Reader Yonatan Freedman asks, “If a batter hits a very high foul ball, and a fielder walks well into the stands and waits there to catch the foul ball and then catches it, is the batter out or is it just a foul ball?
“I know players vault into the stands all the time and catch the ball in the air; but what if they are standing there and waiting for the ball – out/safe?
“Would the same apply for a ball hit into the bleachers for a home run—- if a player catches it while standing in the crowd, is the batter out or is it a home run?”
The answer can be found in Major League Baseball’s rule 6.05, which requires that a fielder’s foot must be on or over the field to legally catch the ball. He cannot step into the stands. It would be a foul ball or home run, not an out:
“6.05 A batter is out when—
“(a) His fair or foul fly ball (other than a foul tip) is legally caught by a fielder;
“Rule 6.05(a) Comment: A fielder may reach into, but not step into, a dugout to make a catch, and if he holds the ball, the catch shall be allowed. A fielder, in order to make a catch on a foul ball nearing a dugout or other out-of-play area (such as the stands), must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or in any other out-of-play area. Ball is in play, unless the fielder, after making a legal catch, falls into a dugout or other out-of-play area, in which case the ball is dead. Status of runners shall be as described in Rule 7.04© Comment. “
Peruse the rules of baseball here.