When is a base considered occupied?
Chip asked: This comes into question when a dropped third strike happens but a runner on first base has already left the base on a steal of second.
Rick answered: Chip, thank you for your question.
A runner acquires the right to the proper unoccupied base if he touches it before he is out.
He is entitled to this base until he is put out, or until he legally touches the next base while it is unoccupied, or until a following runner is forced ( rule 2-24-1) to advance to the base he has occupied.
If two runners are on the same base, at the same time and both are tagged, the following runner is declared out.
On a force play situation, the runner who is forced to advance shall be called out when tagged on the base or the base to which he is forced is touched by a fielder while in posession of the ball.
In the situation you have described, even though the runner at first has already left the base in an attempt to steal second, if there are less than two outs, the hitter cannot advance and is out immediately upon the third strike call by the umpire.
This becomes the potential strike them out, throw them out double play.
If there are two outs, the batter is not out and can attempt to reach first base, and must be tagged or thrown out to record the third out.
If the bases are loaded, with two outs, catcher's are taught on a dropped third strike to just pick up the ball and step on home plate, as all runners are forced to try and advance when the batter runs, or they have a force out at any base as an option. This saves a possible throwing error, which can often happen in this situation.
Yours in baseball,
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