Baseball Rules for a Dropped Foul Ball (with Video)

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs

When a batter hits an easy pop up in foul territory and the fielder drops it and misses an opportunity to register an out against the opposing team, the team in the field has a disappointment. However, the player at bat in the batter’s box has new life, with another opportunity to hit the ball at home plate.

While many dropped foul balls are obvious and easy calls for an MLB umpire, there are some cases where a dropped pop-up can land in fair territory inside the foul poles and still be a foul ball, and other cases where a dropped pop-up can land in foul territory and still be a fair ball.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Dropped Foul-Tip Rule

When the batter swings and makes slight contact with the ball and the ball goes directly into the catcher's mitt, it is called a foul tip, which is a strike. However, If the catcher does not hold onto the ball, the result is a foul ball.

If the catcher does not catch the ball, the result is not an error because the catcher's physical reaction has little to do with the ability to hold the foul tip. If the catcher catches a foul-tip when there are two strikes, the rule book says that that foul tip is the third strike, and the hitter is ruled out.

Miami Marlins v Arizona Diamondbacks

Dropped Foul Pop-Up or Fly Rule

If an infielder, outfielder or catcher drops a foul pop-up or foul fly and the position of the ball remains outside the field of play, the result is a strike, but not an out because of the ball drop.

In most cases, the fielder will be charged with an error for dropping the ball. However, in certain situations, no error is called. For instance, if an outfielder races 40 yards before barely getting the tip of his glove on the ball and dropping it, he will probably not be charged with an error. Likewise, if a catcher slides in an attempt to catch the ball and the ball just barely slips out of his catcher’s glove, he might not be charged with an error. In either case, the final determination is a judgment call by the official scorer.

San Diego Padres v Minnesota Twins

Dropped Ball in Fair Territory Rule

A dropped pop-up that lands in fair territory may still be a foul ball. If the right fielder, for example, runs to a fly ball just outside the foul line, and the ball hits off the heel of his glove and lands in fair territory, the ball is still foul- or a dead ball. If the umpire closest to the play (likely not the plate umpire because they wouldn’t be able to see that far) believes the fielder touched the ball when it was in foul territory, the ball is foul.

Conversely, baseball rules show that if the fielder was in fair territory when the batted ball glanced off his glove and bounces in foul territory, either the first base or third base umpire calls the ball fair, and it is a live ball.