Rules & Regulations


Rules and Regulations

2019 NFHS Rule Interpretations


Baseball Rules Interpretations - 2019

Publisher’s Note:The National Federation of State High School Associations is the only source of official high school interpretations. They do not set aside nor modify any rule. They are made and published by the NFHS in response to situations presented.
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, Publisher, NFHS Publications © 2019

SITUATION 1:The pitcher, in his delivery motion, comes off the pitching plate and replants his pivot foot in the dirt in front of the pitching plate prior to releasing the ball. His coach says this “crowhop” is legal. RULING:This is an illegal pitch. The pitcher cannot replant his pivot foot during the delivery. (6-1-1, 6-1-2, 6-1-3)

SITUATION 2:The batter comes to bat wearing a helmet with a “jaw and cheek protector” attached to the helmet. His coach states that the combination is legal while the opposing coach maintains that the helmet is now illegal and cannot be worn. RULING:With all the possible combinations of products on the market, it is not feasible for an individual umpire to know what is legal and what is not. It is the responsibility of the head coach to know if helmets with the “jaw and cheek protector” attached are compliant. (2-10-2, 4-1-3b)

SITUATION 3:Before the game, the plate umpire is provided three baseballs that have the NFHS Authenticating Mark but not the SEI/NOCSAE certification mark. RULING:For the 2019 season, these baseballs are compliant. Effective January 1, 2020, both the SEI/NOCSAE and the NFHS Authenticating Mark will be required on all baseballs used in high school competition. (1-5-3)

SITUATION 4:The batter hits a hard one-hop ground ball back to the pitcher. The pitcher makes a great stab on the ball, gloving it in the webbing of the glove. With the batter-runner fast approaching first base, the pitcher is unable to quickly pull the ball out of the glove’s webbing. The pitcher takes a few fast steps toward first base and takes his glove, with the ball in the webbing, and shovels it to the first baseman who catches the glove with the ball prior to the arrival of the batter- runner. RULING:The batter-runner is out. The first baseman had secure possession of the ball and glove before the batter-runner touched first base. (2- 9-1, CB 2.9.1 SITUATION D)

SITUATION 5:The pitcher assumes the set position with his non-pivot foot entirely in front of the front edge of the pitching plate, and the pivot foot parallel to the pitching plate, but with only the toe of his pivot foot in contact with the pitching plate. RULING:This is legal. The entire pivot foot no longer needs to be touching the pitching plate. As long as some part of the pivot foot is in contact with or directly in front of the pitcher’s plate and is parallel to it, it is a legal set position. (6-1-3)

SITUATION 6:The pitcher is in the set position with the heel of the pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate and the rest of the pivot foot is (a) on an angle toward home plate, or (b) parallel to the pitcher’s plate. RULING:Only part of the pivot foot is required to be touching the pitcher’s plate with the pivot foot being parallel to the pitcher’s plate. The position in (a) is illegal, and in (b) legal. (6-1-3)

SITUATION 7:R1 is off with the pitch, which the batter hits high and deep down the first-base foul line. As the ball is caught at the fence, R1 has missed second base and is standing on third when the ball goes dead on an overthrow. R1 retreats to first base and touches second base as he returns. RULING:Had the ball not been dead, R1’s retreat would have been legal and his touching of second on his return would satisfy his baserunning requirements under the principle of “last time by.” However, since R1 was on third base (the succeeding base from the missed second base) when the ball became dead, he cannot return to second base and/or first base. If the defense legally appeals his missing second base on his advance, he would be declared out. (8-2-5, 8-2-6l)

SITUATION 8:The visiting team arrives at the field and the umpires notice that, while each jersey has a number on its back that is at least 8 inches high, the numbers are not a “plain Arabic style.” RULING:The game is to be played. While the style of the numbers are not exactly what is required, they are legible. If the state association desires, the umpires may make a game report. (1- 4-3)

SITUATION 9:A thrown ball accidentally hits a photographer who is walking from outside the media area to the dugout. Should interference be called? RULING:Unless the photographer intentionally moved so that he was hit by the thrown ball, it is not interference and the ball remains in play. The photographer shall be instructed to remain in the media area during live-ball play. If the photographer intentionally interfered with the thrown ball, the ball is dead and penalties shall be handled as if it was spectator interference. (1-2-8, 5-1-1l, 8-3-3e)

