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How many ways can a batter reach first base?


Uncommon Ways to Reach First Base
Jose Constanza of the Atlanta Braves runs to first base off a bunt in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field, Atlanta.
Jose Constanza of the Atlanta Braves runs to first base off a bunt in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field, Atlanta.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are a number of unusual ways to take first. Odds are, you won't see these rules come into play at most games, whether Major League or Little League. But if they do, you'll know exactly what's going on.

Some of the most unusual ways to reach first base include [sources: Major League Baseball, ESPN, Sporting Charts]:

  • Four illegal pitches thrown by a pitcher; an illegal pitch is one thrown to the batter when the pitcher's pivot foot is not in contact with the pitcher's plate or he makes a too-quick return pitch before the batter has time to set up
  • A pitcher who purposely delays and doesn't deliver the pitch within 20 seconds.
  • A game is suspended with a runner on first (maybe for rain) and that player is traded to another team before the makeup; another player can take his place.
  • A sacrifice fly, also known as a sac fly, is dropped by a fielder. For a batter to get to first with a sacrificial fly, there must be fewer than two outs in the inning, the ball must go into the outfield and instead of being caught for an immediate out, it is dropped, yet still causes a runner on base to score. (Hence the name, the batter is making a "sacrifice" so a teammate can score a run).
  • A sacrifice bunt, or sac bunt, fails to advance a runner; instead, the advancing runner is "out," allowing the batter to reach first.
  • The batter-turned-runner's path is obstructed by a fielder on the way to first base, but only if the batter's hit would have otherwise been sufficient for him to reach first base had he not been obstructed.

Two of the most interesting ways to reach first base have to do with spectators. After all, few other sports send the game's most essential element -- the ball -- into the stands with such regularity as baseball. Fans love it; fans catching a foul or fly ball is the stuff of viral videos and cheap souvenirs. However, this sometimes prompts an ump to make one of two calls:

  • Spectator interference or fan obstruction: A spectator who reaches from the stands or enters the playing field and touches a live ball or otherwise hinders a fielder commits spectator interference. A spectator who runs on the field and tackles a base runner or otherwise hinders a runner is guilty of fan obstruction. These almost always result in the ump sending the batter to first base [source: Imber].

There you have it – 23 ways! The next time you see a runner take first by taking the "rule less traveled," remember: You could be witnessing history.