Baseball Rules: Foul Ball Home Plate & the Foul Poles
Baseball fields have two distinct areas, fair territory and foul territory. These areas are designated with lines on either side of the diamond, from home plate to the outfield. When a ball first lands in foul territory, or bounces into foul territory and remains or is touched there between either home plate and first base or home plate and third base, it is deemed a foul ball. When a ball strikes home plate or the foul pole, it may cause confusion for some players, but clear rules distinguish fair and foul balls in this situation.
The home plate is a pentagonal piece of rubber that acts as the fourth base. It also marks the sides of the strike zone for the batter and pitcher. A common myth in baseball is that if a ball strikes home plate, it is automatically a foul ball. This is not true: Home plate is considered part of fair territory, and a ball that strikes home plate is considered the same as a ball that lands anywhere in fair territory.
Home Plate Examples
If the ball strikes home plate and remains in fair territory, it is ruled a fair ball. If the ball strikes home plate and bounces into foul territory between either home plate and first base or home plate and third base, it is ruled a foul ball if it stops in foul territory. If it should roll back into fair territory and come to a stop, it would be a fair ball.
Foul poles are on either side of the field, in line with the foul lines. The foul poles are used to help the umpire judge whether a ball that goes over the fence is fair or foul. A ball that goes over the fence on the outside of the foul pole is considered foul; if it goes out between the poles it is ruled fair. The foul pole itself is considered part of fair territory.
Foul Pole Examples
If a ball strikes the foul pole, it is ruled as fair. It does not matter if the ball bounces into foul territory after hitting the pole. The ball only needs to touch the foul pole to be fair -- even grazing the pole is sufficient. If a ball hits the pole directly -- without touching the ground first -- it is ruled a home run, allowing all the runners to advance to home plate. If the ball bounces off the ground before touching the foul post, then it is ruled a ground rule double, and the runners advance two bases.