SITUATION 10:The home team has a uniform with the team motto embroidered at the top of the back of the jersey. The motto is not offensive or unsportsmanlike in nature. RULING:This is not legal. If there are no other jerseys or shirts available for the team to use, the game is still to be played and a report shall be made to the state association office. (1-4-3)

SITUATION 11:No outs and no runners on base when the batter swings and misses strike three that is in the dirt. As the batter-runner takes off for first, the catcher moves to pick up the ball and throw it to the first baseman. Meanwhile, the plate umpire has also moved to see the resulting action better and inadvertently interferes with the catcher’s throw, which sails to the outfield. The batter-runner advances to second base. RULING:It is only umpire interference if the act is specifically identified as umpire interference in the rules. By rule, it is umpire interference when a plate umpire hinders, impedes or prevents a catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base or retire a runner on a pickoff play. Any other occasion where an umpire hinders a play is to be considered incidental contact. The intent of the rule for umpire interference by a plate umpire is to prevent the possibility of interference where a catcher is trying to throw immediately after a pitch, and the umpire has to be in position to see that pitch, and there is contact. In this play, it is incidental contact and the result of the play shall stand. (2-21-2, 8-3-6)

SITUATION 12:The batter enters the batter’s box with a bat that has a bat knob sensor embedded in the knob of the bat. RULING:Sensor technology embedded in the bat is legal for practice but is illegal for competition. Therefore, the bat is an illegal bat. The ball is dead, the batter is declared out and the head coach is restricted to the bench for the remainder of the game. (4-1-3b PENALTY, 5-1-1c, 7-4-1a)

SITUATION 13:With one out and a runner on first base, the defense brings in a substitute pitcher. After one pitch to the batter, the pitcher successfully picks off the runner at first base. The coach now wants to make another pitching change. RULING:The home plate umpire will not allow this pitching change. The substitute pitcher must pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute for that batter, until such batter is out or reaches first base, or until a third out has been made. (3-1-2)

SITUATION 14:A sharp line drive is hit to the second baseman. The impact of the ball takes the glove off the second baseman’s hand, and the glove lands on the ground with the ball still in the pocket of the glove. The second baseman retrieves the glove and takes the ball out of the pocket. Is this a catch or must the ball be thrown to first base in an attempt to record the out? RULING:This is not a catch. To record the out on the batter-runner, the second baseman would need to throw the ball to first in an attempt to obtain the force out. A catch is an act of a fielder gaining secure possession in his hand or glove of a live ball in flight and firmly holding it. (2-9-1)

SITUATION 15:S1 comes in as a relief pitcher. As he takes his warm-up pitches, the opposing coach argues that he has now exceeded the maximum number of pitches a pitcher is allowed by the state association restrictions. RULING:Since S1 never threw a pitch, he has not exceeded his state association restrictions. The defensive team is allowed to replace him with an eligible relief pitcher. (6-1-6)

SITUATION 16:R2, on second base, rounds third and runs into F5 as he attempts to field a foul fly ball. This action occurred with (a) a count of 1-1; (b) a count of 1-2; or (c) two outs. RULING:In all three instances, R2 is out for his interference. In (a), the batter returns to bat with a count of 1-2 and in (b), the batter returns to bat with a count of 1-2 as the pitch is treated as a foul for the batter’s count. In (c), the batter will lead off in his team’s next offensive half-inning. (7-4-1f)

SITUATION 17:The visiting team is wearing “quarterback-style” wristbands that have defensive plays listed under a Velcro flap. The pitcher is wearing a black wristband down near his fielding glove. The home coach claims that the wristbands are illegal, and all players must take them off. RULING:Provided the wristbands are not dangerous, they are legal. If the plate umpire judges the wristband worn by the pitcher to be distracting, he would need to remove it. Otherwise, it is legal for the pitcher as well. (1-5-9, 6-2-1f PENALTY)

SITUATION 18:The head coach requests “Time” and goes to the mound for a visit. He removes F1 and brings in S1 to pitch from the bullpen. The coach remains at the mound talking with S1 as he takes his eight warmup throws. The opposing head coach claims that this is a charged conference because the defensive coach stayed at the mound until S1 had completed his warm-up throws. RULING:There is no charged conference to be recorded against the team on defense since F1 was removed as the pitcher. As long as the head coach leaves when S1 completes his warm-up throws and does not delay the game, no defensive conference will be charged. (3-4-1)

