2017 NFHS Baseball Rules Changes
By NFHS on November 22, 2016
2-32-2c: Clarified when a base runner can slide through home plate in a straight line.
3-2-2 PEN: Clarified when a coach-assisted runner is declared out.
3-3-1 PEN: Developed a three-step process when administering disciplinary action to a player(s) or coach(es) for inappropriate behavior on the bench and in the field.
6-2-6: Clarified that the pitching restriction is based on number of pitches thrown
8-3-6: Clarified when an umpire hinders the actions of the catcher in a defensive attempt and how baserunning awards are administered.
8-4-2s: A companion rule to support the above-mentioned 3-2-2 PEN modification regarding coaches’ and players’ conduct.
Points of Emphasis
2017 NFHS Baseball Points of Emphasis
The NFHS Baseball Rules Committee and the NFHS Board of Directors believe there are areas of the game of interscholastic baseball that need to be addressed and given special attention. These areas of concern are often cyclical, some areas need more attention than others, and that is why they might appear in the rules book for consecutive editions. These concerns are identified as “Points of Emphasis.” For the 2017 high school baseball season, attention is being called to: correct use of NFHS Authenticated Mark Program baseballs, umpires asking assistance from his partner on a call, positioning of team personnel and legal slides. When a topic is included in the Points of Emphasis, these topics are important enough to reinforce throughout the academic year because they are not being given the proper attention.
NFHS AUTHENTICATING MARK PROGRAM (AMP)
The NFHS AMP program was designed in 2000 to ensure that the equipment used in interscholastic contests is manufactured consistently and meets certain physical requirements. By using conforming equipment, players, coaches and officials can rest assured that the baseballs used are designed for the age group for which playing rules are written for interscholastic competition. All such balls are required to display the NFHS Authenticating Mark. Manufacturers make balls to our standards and expect that their products are purchased for game competition. Using non-AMP balls puts players, coaches, fans and umpires at risk of injury and in consistent playability which hurts high school baseball. Using baseballs that meet the AMP requirements are good for our young people and even better for our game.
UMPIRE ASKING ASSISTANCE FROM HIS PARTNER
Often during contests, a coach will request that an umpire seek assistance from his partner for a particular call or play situation. Asking assistance from a partner is not mandatory. It is the discretion of the plate* umpire if he feels that his view was obstructed or that his partner had a better angle on the play. If he does feel that his partner’s perspective will provide additional input to his final decision, then he has the flexibility to request his partner’s help. Once the opinion is shared, it is the plate* umpire who will make the final determination on the call or play. This entire exchange will be quick and intentional using umpire signals that are relayed to players, coaches and spectators.
* This has been clarified by NFHS as a typo. The original CALLING umpire will make the final determination. At NO TIME will another umpire overrule another. If they have information that may help with a call, they can give it to their partner. Ultimately the official that made the original call shall make the final determination as to whether the call stands.
LOCATION OF TEAM PERSONNEL
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. This is unsportsmanlike behavior and will not be tolerated in interscholastic baseball. 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. The positive values that are learned at the baseball diamond will serve the young people long after their high school careers have ended.
There has been a misnomer that on any given play the base runner has to slide into the base he is trying to acquire. Even the universally accepted “force play slide” is misconstrued as the player having to slide into the base. NFHS rules are specific and very clear – runners are never required to slide. However, if they choose to slide then the slide must be legal. A player can legally slide either feet first or head first. If a player chooses feet first, then at least one leg and buttock shall stay in contact with the ground. A slide is illegal if the runner uses a rolling, cross-body or pop-up slide, into the fielder, or if the runner’s raised leg is higher than the fielder’s knee (while he is in a standing position), if the runner goes beyond the base and then makes contact with the fielder or alters his play, if the runner slashes or kicks the fielder, if the runner intentionally tries to injure the fielder and during a force play situation, the runner does not slide on the ground and in a direct line between the two bases. When a runner slides, he must slide within reach of the base with either hand or a foot. The consequence is that the runner is called out and based upon his actions there could possibly be malicious contact and the runner would be ejected from the game. Attention to when it is appropriate to slide and to do it legally will improve the overall process of baserunning, reduce unnecessary injuries to the runner and the covering fielder, and make for a more exciting game to watch and enjoy.
2017 NFHS Baseball Comments on the Rules
DEFINING THE LEGALITY AND LOCATION OF SLIDING (2-32-2C)
The act of sliding is optional. However, if a base runner decides to slide, then he is held to certain criteria to ensure that neither the offensive nor defensive player is intentionally injured. There are six criteria that constitutes an illegal slide. Due to the physical design of home plate, it is not possible for a runner who chooses to slide to stop at or on top of home plate while running as fast as possible to score. In order to stop at or on home plate, the runner would have to run slower or begin his slide earlier, which would give the defense an advantage. This change allows the runner’s momentum to carry him through home plate in a straight line (baseline extended). He is still held to the other elements of Rule 2-32-2 and malicious contact as it relates to interference with the catcher. The catcher is protected because he has choices of locations where he can position himself to avoid contact.
DETERMINING WHEN A COACH-ASSISTED RUNNER IS CALLED OUT (3-2-2 Penalty)
Simply stated, the coach-assisted base runner is called out immediately without deference to other batter-runner or runners and play continues.
CLARIFYING THE PENALTY ADMINISTRATION TO COACHES AND PLAYERS (3-3-1 Penalty)
Coaches and officials are equally responsible to provide an ideal learning environment for the students who play baseball. That learning environment is severely disrupted if the adults show a lack of respect for each other’s position and role in the contest. The coach has the responsibility to coach and teach his players about basic and complicated skills of baseball and important life lessons. The game official has the obligation to administer the rules of the game and to judiciously address any coach’s or player’s behavior that is not consistent with those rules.
As he (umpire) administers any penalty resulting in a warning, restriction to the bench/dugout or ejection, his decision should be in response to the actions of the offending coach and player. The coach needs to understand that his behavior will dictate which level of discipline is applied. Utilizing a three-step process, the umpire is given the opportunity to de-escalate any situation that might arise during the course of the game.
This clarification of last year’s rule provides an additional “teachable moment” element to the current rule. Umpires are given clear procedures for dealing with minor unsportsmanlike behavior while at the same time promoting the practice of keeping coaches and players “in the game” and minimizing ejections. Officials are encouraged to clearly communicate their warnings and restrictions when possible to the coaches prior to ejection. The coaches also need to recognize when those warnings and restrictions are being issued so they can modify their behavior and continue to teach their players. When the adults are acting in a professional and respectful manner, the young people will be the ultimate winners regardless of the score of the game.
MODIFICATION OF THE PITCHING RESTRICTION POLICY (6-2-6)
After years of research and thoughtful discussion on minimizing risk for the position of pitcher, it has been determined that modifying the pitching restriction rule to reflect that the policy should be based on the number of pitches thrown is a better indication of overuse and repetition than the current method of innings pitched during a contest.
BASERUNNING AWARDS FOR UMPIRE HINDERING THE CATCHER’S ABILITY TO MAKE A DEFENSIVE PLAY (8-3-6)
This rule changes provides rules support that was missing from the rules book.
SUBSEQUENT RULE SUPPORTING THE COACH-ASSISTED RUNNER (8-4-2s)
This rule supports the action taken in Rule 3-2-2 Penalty regarding coaches’ conduct with assisting a base runner.