Baseball Rules Interpretations - 2020 & 2021
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 © 2020
SITUATION 1: The home team coach is using Jones as the player/DH. In the second inning, Jones comes to bat and hits a clean double. With Jones on second base, the coach goes to the plate umpire and requests that a courtesy runner run for Jones. RULING: A courtesy runner for Jones is not allowed. When his team is on defense, Jones is a pitcher; when Jones is at bat he is batting as a designated hitter, not as a pitcher. A courtesy runner is not allowed for a DH. (3-1-4b; Suggested Speed-Up Rules – Courtesy Runners 1)
SITUATION 2: Jones is listed as a player/ DH and comes to bat in the third inning. Jones hits a double and, while sliding into second base, sprains his ankle and cannot continue. The coach puts Williams in to run for Jones. RULING: This is legal. The impact of Williams running for Jones is that the role of the DH is now ended for the game. Since Jones is no longer the DH, and he and Williams cannot occupy a spot in the lineup at the same time, Jones is considered to have been removed from the game for his first time. (3-1-3, 3-1- 4b)
SITUATION 3: Jones is listed as the player/DH. Having pitched in the first two innings, he comes to bat in the third inning and hits a double. With Jones on second base, the coach tells the umpire that he wants to end the role of DH for Jones. He is ending the use of a DH for the game, making Jones only eligible to be the pitcher. The coach now wants to have a courtesy runner run for Jones. RULING: This is legal. The coach may end the role of the DH, leaving the previous player/DH as only a defensive player. As Jones was the pitcher of record, having pitched in the last half-inning, he is eligible for a legal courtesy runner. (3-1-4b, Suggested Speed-Up Rules – Courtesy Runners 1)
SITUATION 4: Jones, as the player/ DH, grows tired in the fifth inning and is replaced as the pitcher by Coleman. Jones remains the DH. In the sixth inning, Jones is hit by a pitch in the helmet and the medical staff will not allow him to continue in the game. The coach a) puts Smith in to run for Jones at first base or B) has Coleman run for Jones. RULING: Both are legal actions. In (a), the role of the DH will be ended for the game as Smith is an offensive substitute for Jones. Additionally, Coleman will be out of the game since Smith now occupies that spot in the batting order. In (b), the role of the DH is also ended. Coleman does remain in the game as the pitcher and will hit for himself in later at-bats. (3-1-3, 3-1-4b)
SITUATION 5: Brady is the pitcher/ DH and tires in the second inning. The coach brings in Kelly to pitch in the second inning. In the fourth inning, Evans replaces Kelly as the pitcher. In the fifth inning, Brown replaces Evans as the pitcher. In the seventh inning, Brady returns to play first base. RULING: These substitutions are all legal, with Brady remaining the DH in each instance. Brown will be out of the game when Brady returns. The pitcher/DH is not locked into a defensive position and may be moved defensively while being locked in the batting order. (3-1- 4b)
SITUATION 6: Smith is listed as the second baseman/DH in the lineup. In the sixth inning, the coach wants Smith to play right field while remaining the DH. RULING: This is a legal defensive change. The player/DH may move positions defensively while remaining the DH. Smith would now be RF/DH. (3-1-4b)
SITUATION 7: Does a player/DH have a re-entry as the defensive player and also a re-entry as the DH? RULING: No, any of the starting players may be removed from the game and re-entered once. The player may not be removed as a defensive player and removed later as the DH and re-enter twice in both capacities. He has one re-entry. (3-1-3)
SITUATION 8: The visiting team coach has a lineup utilizing the standard DH option; 10 starters, one being the DH for a defensive player. In the third inning, the coach realizes he wanted to use the player/DH option and not the standard DH. He asks the home plate umpire if he may change the options since the DH has yet to bat. RULING: No, he may not change his lineup card. Once a coach has had his lineup accepted by the plate umpire, he may not change from one DH option to the other. (3-1-4)
SITUATION 9: The home team is using the player/DH option while the visiting team is using the standard DH option with 10 starters. At the pregame conference the home team coach insists that the visiting team must use the same DH option that he is using. RULING: The use of a DH is not mandatory and each team may decide independently if it will play the game with a straight nine lineup, use the standard DH option or use the player/DH option. Teams do not have to use the same method. (3-1-4)
SITUATION 10: The home team is using Jones as the player/DH option. In the fifth inning, with the DH going 0-3 at bat, the coach wishes to use a pinch-hitter for Jones. He tells the plate umpire that Smith will bat for the DH with Jones returning as DH later in the game. RULING: The coach may use a pinch-hitter for player/DH, but when he does the role of the DH has ended for the game. Jones may return later, but when he does it will be as a defensive player who will bat for himself. [3- 1-4b(2)]
SITUATION 11: Kelly is the LF/ DH. In the third inning, Jones substitutes for Kelly as the left fielder. In the fourth inning Kelly returns as the left fielder. In the fifth inning, Armstrong substitutes for Kelly in left field. May Kelly remain as the DH? RULING: No. Kelly, having been removed from the game twice, is no longer eligible to play in any capacity. The role of the DH has ended since Armstrong now must bat for himself. (3-1-4b)
SITUATION 12: At the plate conference, the home team head coach provides to the plate umpire three baseballs. The plate umpire notices that while the baseballs have the NFHS Authenticating Mark, they do not have the SEI/NOCSAE mark. RULING: The game shall be played, but the home plate umpire shall provide a report to the state association. The baseballs are required to have both marks to ensure that proper testing has been done on the baseballs. SEI/NOCSAE testing provides a means to maintain a consistent and uniform standard for high school competition and to ensure that every baseball manufactured meets the same level of quality and playability.
