Balk? Or Base Hit?

Usually, when a balk is called, the pitcher stops his motion, and the umpire proceeds to call time and directs the baserunners to advance to the next base(s). However, what happens when an umpire calls a balk and the pitcher continues with the pitch?

99% of the time, everyone freezes once the balk is called, including the batter, who will let the ball fly by. According to the rulebook, it is a “no pitch”; meaning, it’s neither a strike nor a ball.

However, what if the batter doesn’t let the ball go by? What if he decides to take a hack at it?

According to the rules, if the batter hits the ball after a balk is called, and gets a base hit, the play stands as if the balk was never called at all. Unfortunately, very few umpires know this, and tend to call it a “no play” or “do over”.

I’ve seen this happen twice in my 25 years and 1000+ games played/coached, and in both cases the umpires made the wrong call.

Per the Major League Rulebook, section 8.05, referring to the balk:

“PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.”

How does this affect you? As an umpire, take note in case you’re ever in the situation. As a coach, remember this rule if your batter gets an extra-base hit and/or drives in a run on a balk call. As a fielder, be aware and play the ball as you normally would, in case the ump makes the correct call. As a hitter, take full advantage of everyone else freezing on the play and take a hack at the pitch. If you swing and miss, or hit into an out, it’s called a “no pitch” and you get to hit again. If you hit safely, you stay on your base (and there’s a good chance of that happening, as the fielders will likely assume the play is dead and not make an effort to go after a batted ball). In essence, it is your one rare chance for a free, no risk swing.

About Joe Janish

Joe Janish has been coaching baseball for 20+ years, and playing for 30+. He was a D-1 ABCA All-American catcher in 1992, when he finished in the top 15 in the nation in hitting. He also coached at the D-1 level, and currently provides private instruction to serious baseball players in the NY/NJ/PA area.

Comments

  1. Well said. This happened this past summer during a game that I coached and the umps got the call right. The batter actually got a base hit. I embarrassingly argued that the balk was called resulting in a dead ball, but the umps corrected me and the play stood.

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