TO: Officials, Coaches, Administrators, Observation Team, Contacts
FROM: Chris Maher, Director of Field Observation and Instructional Chairman, Long Beach Unit
RE: Welcome to the 2019 Baseball Season
We are a little over two months away from the 2019 Baseball season and its extremely hard to believe considering we had just crowned new CIF Baseball champions last June. Many of you are aware that there is a new start date for baseball that is two weeks earlier than that of last season. That being said, it is time to get you caught up on what is new in high school baseball.
- – New Rules for 2019
(1-3-1) Modified that baseballs meet NOCSAE standards Effective January 1, 2020
The NFHS Rules Committee believed that baseballs ought to have a consistent standard of durability and playability.
There are high schools that have varying levels of baseball inventory and has therefore pushed the utilization of this policy back to January 1, 2020
However, all baseballs are STILL required to have the NFHS authentication. Umpires have been instructed to discard any baseball that fails to have such marking.
– (6-1-3) Pivot Foot Requirement Removed
A pitcher no longer has to have his entire pivot in contact with the pitcher’s plate or simply referred to as the “rubber.” (i.e. right foot for right-handed pitcher, left foot for left-handed pitcher)
Many of our high school fields made it increasingly difficult for pitchers to satisfy the rule previously and made it even harder for umpires to enforce such rule.
The pitcher still needs to have “some” of that foot touching the rubber to be considered legal.
This change is not the same as the requirements of the “non-pivot” foot which determine whether the pitcher is in the “windup” or “set” (stretch) position.
- Points of Emphasis
– High school sports are an “extension of the classroom” and it is very important that we understand this in our dealings with each other. Actions by a coach, official or an administrator that would be impermissible in an academic environment are strictly prohibited here in athletic environments as well.
- National Anthem Stand-off: A growing concern in the baseball community within the last few seasons are standoffs between opposing teams following the playing of The Star Spangled Banner. These actions have been designed to intimidate the opposition and draw undue attention. They are not consistent with the values of an educational-based athletic setting that our schools participate in. Umpires have been instructed to work with players and coaches to immediately send potential offending players back into the dugout following the National Anthem. Offending players and teams could be subject to verbal warnings, written warnings/restrictions to the dugout and/or an ejection for major offenders (3-3-1f Penalty) We appreciate staffs that have discouraged this behavior and hope that we continue to address standoffs should there be concerns.
- Bench Jockeying: We understand that the nature of athletics is competitive and therefore emotional. There will be cheering during ballgames and we encourage that as long as it stays within that team. It becomes a problem when chants or noises (both natural or artificial) become disconcerting to a pitcher in position to pitch, a batter preparing to hit or a fielder in position to field the baseball. Why might one do this? To simply distract the opposition and put an opponent at a distinct disadvantage in an unsportsmanlike manner. It is a fine line between what is considered a spontaneous reaction and professional behavior versus what is considered unsporting and derogatory.
Before every game, our umpires are required by rule to certify with both head coaches that their teams are properly equipped and are only using legal equipment (4-1-3b). It was mentioned above that baseballs needed to have the NFHS authentication mark or would be discarded. In the event there are no baseballs that meet such specifications, then the game will be stopped and the home team will have a minimum of 30 minutes to supply proper baseballs to the plate umpire. If no baseballs are provided at that time, the game maybe forfeited. Our most important goal is to get the game in and we understand for some institutions it is a burden, but playing with equipment that is not legal presents potential liability concerns should an incident arise. Memo to umpires: Do NOT rush to a forfeit!!
- Base running
An integral element of our game today is baserunning. Many sports have different statuses of players that can score, but in baseball only a base runner can score and to that extent there are greater responsibilities. A base runner must legally touch all bases in the correct order regardless if the ball is live or dead or if the bases were awarded or not. This includes a base runner immediately retouching a base after he/she may have missed a base or may have left early.
- A common debate is when a base runner is considered “out of the baseline.” Let me remind you that a baserunner establishes his baseline directly between his position and the base he is going to, however a runner may be called out if he runs more than 3 feet from that base line to avoid a tag or to hinder a fielder (8-4-2a-1,2). The key here is that there must be a tag attempt for such element of the rule to be met and umpires have been instructed that a guideline for 3 feet is “a step and a reach.”
- There is no “must slide” rule in high school, however a base runner must slide legally (one leg and one buttock on the ground, 2-32-1) if he chooses to do so. The following are examples of illegal slides pursuant to Rule (2-33-2)
- Execution of a rolling block or cross body slide as well as a pop-up slide into the fielder.
- A baserunner’s raised leg is higher than the knee of a fielder in a standing position. This is simply referred to as contact occurring above the knee.
- Contact by a baserunner with a fielder that is beyond the base and alters the play (Exception Home Plate)
- The slashing or kicking of a fielder
- Willful and deliberate attempts by a runner to injure a fielder
- A baserunner not sliding directly into a base on a force play
Exception: there is no violation if a runner deviates from his position and does not slide directly into a base in order to avoid making contact with a fielder or altering a play (8-4-2b)
During the course of the season, various plays and situations will arise that we will interpret and address with the goal of keeping all of us engaged and informed about the game of baseball. I encourage you to submit any plays, pictures and videos of interest to me because we are all in this together and that is to be committed to the goal of “Improved Umpiring.” It is my pleasure to be of service to you.
Long Beach Unit