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What Is A Balk In Baseball?

what is a balk in baseball

Have you ever been to a baseball game when the umpires stop play and advance all baserunners by one base? It can be quite confusing if you are not familiar with the rules surrounding a balk in baseball. To help, the Glove Experts at JustGloves are going to explain what a balk is and hopefully alleviate some of the confusion that surrounds one of baseball’s strangest plays. Let's dive in.

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What Is A Balk In Baseball?

A balk is a call made by an umpire after he/she has determined that the pitcher has made a motion on the mound to deceive the baserunner(s). 

This can include subtle movements such as a flinch or a hitch while the pitcher is touching the rubber. Another form of a balk that occurs more commonly at the youth level is when a pitcher steps off the rubber with the wrong foot. A right-handed pitcher must disconnect from the rubber with their right foot, and vice versa for lefties.

At a higher level, a balk is typically called on left-handed pitchers trying to deceitfully pickoff the runner on first base. Umpires are told that a lefty must not break the 45-degree rule. Meaning that if their right leg lands more than 45 degrees toward home plate when they throw over to first on a pickoff, they have committed a balk. However, at the end of the day, the call of a balk is subjective to the umpires calling the game.

Who has the most balks in baseball history?

Steve Carlton. The MLB Hall of Fame pitcher recorded an astounding 90 career balks during his 24-year career. While it does serve as a testimony to Carlton’s longevity, this ridiculous career record is likely one that will never be broken.

Can you balk with nobody on base?

No. A balk can only be called when runners are on base.

Can a pitcher balk in softball?

No. A balk is only called in baseball. In fastpitch softball, runners are not allowed to leave the base until the pitcher has released the pitch. Fastpitch pitchers can be called for illegal pitches, and fastpitch baserunners can be called for leaving the base too early.


There you have it! We hope that this article helped clear things up. Don't forget, if you are ever in the market for a new baseball glove or softball glove be sure to swing by JustGloves. Our Glove Experts are always available via phone (866-321-4568), email (, or click here to live chat. We’re JustGloves, and we’re with you from Click to Catch!


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