides, he must slide within reach of the base with either a hand or a foot. A runner may slide or run in a direction away from the fielder to avoid making contact or altering the play of the fielder (8-4-2b).

2-32-2   A slide is illegal if:

  1. the runner uses a rolling, cross-body or pop-up slide into the fielder, or
  2. the runner's raised leg is higher than the fielder's knee when the fielder is in a standing position, or
  3. except at home plate, the runner goes beyond the base and then makes contact with or alters the play of the fielder. At home plate, it is permissible for the slider's momentum to carry him through the plate in a straight line (baseline extended, or
  4. the runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg, or
  5. the runner tries to injure the fielder, or
  6. the runner, on a force play, does not slide on the ground and in a direct line between the two bases.


Rule modifications to speed up the game may be adopted by state associations (see Speed-up Rules).


2-34-1   A stolen base is an advance of a runner to the next base without the aid of a base hit, a putout or a fielding (including battery) error (9-4).

2-34-2   A double steal is two runners advancing on such a play.

2-34-3   A triple steal is three runners advancing on such a play.


The strike zone is that space over home plate, the top of which is halfway between the batter’s shoulders and the waistline, and the bottom being the knees, when he assumes his natural batting stance. The height of the strike zone is determined by the batter’s normal batting stance. If he crouches or leans over to make the shoulder line lower, the umpire determines height by what would be the batter’s normal stance.


2-36-1   A substitute is a player who is eligible to replace another player already in the lineup.

2-36-2   An unreported substitute is a player who, by rule, can be in the game but has entered without reporting.

2-36-3   An illegal substitute is:

  1. a player who enters or re-enters the game without eligibility to do so, or
  2. a player who re-enters the game in the wrong position in the batting order, or
  3. enters the game on defense while the player for whom he is batting is on defense, or
  4. when the player for whom the DH is batting enters the game as a batter or runner in a different position in the batting order, or
  5. a player who violates the courtesy runner rule.

37 - THROW

A throw is the act of voluntarily losing possession through having the ball leave the hand for a purpose other than a pitch. It may result in the ball being bounced, handed, rolled, tossed or thrown.

38 - TIME

“Time” is the command of the umpire to suspend play. The ball becomes dead when it is given (5-2-1). The term is also used in recording the length of the game.


Time at bat is the period beginning when a batter first enters the batter’s box and continuing until he is put out or becomes a runner. A batter is not charged in the records with a time at bat when he makes a sacrifice hit, is hit by a pitched ball, is awarded a base on balls, is replaced before being charged with two strikes, is replaced after being charged with two strikes and the substitute does not strike out, or when he advances to first base because of obstruction by a fielder.


Touching is contact with, and there is no distinction between the act of touching or by being touched. The term applies to contact with any part of the person or his clothing if the clothing is reasonably well fitted. This includes:

  1. a pitched ball touching a batter, or
  2. a batted ball touching a batter or any runner, or
  3. the catcher touching the bat, or
  4. a player touching a base, or
  5. a ball touching a player or nonplayer.

NOTE: For failure to touch home plate, see 8-2-5 Penalty; for retouching base, see 8-2-8; for base coming loose, see 8-4-2h; and for over-sliding, see 2-25-1.


A wild pitch is one which cannot be handled by the catcher with ordinary effort (9-6-1).


The playing field includes both fair and foul territory. Any other areas beyond the playing field are defined as being outside the playing field (dead ball area). Any wall, fence, barricade, rope, wire, marked or imaginary line is considered a part of the playing field. Any areas beyond those boundaries are outside the playing field.



2020 NFHS Baseball Rules

Table of Contents

NFHS Rule Changes 2020

Rule 1 - Players, Field & Equipment

Rule 2 - Playing Terms & Definitions

Rule 3 - Substituting, Coaching, etc.

Rule 4 - Starting & Ending the Game

Rule 5 - Dead Ball – Suspension of Play

Rule 6 - Pitching

Rule 7 - Batting

Rule 8 - Base Running

Rule 9 - Scoring – Record Keeping

Rule 10 - Umpiring

Appendices to the Rules

INDEX to the NFHS/FED Rules

[ Version 5.0, February 2020 ]
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