Animals on the Field: A Technical Guide
Friday night’s game had a special visitor that I’m sure you’ve heard of by now. In the bottom of the 8th inning with David Price on the mound and Ryan McMahon in the batter’s box, a cat ran onto the field and into our collective hearts. After the previous night’s dive into more obscure rules, I got to thinking about what rules govern animals on the field. As it turns out? There kinda aren’t any. So what happens, technically, when an animal is on the field?
Most of us winced when the poor Rockies staffer grabbed the cat and it was clear she was getting a stomach full of upset cat claws. If you’re asking yourself why she didn’t wait to corral the cat or shoo it out, well, she and her fellow security members were on the clock.
While the rules don’t mention animals specifically, “protection sufficient to preserve order” likely comes into play here. If Rockies security had failed to get the cat off the field in less than 15 minutes, the Dodgers might have won the game by default.
Luckily, security safely removed the feline fan with relatively little cat herding and the game was able to resume. Also lucky was the fact that Price had not yet thrown the ball to McMahon when the cat entered the field, so it was in much less danger of getting hurt or interfering with a play.
Speaking of interfering, what would have happened if the cat had caused a problem with a play?
The Official Rules list several different scenarios for interference, but all of them involve people. Player, coach, umpire, fan, nothing in the Official Rules states what to do when an animal is on the field and impacts play.
For that, we need to go to the MLB Umpire Manuel, which according to Baseball Rules Academy, states as follows:
Basically, if a hitter knocks a ball into an animal, it doesn’t matter. The game continues on as if it never happened. This occurred way back in 1987 in a Braves game against the Mets in Shea Stadium.
But if a pitcher throws a ball and hits a bird, as Randy Johnson famously did, it’s as if the pitch never happened.
Either way, poor birdies. Luckily, the grey cat escaped a similar fate. No word as of yet if Tony Gonsolin is going to have something extra hidden in his duffle back on the way back to California.
Dodgers and Rockies face off again tonight at 5:10 PST. Fill out your Wacky Baseball Bingo cards now, eh? Who knows what kind of chicanery will pop up tonight! If there is another animal on the field, I’m rooting for a puppy this time.