Designed to improve the pace of the game, the rule requires a batter to keep one foot in the batter's box throughout an at-bat, unless certain exceptions apply, in which case the batter must remain within the dirt area surrounding home plate.
An umpire will be able to award an automatic strike or strikes, without the pitcher having to deliver a pitch, if a batter intentionally leaves the batter's box and delays play.
A similar rule applies in National Collegiate Athletic Association play. The experimental rule was used successfully in 2004 during the Major League Baseball-operated Arizona Fall League, a developmental league for top Minor League prospects.
With the help of several pace-of-game initiatives introduced over the past several years, the time of the average nine-inning Major League regular-season game has dropped from 2:58 in 2000 to 2:47 in 2004.
"Commissioner Selig remains committed to improving the pace of play in the Major Leagues," Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations of Major League Baseball, Sandy Alderson said. "The Playing Rules Committee hopes that the adoption of this rule in the Minor Leagues will encourage players, as they progress toward the Majors, to develop and maintain habits that will improve the pace of play."
No change has been made to the Official Baseball Rules governing Major League play. The language for the experimental rule change for Minor League play follows:
Experimental Rule for Minor League Play in 2005
Official Baseball Rules:
6.02(d) (1) The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout the batter's time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter's box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate:
(i) The batter swings at a pitch;
(ii) The batter is forced out of the batter's box by a pitch;
(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted "Time";
(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
(v) The batter feints a bunt;
(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
(vii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
(viii) The catcher leaves the catcher's box to give defensive signals.
Notwithstanding Rule 6.02(c), if the batter intentionally leaves the batter's box and delays play, and none of the exceptions listed in Rule 6.02(d)(1)(i) through (viii) applies, the umpire shall award a strike without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch. The ball shall remain alive. The umpire shall award additional strikes, without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch, if the batter remains outside the batter's box and further delays play.
(2) The batter may leave the batter's box and the dirt area surrounding home plate when "Time" is called for the purpose of
(i) making a substitution; or
(ii) a conference by either team.
6.02(d) comment: Umpires shall encourage the on-deck batter to take a position in the batter's box quickly after the previous batter reaches base or is put out.