Five New Rules for Baseball Fans

A better ballpark experience, for you

MLB already has rules that govern fans. Well, at least what should happen in the field of play concerning fans or spectators.

There’s spectator interference, of course (“…the ball shall be dead…and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference”).

There are also rules governing how players may or may not interact with fans, as in rule 4.06: “Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators…” or in rule 6.04 (a) (1), which prohibits anyone on the club from “incite, or try to incite, by word or sign a demonstration by spectators.” (?)

But the rulebook doesn’t go as far as to actually govern the fans’ behavior at all. In fact, it has rules to address what to do if fans completely abandon their senses and enter the field of play and prevent a runner from touching home (5.08 b comment), or in the case that fans have to watch the game from the field because there’s too many of them (4.05)!

Fans are blameless by baseball’s rules. Well, no more.

Of course, there are legal rules that govern fans, the same as any other public place– please, do not trespass on the field, or start fights! There should be, additionally, some rules that we can all agree on. Some of these ushers can enforce, but others will be self-governing, much like the fraternization rule between players and fans. We can let it slide in some cases, but if you’re a repeat offender we reserve the right to use these rules against you.

To increase everyone’s experience at the ballpark (including your own), I present five new rules for baseball fans:


If you haven’t arrived at your seat by the third inning, it’s up for grabs.

Baseball games are shorter than ever (well, since the 80s at least). If you’re unable to make it by the third inning, you’re not going to miss much anyway.

Fans who have bought $5 secondary tickets in the upper levels are providing a valuable service to the home team by arriving early and filling in the lower bowls, providing a much-needed boost to the nearly empty stadium in a meaningless September game.

Let them keep it. The grace period for you to claim your seat is over in the third, so just find another nearby seat that’s open, because that seat too has been abandoned by its rightful occupant’s tardiness.


Return to your seat between plate appearances.

Speaking of seats, you’re not required to sit in your seat the entire time to keep your occupancy. By all means, enjoy the ballpark and get up and stretch your legs.

However, when you return to your seat, do your fellow fans the common courtesy of waiting in between batters to do so. It doesn’t take too long (thanks, pitch clock!), and allows your peers the opportunity to watch the game. I haven’t been to an Astros game in several years, but it was the first park where I noticed ushers would station themselves in aisles during plate appearances with small signs that politely asked fans to wait before returning to their seats.

I thought that was a smart idea that should be implemented at all ballparks, as it made for a much more pleasant seating experience. If nothing else, the Astros are rule sticklers, clearly.


Celebrate foul balls, but only if caught on the fly.

Some light judgment of our fellow fans is warranted when it comes to catching foul balls. “I woulda caught that,” you think as you carefully balance your tray of nachos on your lap and carefully place your beer in the cup holder, only spilling an ounce or so on the seat in front of you.

So by all means, if you’ve caught a foul ball- even an easy pop fly that a baby would have caught — celebrate! You’ve earned it. Hold the ball in the air for everyone to see, and raise your arms in exaltation.


If it’s bounced off a couple of rows of seats and rolled around on the ground a bit, and maybe you’ve had to hip check a couple of other fans to elbow your way to pick it up off the ground, you may simply walk back to your seat. You got a ball, that is reward enough.

You may not celebrate that you could not track the ball down and catch it with your bare hand like the athlete you were once destined to be if only you hadn’t hurt your elbow in that hay-bailing accident.


The wave is banned.

It’s done. It’s over. This is non-negotiable.


Don’t record the game on your phone.

I’m fully willing to accept the “old man yells at clouds gif” for this one, but it’s for your own benefit.

First– research shows that when you take a picture of a moment or video it, you’re actually less likely to remember itBig walkoff moments, playoff-clinching strikeouts, or player milestones are best remembered in your own mind.

Your shaky phone video zoomed in from the upper deck (because everyone in the lower levels wisely claimed their seat before the third inning) will in no way replicate your own memory of your eyes focused on the action on the field, the surrounding deafening roar of the crowd, or even the smell of popcorn and cool air on your face in October.

I’m often curious (and truly, if you have an answer I’d love to know!) what people do with these videos on their phones. “Here’s a video of the final out!” you proudly show your co-worker the next day, which they’ve already seen in high-def on their 60 inch tv screen, or could easily look up on youtube themselves if they wanted to see a shot from the crowd (they don’t). Or do these videographers watch the clips back themselves? “Ah yes, I remember shooting this video,” they think.


Fans have had a pass in the MLB rulebook for long enough. It’s time to get tough on ourselves, and hold ourselves to a standard that’s higher than “we need rules to determine what our team should do about these out of control rubes in the stands.”

Sean Roberts

Sean Roberts is a baseball columnist for Pitcher List. His work has been featured on Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and October. He's still getting used to the DH in the national league. @seanroberts.bsky.social

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