The foul pole in baseball can lead to some confusion for those who are new to the sport. Is the foul pole in fair territory?
Yes, the foul pole in baseball is in fair territory. If a batted ball hits it, the ball is considered fair, not foul.
In this article we will discuss some scenarios surrounding the foul pole to better define why it is exists in baseball and how it is used.
Is the Foul Pole in Fair Territory?
As we discussed above, yes, the foul pole in baseball is in fair territory. If a batted ball hits it, the ball is considered fair, not foul.
The foul pole is a tall, painted pole that rises above the outfield fence, extending the foul lines vertically into the air. The foul pole allows umpires to judge whether batted balls in the air are fair or foul when they cross over the outfield fence or wall.
Foul poles are usually painted yellow, although white or orange may be used at times. There are also rare instances where an object besides a pole is used to serve as the foul barrier, such as a net or a painted line. Foul poles are intended to stretch much higher than an outfield wall or fence.
Foul poles exist to help umpires judge whether flyballs pass over the fence in fair or foul territory.
If a ball is fair when it passes over the fence, it is considered fair even if it twists foul beyond that point. Therefore, the foul pole gives visual aide to umpires who otherwise would have a difficult time judging where a flyball was when it passed over the fence.
Baseball Foul Pole Rules
The foul pole is considered fair territory because it is a vertical extension of the foul line, which is also considered fair territory. To be considered foul, a batted ball must not come in contact with any part of the foul pole or foul line. If a batted ball grazes even slightly the foul line or the foul pole, it is considered a fair ball in play.
- If a batted ball contacts the foul pole while in the air, it is considered a home run.
- If a batted ball bounces in the outfield then hits the foul pole, it is considered a ground-rule double and the umpire awards bases accordingly.
- It does not matter what happens to the ball once it ricochets off the foul pole. A play cannot be made on the ball. The ball is considered dead and the umpire awards bases accordingly.
Why is the Foul Pole Fair?
To many fans of the sport, it would seem more appropriate to call the foul pole a “fair”pole since it is actually in fair territory, but because it was implemented to serve as a vertical extension of the foul line, it also carries the same name.
Foul Pole Home Run
Is it a Home Run if it Hits the Foul Pole?
Yes, if a batted ball contacts the foul pole in the air, it is considered a home run.
If a Flyball Bounces Foul off the Foul Pole, does it Negate the Home Run?
No. Once a flyball hits a foul pole, the play is effectively dead. The batter is awarded a home run regardless of what happens to the ball after it bounces off the foul pole.
What Happens if a Ball Bounces Up and Hits the Foul Pole?
If a batted ball bounces up and hits the foul pole, the play is ruled dead and a ground-rule double is awarded to the batter.
What Color are Foul Poles?
Foul poles are usually yellow. Other colors such as white and orange may be used in rare circumstances.
Can a Player Catch a Ball off a Foul Pole?
No. Once the ball contacts the foul pole, the play is dead and the umpire awards bases accordingly. The two most common results will be either a home run (if the ball hit the pole in the air) or a ground-rule double (if the ball hit the pole off a bounce in the outfield).
Are Foul Poles Helpful?
Yes, foul poles are very helpful to on-field umpires who otherwise would have a difficult time judging whether a ball was fair or foul when it crossed over the fence.
This does not mean mistakes are not made. The ball passes by the foul pole at a very fast speed, and it can still be difficult for the the human eye to judge in a split second whether the ball was in front of the foul pole or behind it when it crossed by.
This matters because if the ball twists foul before the foul pole, then it is a foul ball. If it twists foul after the foul pole, it is considered a live ball home run.
Instant replay in Major League Baseball has helped eliminate these incorrect home run calls.
Fair foul rulings used to be one of the leading causes of on field confrontations between baseball managers and umpires. These calls are very difficult to make in real-time and have huge implications on the result of a baseball game.
Instant replay has reduced the amount of on-field arguments.
Why Does the Foul Pole Have a Net?
Some foul poles may have netting or metal extension with holes (almost looks like netting). This makes it easier for umpires to rule fair or foul because it makes the foul pole wider and is more surface area for a baseball to pass by.
Holes are added for multiple reasons. On the professional level, when there are stadium seats stacked in the outfield, paneled sheet metal without holes would block sight lines for fans. This would surely lead to complaints from fans.
Also, holes allow for wind to pass through and reduce the swaying of foul poles in extreme weather.
What happens if a Flyball Passes Over the Foul Pole?
There may be occasions where a flyball is hit so far and so high that it passes completely over the foul pole. If this happens, it is the responsibility of the on-field umpire to use his best judgement to rule on the play. On the professional level, replay could be used to review the play, although conclusive evidence would be difficult to find.
Do All Major League Baseball Stadiums Have Foul Poles?
No. Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada uses nets instead of foul poles. Petco Park in San Diego, California uses a painted strip of metal attached to a brick wall as the foul pole for left field. Petco Park is unique in that an old building is built into the left outfield corner of the stadium.
As of 2018, all other Major League Baseball stadiums have foul poles.
Will Foul Poles Be Eliminated?
This is impossible to answer. However, one could speculate that technological advancements will reach a point where baseballs can be tracked digitally in real-time, and fair foul rulings can be determined electronically.
As of now, baseball is no where near eliminating foul poles. Even if technology did advance to a point where Major League Baseball found an alternate method in determining fair or foul, foul poles would still exist at lower levels of the sport like college baseball, high school baseball, and youth leagues.
Foul poles are not leaving the sport anytime soon.