Those who are just getting into the sport of baseball will notice that baseball has a lot of phrases to learn. One of those phrases you’ll learn fairly early is something that’s called the “batter’s box”. What exactly is the batter’s box in baseball and what are the rules around it?
In baseball, the batter’s box is the 4-foot wide by 6-foot long rectangular area on either side of home plate where a batter is allowed to stand when they are up to bat. There are two separate batter’s boxes on every baseball diamond – one for left-handed batters and one for right-handed batters.
This area around home plate we call the batter’s box sounds fairly simple, but there are some rules around this batter’s box that even veteran players are not familiar with.
What is the Batter’s Box?
The Batter’s Box is the Area a Batter Can Stand When Batting
Whenever it is a player’s turn to bat, they will have a designated area on the field where they can stand and get ready for the next pitch. This rectangular area is called the batter’s box and is usually marked with chalk on both sides of home plate.
Batters can take their batting stance anywhere inside this rectangular area, as long as they have both feet in the box when the pitcher delivers the pitch. If the batter doesn’t have both feet in the box when the pitch is thrown then they risk having the pitch being called a strike by the umpire.
A common question people have when examining the dimensions of the batter’s box is if the chalk itself is considered part of the batter’s box. If a batter were to take their stance and their foot was touching the outline of the batter’s box, they are still considered to be inside the batter’s box.
Therefore, batters are able to take their stance with part of their foot on the outline of the batter’s box. However, if a batter takes a stride and makes contact with the ball while one foot is outside of the batter’s box, that batter would be called out.
The Batter’s Box is 4 Feet Wide and 6 Feet in Length
One thing a lot of veteran players might not be aware of is the dimensions of a batter’s box. So, what are the dimensions of a batter’s box?
In professional, college, and high school baseball, the dimensions of the batter’s box is four feet wide by six feet in length, with the center of the batter’s box lining up with the center of home plate.
The four-by-six dimensions primarily impact adult baseball leagues, but there is a slight difference between the batter’s box of adult baseball leagues and youth baseball leagues.
In youth baseball, the dimensions of the batter’s box is three feet wide by six feet in length, with the center of the batter’s box lining up with the center of home plate.
Most players wouldn’t recognize the difference between the size of the batter’s box between adult baseball leagues and youth baseball leagues, but adult baseball players typically have about 24 square feet of space available in the batter’s box while youth baseball players have about 18 square feet of space available.
The Batter’s Box is on Both Sides of Home Plate
To accommodate both left-handed and right-handed batters, all baseball diamonds have two separate areas for a batter’s box. Both batter’s boxes utilize the same dimensions and are located on both sides of home plate.
From the pitcher’s perspective, left-handed batters line up in the batter’s box located on the left-hand side of the plate, while right-handed batters line up in the batter’s box located on the right-hand side of the plate.
Because there are two different batter’s boxes, there are a few rules around how a batter can utilize these boxes.
Batters Are Unable to Leave the Batter’s Box During the Pitch
One very common rule is that a batter is unable to leave the batter’s box while the pitcher is delivering the pitch. This includes stepping out of the box and attempting to switch over to the other batter’s box during mid-pitch.
This rule is in place to prevent the hitter from moving around too much and distracting the pitcher or the catcher while the pitcher is in motion.
If a player was able to switch around from batter’s box to batter’s box during the middle of a pitch, then they would be able to block the catcher’s view of the pitch. If a catcher wasn’t able to see the pitch then they run the risk of injury because they wouldn’t be able to see a fastball that’s headed directly towards them.
Batters Can Use Both Boxes During an At-Bat
Some batters are ambidextrous and have the ability to bat from either side of the plate. For those who are skilled enough to bat from either side of the plate, they are able to use either the left-handed batter’s box or the right-handed batter’s box, and they are able to use both boxes during one at-bat.
In order for a player to use both boxes during an at-bat, “time” must first be called, meaning that the play has stopped, the ball is dead, and the umpire grants a time-out to whoever asked for it.
Once the umpire grants a time-out, the batter is able to walk to the other side of the plate and take their stance within the other batter’s box.
This move is fairly uncommon in baseball. Typically, batters who can hit from either side of the plate will switch to the other side of the plate because they believe they have an advantage over the pitcher.
Although the preference can vary from batter to batter, it’s generally accepted that left-handed batters do better against right-handed pitchers and right-handed batters do better against left-handed pitchers.
So you’ll most likely see an ambidextrous batter move over to the other batter’s box if a new pitcher comes into the game and that new pitcher throws with the opposite arm from the previous pitcher.
Do Both Feet Have to be in the Batter’s Box?
A good way to look at an answer for this common question is to understand what happens prior to the pitch and what happens during the pitch.
The Batter Must Have Both Feet in the Box Prior to the Pitch
Prior to the pitch, both feet of the batter must be inside the batter’s box. If one foot is entirely outside of the batter’s box when the pitcher is delivering the ball, the batter runs the risk of getting a strike called.
It’s also a misconception that a pitcher is able to deliver the ball once both feet of the batter enters the batter’s box. In order for a pitcher to deliver the pitch, the pitcher must also give the batter a reasonable amount of time to get ready. If an umpire determines a batter was not prepared, the umpire can call time or they can call a ball on the pitcher.
For some great examples of umpires not allowing a pitcher to quick-pitch a batter, check out the video below from MJH-Baseball.
The Batter Must Keep Both Feet in the Batter’s Box During Their Swing
Sometimes, batters like to move up in the box if they are facing a slower pitcher. In those instances where you’re moving up in the box, be careful not to step outside of the batter’s box during your swing.
If one foot of the batter falls entirely outside of the batter’s box while swinging and that batter makes contact with the ball, the batter is called out.
When Can the Batter Step Out of the Box?
According to Rule 5.04(b)(4) of the official 2019 MLB rules, there are nine scenarios in which a batter can step outside of the batter’s box:
- The batter swings at a pitch
- An attempted check swing is appealed to a base umpire
- The batter is forced off balance or out of the batter’s box by a pitch
- A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”
- A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base
- The batter feints a bunt
- A wild pitch or passed ball occurs
- The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball
- The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals