Fair or Foul: What You Need to Know About Foul Poles

foul poles

Fair or Foul: What You Need to Know About Foul Poles


While often overlooked, foul poles are an important part of any baseball or softball field, as they are what help umpires determine if a ball which passes over the outfield fence is fair or foul. The foul pole consists of a vertical pole with a mesh wing panel attached to the top portion of the pole. Today, many manufacturers offer foul poles in a variety of styles and sizes to suit virtually any baseball or softball organization. So what are some of the options available and what do the official rules say?

Pole Sizes & Colors

Most foul poles are offered as either surface mount or inground installation. Inground posts will provide the best stability and longevity; however they require more time and manpower for installation and replacement. On the other hand, surface mount poles are easier to install and would be much easier to move if the field would need to be moved to a different location in the future.

Foul poles are almost always made of galvanized steel for durability, ranging from 3-1/2” – 5-9/16” in diameter, and with total heights anywhere between 12’ and 30’, depending on each facility’s budget, space, and play level. The steel mesh wing panel attached to the pole has a standard width of 18” and can be anywhere from 4’ up to 18’ in length to provide a clearer view for umpires. Most manufacturers offer foul poles in several colors, usually white, yellow, optic (fluorescent) yellow, or optic orange so that the poles are a stark contrast to the background.

Official Rules

While the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) does not include specifications regarding foul poles in their official rules for baseball or softball, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does have recommendations for foul poles for both softball and baseball.

2022 NCAA Softball rules states that “the foul pole shall be a single-colored pole, either white or fluorescent orange, that extends vertically upward from the foul line at the point it intersects the home run fence to delineate fair and foul balls. The pole and/ or the line connecting the ground to the top of the pole shall be visible from home plate. The pole shall extend a minimum of 10’, or the recommended height of at least 20’, feet from the ground and shall be immediately adjacent to or attached to the outside of the home run fence. It is recommended that screening be attached to the fair side of the pole to enhance the visibility of a ball leaving the field of play near the pole. The screening width should be at least 6 inches and should extend from 6 inches above the top of the fence to the top of the pole. Attachments (e.g., screening, flags, pennants) are prohibited on the foul side of the pole. A field that does not have a home run fence shall not have a foul pole.”

2022 NCAA Baseball rules only have a recommendation regarding pole color, stating that “the foul poles shall be painted fluorescent yellow for new construction and for repainting of existing foul poles.”