Play: The following play created some issues last year in Alberta. R2. B1 pops the ball up toward second base. R2 leaves the base but then returns to the base while the fielder F4 is getting near the ball. The
fielder converges on the ball and R2 while on the base hits F4’s with her helmet causing her to miss the ball. The rules committee ruled incidental contact saying that R2 did not intentionally collide with F4.
Rule: The question from Alberta asked if this was interference or not? The question becomes can a player already on a base cause interference? The answer is yes but the interference must be intentional. In this play the protest committee and the umpires stated the player did not intentionally collide with the fielder so the Protest was upheld.
The coach of the team wanted to know where is it in the Rule Book that it must be intentional to have interference with a player already on the base. He raises a good point because it does not say it in the Rule Book. A base runner is not forced to vacate a base when a fielder is fielding a ball. The runner is entitled to hold the base unless forced to vacate because the batter becomes a runner. This includes the runner returning to hold the base. Rule 8-4b and effect.
ASA softball in their rule supplement best explains the situation:
A runner could be standing on a base and a defensive player bumps the runner while watching the flight of the ball. If the defensive player fails to make a catch on the ball that could have been caught, it is the umpire’s judgement weather of or not interference could be called. The rule provides that a runner must vacate any space needed by a fielder to make a play on a batted ball, unless the runner has contact with the base when the hindrance occurs. In this case, the runner should not be called out unless the hindrance is intentional.
The ASA explanation has always been the Softball Canada Interpretation. Further to the coach’s concerns. I do agree with the coach that if a runner has vacated the base and then returns to the base even if she has reached the base it does not give the runner the right to collide with a fielder making a play on the ball. If the contact is initiated by the runner you could have interference. At this point you would rule it intentional because a runner must be in control and if their head is down not looking where they are running that is not in control. If both fielder and runner collide which is what this rules committee decided it would be incidental and no call.