For the 2018 baseball season, batter-runners will have the ability to overrun first base, bat rules have been modified regarding attachments and equipment changes in future seasons have been made for baseballs and catchers’ chest protectors.
Those rule changes came out of the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee meeting in Indianapolis this past June.
The changes are presented in approximate order of importance. Referee created play examples to help illustrate the new rules. Check NFHS publications for official rules language, references and interpretations.
Batter Overruns First Base (8-2-7)
The rules committee removed rules language that prevented a batter-runner from overrunning or oversliding first base on a base on balls. Now, even on a walk, the batter-runner who reaches first safely and then overruns or overslides may immediately return without liability of being put out provided he does not attempt or feint an advance to second.
The change is likely to have little impact on a typical base on balls situation. But where it does protect the batter-runner is a potential dropped third strike that’s actually ruled a ball, but the batter-runner races toward first concerned he may be in jeopardy.
Play 1: On a 3-2 count, the batter checks his swing on a pitch that bounces in the dirt before being caught by the catcher. The batter-runner does not wait for a ruling on his swing — which was ultimately ruled a no-swing — and takes off for first base. The catcher throws the ball to the first baseman, who tags the batter-runner after he overruns first base. Ruling 1: Unless the batter-runner made an attempt to go to second or feinted an advance, he is entitled to overrun first base and return without liability of being put out.
Play 2: The defensive team informs the umpire it wants to award an intentional base on balls. The umpire signals for the batter-runner to take first base. After touching first base, the batter-runner overruns the base. The defensive team had thrown the ball to the first baseman, who tags the batter-runner while he is off the base. Ruling 2: On an intentional walk, the ball is dead. Therefore, the batter-runner is not in jeopardy of being tagged out.
Play 3: On ball four, the batter-runner jogs down to first base. He overruns first base and hands an elbow protector to the base coach. Before he returns to first base, he is tagged by F3, who was thrown the ball. Ruling 3: The batter-runner may overrun first base on a base on balls without liability of being put out unless he makes an attempt to go to second or he feints an advance.
Play 4: On ball four, the runner overruns first base, turns to the left and is tagged by a defensive player with the ball while off the base. Ruling 4: Unless the umpire judges that the batter-runner attempted to advance to second or feinted an advance, he may overrun first base and is not in jeopardy of being tagged out. Merely turning to the left after overrunning first base does not necessarily constitute attempting to advance or feinting an advance.
The rules regarding bats were changed to reflect that bats cannot have any attachments that would present a potential hazard, particularly objects that could fly off during play.
Play 5: The batter-runner steps into the box with a bat that has an exit-speed indicator attached to the knob. Ruling 5: Because there are concerns such attachments could pose a hazard during the play, such an attachment would make the bat illegal. If noticed before the batter enters the batter’s box, the umpire should require the player to remove the attachment. If the batter has entered the batter’s box with an illegal bat (by virtue of the illegal attachment), he is subject to being called out under NFHS 7-4-1.
Play 6: With R1 on first and no outs, the batter hits a home run. As the batter rounds the bases, the defensive team points out the bat used by the batter has an illegal attachment. Ruling 6: An illegal attachment makes the bat illegal. Because the batter has used an illegal bat, the batter is called out and R1 is returned to first.
Play 7: The batter is in the on-deck circle warning up with a bat with a batting donut. Ruling 7: Bats and items designed to remain part of the bat, such as weighted bats, batting donuts and wind-resistant devices are legal for warming up at any location.
Balls and Chest Protectors (1-3-1; 1-5-3)
The rules committee approved two equipment-related changes that will take effect in the coming years.
Effective Jan. 1, 2019, all baseballs shall meet the current NOCSAE standard.
Effective Jan. 2, 2020, all catchers’ chest protectors shall meet the current NOCSAE standard. Chest protectors are being designed to provide protection to the heart and the cardiac silhouette from commotio cordis, a disruption of the heart rhythm that can occur as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart. Commotio cordis can be fatal.
Play 8: During a game in the 2018 season, a team provides baseballs that do not contain a NOCSAE stamp or label. Ruling 8: Provided the balls are otherwise legal and bear the NFHS authenticating mark, the balls are legal for play in 2018. The NOCSAE standard for baseballs will be required starting in 2019.
Coach Physically Assisting Runner (2-21-1c, 5-1-2f, Dead Ball and Delayed Dead Ball Table)
Rule language was updated to better reflect the 2017 rule change regarding a coach physically assisting a runner during playing action. If a runner is physically assisted by a coach, the runner is called out immediately and the ball remains live.
Play 9: One out. Bases loaded. On a fly ball to the outfield, the third-base coach provides physical assistance to the runner on third, pushing him off the base once the ball is touched. The plate umpire says, “That’s interference. The runner is out.” Upon hearing that, the other runners, who had tagged up and started to advance, stop between the bases. As the ball comes in from the outfield, the shortstop tags R2. Ruling 9: After R3 was called out for receiving physical assistance from a coach, the ball remained live. R2 is out on the tag.
Play 10: R2 on second; the batter hits a clean triple. On his way by third base, the third-base coach gives R2 a high-five. Ruling 10: A high-five does not constitute physical assistance. There is no infraction.
Play 11: During a tag play at third, a base coach unintentionally provides physical assistance to a runner. As a runner attempts to stop to return to third base, he collides with the base coach, who moved in the wrong direction to avoid the runner. That collision stops the runner’s momentum and allows him to get back to third base just in time to avoid being tagged out. Ruling 11: Whether the physical assistance was intentional or unintentional is irrelevant. If the umpire judges the base coach has physically assisted the runner — helping the runner gain an advantage — the runner is out. The ball remains live.
Rule language regarding the barrel of the bat was updated for editorial clarity. The barrel is the area intended for contact with a “pitched ball.” Previously, rule language stated “the pitch.”
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