Foul Pole…. Foul Ball?
How about those outfield wall catches we have been witnessing lately!!!! I see those and think to myself…. There’s another rip in the outfield wall pad that needs to be patched…but that’s just me. Spring training facilities actually have a jumping walls where players practice those spectacular plays. The tough balls to judge are the foul area catches around the foul pole.
On Memorial day, I checked out the DC Nats game and noticed the controversy of the foul pole… foul ball call made by the umpires. Like many of you that saw the replay on TV, it sure looked like it hit the pole but was ruled foul. I am sure similar plays around the country are questioned on a consistent basis.
Why is the foul pole not called a fair pole? It delineates what is fair and what is not. If the pole was considered foul, you would have even a higher potential for conflicting calls. The foul pole is called a fair pole because it lines up with the bases and the back tip of home plate making a true 90 degree angle that squares up the field. Just like a bunt rolling down the line if it stays on the chalk its a fair bunt.
Just during the past 15 years or so they have been adding the "fair panel" which helps the umpires judge foul balls with greater accuracy.
To help alleviate future controversies at your stadiums and fields, the foul pole and "Foul pole" panel should either be flush with the outfield fence and the entire pole be one solid color or….. the pole should be at least 5 feet off the fence which will allow the high fly ball to easily clear the fence and reduce the chance of a possible ricochet back on to the field.
The other interesting concept we are seeing more and more are these great big foul poles standing 50 feet tall in some parks. Big at the bottom (12 to 18 inches) and tapering to the top at 4 inches. Setting this pole so the tapered end and base become a "foul line" from top to bottom is not an easy task.
Its a great game that goes either way. Judgment calls make it imperfect but that’s the fun part.