2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Spectatular catch takes fielder over wall at Sky Sox game, leads to scoring confusion

Published: May 18, 2014, 3:21 pm, by Brent Briggeman

The Sky Sox game on Sunday produced a play that left a room full of baseball experts (including a longtime official scorer, a graduate of an umpiring academy and an MLB umpire supervisor) scrambling for a rule book to properly score what they had just seen.

The play in question was at the same time spectacular and bizarre.

A towering bases-loaded pop-up from Sky Sox left fielder Tim Wheeler caught a strong south wind and began drifing out of play. New Orleans third baseman Josh Rodriguez tracked it, set himself up at the short wall and made the catch while tumbling out of the field of play.

The runner at third, catcher Dustin Garneau, tried to tag up and was thrown out at the plate by Rodriguez while Rodriguez was still standing on the opposite side of the wall.

The umpires quickly determined that Garneau’s run would count and the other two runners were awarded a base. The reason for the ruling was that the ball out of play, even though it was caught, was no different than, say, an errant throw ended up in the dugout. In each case, the runners are given an extra base. This is the rule even if the fielder can, and, in this case, does, throw the runner out.

The questions that then arose were about the scoring and other hypotheticals that could have resulted from the play. In terms of scoring, Wheeler was not awarded a sacrifice fly or a fly ball because the runner advanced when the play was ruled dead. The other question, one that really took some digging, was, can you appeal the play if a runner had left early instead of properly tagging up? The answer was yes. So, in this case, you could have appealed it three times since the bases were loaded.

All of the confusion sort of obscured the fact that Rodriguez made a phenomenal play.

Just some educational fun at the ol’ ballgame.