The NFHS Baseball Rules Committee approved a modification of rules regarding the pitcher’s pivot foot. From the set position, it will no longer be an illegal pitch (balk with runners on base) if the entire pivot foot isn’t in contact with the pitcher’s plate.
At its June 3-5 meeting in Indianapolis, the committee made that change and extended the implementation date for baseballs to meet the NOCSAE standard. All recommended changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
Special thanks to Elliot Hopkins, NFHS baseball rules editor, for reviewing this article.
Pivot Foot Requirement (6-1-3)
Starting with the 2019 season, pitchers will no longer be required to have their entire pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate while in the set position.
The rules committee recognized that the condition of many pitching mounds makes it problematic for the pitcher to have his/her entire pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. No advantage is gained by a pitcher who had some of his pivot foot not in contact with the pitcher’s plate.
From the set position, a pitcher stands with his non-pivot foot in front of a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate and the toe of his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate but with the back half of the foot hanging off the side. The pivot foot is in front of and parallel to the pitcher’s plate. Ruling 1: Since part of his foot is in contact with and in front of and parallel to the pitcher’s plate, this is legal. The pitcher is no longer required to have his entire pivot foot in contact the pitcher’s plate.
A pitcher claims that because of the condition of the mound, he should be allowed to pitch from the set position without having any of his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. Ruling 2: Not permitted. Rules for the set position require the pitcher, before starting his delivery, to have at least part of his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. If the mound is in such poor condition to make that impossible, the home team or game management should be notified to take steps to correct field conditions.
From the wind-up position and prior to starting his delivery, a pitcher stands with only part of his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. Ruling 3: Legal. In the wind-up position, there is not a requirement that the pitcher stand with his entire pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate.
Baseballs and NOCSAE Standard (1-3-1)
Effective Jan. 1, 2020, baseballs used for high school play must meet the NOCSAE standard. Originally, the NOCSAE standard for baseballs was set to take effect with the 2019 season. However, it was decided that due to the amount of baseballs some high schools have in their inventory, and to accommodate use of that surplus, the implementation date was extended to 2020.
The NOCSAE standard was implemented for baseballs to maintain a consistent uniformed standard for high school competition, and to ensure that every baseball manufactured meets the same level of quality and playability.
During the 2019 season, a team provides baseballs that do not contain the NOCSAE stamp or label. Ruling 4: Provided the balls are otherwise legal and bear the NFHS authenticating mark, the balls are legal for play in 2019. The NOCSAE standard for baseballs will be required in 2020. In addition, if the baseballs have both marks applied, they are permitted to be used during the 2019 season.
New Umpire Signals
Information available. An umpire can indicate to a partner(s) that he or she has information relevant to them by tapping two times over the chest/heart area.
Correct rotation: In three- or four-umpire mechanics, umpires can indicate to their partners where they will be rotating to a specific base for coverage of an anticipated play. This signal involves pointing with both hands in the direction of the base the umpire will be moving toward.
Points of Emphasis
For 2019, the committee selected three points of emphasis: sportsmanship, compliance of player’s equipment and baserunners’ responsibilities.
Compliance of Player’s Equipment
With new NOCSAE requirements for baseballs and catcher’s chest protectors going into effect starting Jan. 1, 2020, the rules committee made compliance of player’s equipment a point of emphasis for 2019.
The NOCSAE-stamped baseball is available for use in the 2019 season. Teams may use baseballs that only have the NFHS Authenticating Mark this season, but starting in 2020, baseballs must bear both the NFHS Authenticating Mark and the NOCSAE stamp to be compliant for play.
All high school catchers will need to have new body/chest protectors that meet the NOCSAE standard effective Jan. 1, 2020. The NOCSAE standard for body/chest protectors was designed to protect the heart and cardiac cavity and reduce the risk of commotio cordis, a condition that causes disruption of the normal heart rhythms when a ball or other object strikes the chest region.
Additionally, the rules committee stressed that when a coach verifies his players are properly equipped in accordance with NFHS rules, he is also verifying the participants are only using compliant equipment, including bats that are unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design and production, and meet the provisions of rule 1-3-2. Helmets must also meet the provisions of rule 1-5-2, including being free of cracks and damage, and unaltered from the manufacturer’s original design. The cheek protector product, which has been made popular because of use by MLB players, may be attached after manufacture provided the product meets the NOCSAE standard at the time of manufacture and is approved by the manufacturer for attachment to their helmet.
The committee created a POE to stress the responsibilities of baserunners to legally advance. In particular, there is a focus on activities that elevate fair play and promote risk minimization.
Runners are never required to slide, but if a runner elects to slide, it must be legal. A legal slide can either be feet first or head first. If a runner slides feet first, at least one leg and buttock shall be on the ground.
Runners may not pop up into the fielder, as seen in the PlayPic. Runners may not have a leg raised higher than the fielder’s knee. Except at home plate, runners may not slide through or beyond the base. Runners may not slide away from a base in the direction of the fielder, but a runner may slide in a direction away from the fielder to avoid making contact or altering the play of the fielder.
The runner is out when he illegally slides and affects the play. On a force play, the runner is also guilty of interference. The batter-runner is also declared out and all runners must return to the base occupied at the time of the pitch.
Jumping, leaping and hurdling are all legal — provided the fielder is lying on the ground. A runner may hurdle a fielder’s outstretched arm (8.2.1 Situation D).
Because of the danger of potential injury, diving over a fielder is always illegal, regardless of whether the fielder is lying on the ground. Diving supersedes obstruction, as does jumping or hurdling over a fielder who is not on the ground (8.4.2 Situation S).
The catcher, without the ball, blocks R3’s access to home plate during a base hit. R3 dives over F2 and touches home plate. Ruling 5: Diving supersedes obstruction. R3 is immediately declared out for the illegal act and his run does not count.
National Anthem Standoff — Staring down opponents after the national anthem, trying to intimidate them or refusing to leave the respective baseline before the other team departs is not consistent with the mission of education-based athletics. Coaches are the closest role models to these students and are held accountable for the behavior of their players as they represent their school and community. If those actions are not representative of high school sports and what they stand for, corrective measures should take place.
Bench Jockeying, Celebrations and Intentional Distractions — Coaches, players, substitutes, attendants or other bench personnel shall not leave the dugout during live ball for any unauthorized purpose. Coaches or team personnel may not sit outside the dugout/bench on buckets or stools. Players are not allowed to stand or kneel outside their dugout/bench and make “cat-calls” or any other disparaging remarks while the other team is taking infield practice.
Rooting for your team is an integral part of high school baseball. However, making disparaging remarks toward an opponent does not improve the game, in fact it detracts from the contest. The purpose of interscholastic sports is educational. Chants/intentional distractions/loud noises (natural or artificial) directed at the opponent’s pitcher, the batter or a fielder getting ready to make a play is not good sportsmanship.
This is unsportsmanlike behavior and will not be tolerated. Umpires and coaches need to work together for the benefit of the students they officiate and teach. It is these game situations that provide coaches and umpires excellent “teachable moments” to reinforce proper behavior and perspective. We should strive to have our young people play to the best of their ability and let their ability be the barometer of their success. The positive values that are learned at the baseball diamond will serve the young people long after their high school careers have ended.
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