MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained

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Have you ever been to a baseball pitch to witness a match? Do you notice the euphoria on the faces of fans watching their favorite teams engage in batting with an opponent? Fans’ interference or spectator interference observed by the MLB rule can arise due to this desire by a fan to own a ball. The expectations of a fan to see that their favorite team lead in the match can bring an intentional or unintentional interference in the game. Let us know more detail about ‘MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained’.

MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained

MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained

What is fan interference? Based on the MLB rules book, “Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands or goes on to the playing field, and (a) touches a live ball or touches a player and hinders an attempt to make a play on a live ball.”Fan interference impedes the flow of the game and can cause a player to miss a score. MLB has clearly defined rules and guidelines that govern not only interference from spectators in a match but between teams and umpires. For this article, we will focus on the fans or spectators’ interference.

What Happens When A Spectator Interfere With A Ball?

According to the MLB rules, whenever a fan gets in the way between the ball and a player while on the pitch such a ball will be called a dead ball. This means that depending on the process that lead to the interference such a game can be ruled against a batter or ruled for after the umpires have accessed the situation to ascertain the percentage of the batter scoring if the ball didn’t interfere.

Moreover, some stadiums do not condone interference from fans. A fan can be sent out of the stadium for interfering with a moving ball.

MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained

As mentioned earlier, interference from a fan can cause grave danger to the player after putting so much energy into hitting only to have all efforts dwindled by a fan. Though it is not a regular occurrence from time to time such scenarios are being witnessed during a match. 

The MLB rule allows the umpire to decide on the hitter if a ball is being interfered with by a fan during a live match. In 2011, Gary Darling who served as the umpire removed the Twin Manager Ron Gardenhire from the game after he must have replaced a player as a result of fan interference.

There are instances where interference might be unintentional from the fan, but as long as it was in the diamond court during the session it will be dealt with as an intentional act.

When A Spectator Catches A Ball? 

An interference is declared during a game if a spectator catches a ball that is in motion within the baseball pitch, In such an instance the umpire can award a count to the batter if it was noticed that the batter would have successfully hit the home plate.

An interference also takes place when a fan gets in the way while a catcher attempts to catch a fly ball. In such instances, the umpire may declare the batter out of the game. If the ball was rolling on the ground when a fan got in the way, the umpires will take a collective decision on what the outcome will be, either award it as a counter to the batter or not.

Interference is also declared if the fan attempts to hold a player from making a catch or throw, though this scenario is often rare. The ball will still be declared as dead even though the umpire will take a look at the possible outcome of the game if the event did not take place.

How An Interference Is Indicated By The Umpire?

An interference is called for by the umpire by using his left wrist to grab his right hand and also place his two hands on his head. Once this is done, he will announce what the runner should do based on his observations.

Acts Not Declared As Fan Interference By MLB

It is not all the scenario observed by the umpire during a match that is declared as interference from fans. In a situation where a spectator gets hold of a ball that jumped out of the play area into the spectator’s area, that will not be declared as interference.

If a fan gets hold of a ball that was already declared as a dead ball or foul ball by the umpire as long as the ball is headed their direction out of the pitch. It will not be counted as interference. 


Fans’ interference is a distraction that might be created by fans to have their favorite team win or equalize a game while some might do it to have a ball to themselves. Whatever might be the reason behind the interference, the MLB doesn’t in any way supports the act, and fans are strictly advised to maintain their zone and keep away from the play area. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Is fan interference an offensive act in MLB?

Yes, it is an offensive act except in a scenario where the act was not declared as interference.

  1. Why will fans attempt to catch a ball?

The number of balls used during the match leaves room for some of it to move out of the play zone and leaves eager fans with no choice but an attempt to lay hold on it.

  1. Which season witnessed the highest interference in MLB games?

2011 had the highest level of interference from fans which at some point caused friction between the players and the umpire. You can search online to watch clips from the scenarios.

  1. Does dead ball count in a play?

A dead ball is a ball that has been redirected out of the play area, declared as a foul, or one that the batter had missed the target. Such a ball contributes nothing to the players’ count and if a fan holds it, it is not interference.

MLB Fan Interference Rule Explained
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