SITUATION 19:As the head coach moves to the pitching mound for a defensive conference, he tosses a baseball to his third baseman and has him take warm-up throws with another player to get ready to pitch. RULING:A team cannot have a fielder, who is in the game, throw a baseball for the purpose of warming up as a pitcher during a defensive conference or a pitching change. If the team desires to warm up a player in the game to prepare him to pitch, it would need to take him out of the game to warm up and then later re-enter him under the substitution rule. (3-4-1)

SITUATION 20:With the bases loaded and the runner on third base breaking for home, the batter swings at a pitch, hitting it high in the air between the pitching mound and home plate. As the plate umpire declares “Infield fly if fair,” the ball lands on the ground and rolls back toward home. As the runner from third is sliding to the plate, the ball contacts him in fair ground. RULING:The ball is immediately declared dead. The batter is out for the infield fly and the runner is out as well. (2-19, 5-1-1-f1, 8-4-2-k2)


2020 NFHS Points of Emphasis

2020 Points of Emphasis

1.     Game Ending Procedures

2.     Player/Designated Hitter Role

3.     Proper Pitching Positions

4.     Force Play Slide Rule

5.     Enforcement of NFHS Jewelry Rule

6.     Compliance of Player's Equipment


2019-20 NFHS Rule Changes


2019-20 HS Baseball Rules Changes Expand Designated Hitter Role


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The role of the designated hitter in high school baseball has been expanded to give coaches an additional option for the 2020 season.

The revision to Rule 3-1-4 was the only change recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Baseball Rules Committee at its June 2-4 meeting in Indianapolis. The change was subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

“The game is in the best shape it has ever been in the history of high school baseball,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and liaison to the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee. “This has allowed coaches to coach, players to play and umpires to umpire. This change, which was organic and intuitive, expands the role of the designated hitter and meets the desires of the high school baseball community.”

There are now two scenarios in which a designated hitter may be used.

The first scenario is the traditional use where the designated hitter may be a 10th starter who hits for any one of the nine starting defensive players. The team begins the game with 10 starters: nine defensive players and nine hitters in the batting order, one of whom is the designated hitter hitting for a defensive player.

“The traditional designated hitter role remains intact,” Hopkins said. “However, the committee felt it was necessary to make an additional option available to coaches that could be strategic but also maximize participation.”

The change to Rule 3-1-4 now allows the starting designated hitter to also be a starting defensive player. Utilizing this option, the player has two positions: defensive player and designated hitter. The team would begin the game with nine starters -- nine defensive players -- one of whom also assumes the role of the designated hitter.

“With the change adding pitch-count restrictions to high school baseball, this will allow pitchers to remain in the game as a hitter while removing them from pitching,” Hopkins said. “Typically, pitchers are stronger hitters as well. However, the intent of the rule is not for it to become strictly a pitcher-designated hitter role. The rule provides additional avenues for other position players as well. The change allows coaches to strategize how to keep players in the game to contribute offensively while allowing another player a chance to participate on defense.”

Additionally, a prior rules change involving baseballs and chest and body protectors will take effect on January 1, 2020. As of that date, all baseballs and chest and body protectors used in high school baseball competition shall meet the NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) standard at the time of manufacture.

According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 487,097 boys participating in baseball at 16,196 schools across the country, and 1,762 girls playing the sport in 317 schools.

All baseball rules information will be available on the NFHS website at: Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select "Baseball."

Release by Luke Modrovsky, NFHS Publications/Communications


3-1-4:  Designated Hitter (DH) can be used in two ways. The DH can be listed as the tenth starter replacing one of the other nine players when it is their turn to bat. The other method is that that any one of the starting defensive players can be their own DH (in effect having two positions) within the confines of the rule requirements.  
Rationale: This rule change assists coaches with an alternative to keep their better players in the game to contribute to the offensive output of the team and give another player a chance to participate on defense. In addition, considering the pitch count rules, this change would help pitchers to keep their bat in the game, but can come out of the game defensively to protect their arms from overuse.


1-3-2b1, 3-1-1, 4-1-3b, 4-2-4, 5-1-1f5, 7-4-1, 8-3-3c, Dead Ball and Delayed Dead Ball Table, Baserunning Awards Table and Rules by State Association Adoption

Catcher Head Gear - Two Piece

Answer to a common question as the MLB rules have allowed a return to two piece catcher's protection head gear:

Q:  I have a question for you concerning catchers head protection in baseball. It is our understanding that the older style head protection consisting of the scull cap – (no earflaps)  and the wire faceguard  is illegal at the HS level. The newer hockey style head protection is legal and approved at the HS level for baseball catchers. Is this correct? Can you send me the ruling on this? We have a number of coaches and players wanting to order the style we feel is illegal.

