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In baseball, a batted ball is any ball that, after a pitch, is contacted by the batter's bat. One or more of several terms are used to describe a batted ball, depending on how it comes off the bat and where in the field it lands.
There are generally three descriptive categories for balls hit in the air:
- A fly ball or simply fly is a ball that is hit in the air, usually very high. Fielders attempt to catch fly balls on their descent.
- A pop fly or pop-up is a specific type of fly ball that goes very high while not traveling very far laterally. From the perspective of the fielder, pop-ups seem to come straight down. A fly ball is usually caught in flight and thus results in an out, called a fly out or a pop out as the case may be.
- A pop fly in or near the infield is almost always easily caught because infielders (also at times the pitcher or catcher) can easily approach the fly ball before it falls. A special rule, the infield fly rule, applies to any fair fly ball that looks like an easy catch for an infielder when baserunners are on first and second base. When fielder drops a fly ball, runners that expected having to tag up must run immediately to avoid the incoming batsman, allowing an easy force play on them at third base or home plate. The umpire calls "Infield fly if fair", indicating that if the batted ball remains fair, the batter is out automatically and baserunners are not obligated to vacate their bases to avoid the force-out. The infield fly rule does not apply to a bunted ball of any kind or a foul fly of any kind.
- A line drive or a liner. This is a sharply hit, low-flying batted ball. The threshold between a line drive and a fly ball is subjective; liners tend to have little noticeable arc. Liners also tend to be the hardest balls to catch because of their speed and rapid descent; however, very fast liners hit directly to an infielder are often caught by instinct without the need for judgment, making the catch easy though perhaps unexpected. Line drives can be especially dangerous to baseball players and spectators. As recently as July 22, 2007, Tulsa Drillers first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed in a line drive accident at a minor league stadium in Little Rock.
A ground ball or grounder is a batted ball that rolls or bounces on the ground. A line drive in the infield may become a hard grounder to an outfielder; these are usually called line drives regardless.
Bunts are generally not considered to be ground balls; they are a distinct type of batted ball, where the batter, in effect, tries to 'block' the ball with the bat held steady, rather than taking a full swing.
Any of the above types of balls might be fair balls or foul balls. Umpires will also signal first signal fair or foul on fly outs near the foul line, but the result of a foul fly out (or foul out) is no different from a fair fly out; it is not a foul ball.
A foul tip, a very different type of batted ball, is a ball tipped off the bat which goes straight back almost as if the bat missed it and is caught by the catcher. If the catcher does not catch the batted ball coming straight back, it is an ordinary foul ball. It's sometimes hard to tell if a batter has foul-tipped a ball unless someone is close enough to hear the contact. A foul tip is always a strike, and is a strike out if there are two strikes on the batter. The foul tip is a live ball and runners may advance.