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The invisible runner rule (sometimes called a ghost runner) is a device used in baseball-style games, including softball, stickball, and kickball when a team has fewer than four players. Used primarily in schoolyard games, the rule is called into action when a live runner on base is next in line to bat. The specifics of the rule vary regionally, and are often negotiated prior to the start of the game.

Running the bases

Unlike a live baserunner, an invisible runner cannot steal a base, but can, depending on rules, advance on a wild pitch. This, however, is not all worthwhile unless he is on third as he will need to be forced to his next base. [Note: there are regional differences in base-running rules. Many areas state that ghost runners advance the same number of bases as the batter. For example, a ghost runner on second would advance to third on a single and score on a double.]

The invisible runner(s) travel at the speed of the current batter. For example, assume an invisible runner on first base while the batter hits the ball. If the fielding team reaches second base before the batter reaches first base, the invisible runner is out. Otherwise, the invisible runner is considered safe.

Becoming an invisible runner

If the team playing offense does not have enough players to continue, the next player at bat is replaced by an invisible runner. Typically, the live runner must verbally announce "invisible runner on _______ base" before he can walk off base. Should the runner not make the announcement, he is liable to be tagged out by the opposing team.


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