A:  You are correct.  Those are illegal and have been for quite some time.  They must have full ear protection.  
Rule 1 Players, Field and Equipment
ART. 3 . . . The catcher shall wear, in addition to a head protector, a mask with a throat protector, body protector, protective cup (male only), and baseball protective shin guards.
ART. 4 . . . The catcher's helmet and mask combination shall meet the NOCSAE standard. Any helmet or helmet and mask combination shall have full ear protection (dual ear flaps). A throat protector, which is either a part of or attached to the catcher's mask, is mandatory. A throat protector shall adequately cover the throat. The commercially manufactured catcher's head, face and throat protection may be a one-piece or multi-piece design. While in a crouch position, any non-adult warming up a pitcher at any location shall wear a head protector, a mask with a throat protector and a protective cup (male only).
PENALTY: Failure by a player to wear proper equipment after being so ordered by the umpire, shall result in ejection. 

Pace of Play

Pace of Game Play

The NFHS baseball committee identified these areas in need of improvements that detract from what otherwise is an exciting and enjoyable game:

  • Handling offensive and defensive charged conferences in a timely manner.  
  • Speeding up the time between innings (1 minute) and during pitching changes.
  • Maintaining the time between pitches (20 seconds).
  • Umpires diligently counting the number of warm-up pitches.
  • The batter’s box rule (the batter must generally keep one foot in the box during an at-bat).  Unless it meets one of the eight exceptions:
    • The batter swings at the pitch.
    • The batter is forced out of the box by the pitch.
    • The batter attempts a “drag bunt.”
    • The pitcher or catcher feints or attempts a play at any base.
    • The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound or takes a position more than five feet from the pitcher’s plate after receiving the ball.
    • A member of either team requests and is granted “Time.”
    • The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to adjust his equipment or give defensive signals.
    • The catcher does not catch the pitched ball.

Pitch Smart Information

The “Introduction to Pitch Smart” online course produced by USA Baseball has been added to the available courses through the NFHS Learning Center at 


“Pitch Smart” is a joint arm-care initiative between USA Baseball and Major League Baseball aimed at reducing arm injuries by amateur pitchers by providing comprehensive resources for safe pitching practices.

Pitcher Instruction Week

Baseball coaches will have up to five days of pitching instruction during the week prior to the first date for baseball practice (Sun to Sat). Only one session per day per athlete is permitted with the maximum length of two hours per individual.

Regulations for Baseball Pitcher Instruction

Umpire Mechanics

WIAA Baseball Adaptations


Printable Version - Please print and place in your rules book.

WIAA Pitch Count

The Pitch Count grid is a tool for coaches to use and the pitch count recorder is only a recommendation.

Pitch Count Restrictions | Pitch Count FAQ
Pitch Count Grid | Pitch Count Tracking Sheet
Pitch Count Log - Excel (xls)

Catcher NOCSAE Approved Chest Protection - Required

NFHS Memorandum

To: NFHS Member State Associations’ Baseball Liaisons


From: B. Elliot Hopkins, MLD, CAA, Director of Sports, Sanctioning and Student Services       


Subject: New NOCSAE Chest Protector Pad is Identified


Date:   November 25, 2019    ________________________________________________________________________


We recently identified that a NOCSAE certified chest pad that protects the heart and the cardiac silhouette is being offered by chest protector manufacturers to fit on top of an existing non-NOCSAE approved chest protector making the chest protector compliant with our rules. This pad meets the criteria of our NFHS Baseball Rule 1-5-3. Coaches are responsible for knowing if their catcher’s chest/body protector equipment meets the rule and should affirm that fact with the umpire-in-chief prior to the start of the ball game.



This new pad adds another alternative to the new chest/body protector rule. You now have three options: 1) a new traditional chest protector that protects the heart/cardiac silhouette and meets the NOCSAE performance standard; 2) a body protector (compression shirt with heart guard built into the shirt) that that protects the heart/cardiac silhouette and meets the NOCSAE performance standard under the traditional chest protector; 3) a chest pad that that protects the heart/cardiac silhouette and meets the NOCSAE performance standard that fits on top of the traditional chest protector. As we receive more information as to what these pads look like, we will share their images with you.




NOTE: Chest pads that meet the NOCSAE performance standard are not proprietary to a specific chest protector manufacturer. (ex. A Brodell brand chest pad can be worn on a Dolan brand chest protector. It is not specific to only a Brodell brand chest protector.)