Watching a youth baseball game on a warm sunny day is one of the summer’s greatest joys. It brings families together and creates friendships that last a lifetime. At the same time, baseball is a sport with many moving parts and lots of possible scenarios, so understanding the variety of different rules isn’t always easy. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been involved for years, it’s helpful to be familiar with some important rules that are often misunderstood by players, parents, and coaches alike. 

Using the NFHS rulebook, Let’s go over three rules you need to know when watching a select youth baseball game so everyone can have a safe, fair, and enjoyable playing experience on the field.

3 Rules You Need to Know When Watching a Youth Baseball Game

1. Live Ball vs. Dead Ball

One of the most fundamental rules in baseball is the distinction between a live ball and a dead ball. Whenever a ball is in play and can be hit, caught, or thrown by players, it is considered live, which begins when the umpire signals to “play ball”.

Although uncommon, if a thrown ball accidentally touches a coach or umpire, then a ball is also considered live. 

A ball is considered dead when the umpire signals the end of play, such as when a foul ball is not caught, a runner is called out, or a batter is hit by a pitch. Other scenarios where a dead ball would be called include, but are not limited to:

  • When an umpire calls a time out
  • The plate umpire interferes with the catcher’s throw
  • A balk is confirmed
  • A ball is illegally batted
  • A legal pitch hits a runner stealing home
  • A fielder falls out of play territory after making a legal catch
  • A fair batted ball touches a runner or umpire before touching or passing a fielder

Live Ball Example:  

The pitcher is on the mound and eight players are in fair territory. When the umpire signals to “play ball”, the ball is now live.

Dead Ball Example:

A live ball is hit by a batter into foul territory. No fielders were able to catch the foul ball, so the ball is now considered a dead ball.

2. Interference 

Interference is another important rule that becomes relevant in a large percentage of youth baseball games at one point or another. This is probably the most misunderstood rule in all of select baseball.

There are a few different scenarios where interference can be called, but in general, interference occurs when an offensive player gets in the way of or impedes the progress of a defensive player attempting to make a play. Fans and coaches can be guilty of interference as well as players. It’s also important to know that interference can be called whether it was intentional or unintentional.

In addition, interference can also occur if an umpire is hit by a fair batted ball before it is touched by a defensive player or before it passes an infielder (not including the pitcher). An umpire can also interfere with a catcher’s throw to prevent a stolen base. Lastly, if a catcher impedes the swing of the batter, that would also be considered interference.

Interference Example:

There is a runner on first base. The batter hits a ground ball in fair play to the infield in between first and second base. The runner going from first to second base physically gets in the way of the second baseman’s ability to field the ball. This would be considered interference.

3. Obstruction

Obstruction is another important youth baseball rule, as situations involving obstruction can result in serious injuries. When players, coaches, and fans understand what obstruction involves, these injuries can be avoided altogether, resulting in a much safer playing environment. 

Obstruction occurs when a fielder who is not in possession of the ball impedes a baserunner who is actively running bases. Obstruction does not always involve physical contact, but many obstruction calls do involve some sort of contact. 

Obstruction Example:

There is a runner on second base. The batter hits a line drive in fair play to center field. While the runner is moving from second to third base, the shortstop, who does NOT possesses the ball, moves to get in the way of the runner’s path. This would be considered obstruction.


By understanding the rules of a live vs. dead ball, interference, and obstruction, you can more fully appreciate and enjoy your next youth baseball game. Although it can sometimes be confusing how these rules work, being familiar with at least the basics of how they work will ensure fair and safe competition for the players and will make your experience as a spectator much more enjoyable

This information is provided by Kings Sports, a company focused on youth baseball for the past 20 years. We manage tournaments and local leagues in the greater Cincinnati area, along with individual player opportunities to participate in events in Georgia, Florida, and many other locations. To learn more, visit