SITUATION 13: The coach knows that his catcher is wearing a body protector under his jersey that is certified by NOCSAE and has the NOCSAE mark. At the plate conference, the coach affirms that all his players are properly equipped in accordance with NFHS rules. In the first inning, the plate umpire notices that the catcher is not wearing a chest protector with the NOCSAE mark. RULING: The plate umpire shall accept the coach’s verification that all his players are equipped in accordance with the NFHS rules. (1-5-3, 4-1-3b)
SITUATION 14: Although the coach at the pregame conference verified to the plate umpire that all his players were properly equipped in accordance with NFHS rules, he notices that the catcher is wearing an old chest protector – one that does not have the NOCSAE mark on it. He asks the catcher to take his jersey off to show that he is wearing a NOCSAE-approved body protector. RULING: The umpire shall accept the coach’s verification that all his players are properly equipped. The plate umpire shall not require the catcher to disrobe or unbutton his jersey to prove that he is wearing a certified body protector. (1-5-3, 4-1-3b)
SITUATION 15: At the pregame conference, the visiting coach verifies that all his players are properly equipped in accordance with NFHS rules. The catcher is wearing an old chest protector that does not have the SEI/NOCSAE mark. In the third inning, the catcher tells the umpire that he forgot his body protector and is not wearing anything under his jersey other than a plain undershirt. RULING: The plate umpire is to accept a coach’s verification; however, once it is known that the verification was not totally accurate, the umpire must halt the game and have the situation rectified. The umpire will stop the game and ask the coach if there is a body/chest protector available that the catcher may use. The game cannot resume until the catcher is legally equipped. (1-5-3, 1-5-6)
SITUATION 16: The pitcher, in his delivery, pushes completely off the pitcher’s plate and while in the air and in front of the pitcher’s plate, throws the pitch. RULING: This is an illegal pitch. A pitcher who leaps from the pitching plate (rather than pushing away from it) is no longer in contact with the pitcher’s plate and has delivered an illegal pitch. (6-1-1, 6-1-2, 6-1-3)
SITUATION 17: The bases are loaded with two outs. The batter hits the pitch over the fence for a grand slam home run. While circling the bases the batter-runner passes R1 between third base and home, before R1 touches home plate. R2 and R3 had touched home plate before the batter-runner passed R1. How many runs score? RULING: The batter-runner is out for the third out the moment he passed a preceding runner, R1. This is a timing play and runs scored before the third out will count, but the batter-runner and R1 will not score. Score two runs. (8-4-2m, 9-1-1)
SITUATION 18: With two outs, R2 is off on the pitch from second base on an attempted steal of third base. The batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop. Just before the shortstop’s throw arrives at third base to put out the batter-runner, R2 is obstructed as he rounds third base. His coach says R2 should be awarded home and have his run count since the obstruction occurred before the out at first. RULING: R2 will not be awarded home base on the obstruction. No run may score if the third out is made by the batter-runner before he touches first base. (9-1-1 EXCEPTION a)
SITUATION 19: Unnoticed by either team and the home plate umpire, the visiting team turns in a lineup card with eight players listed as starters and three substitute players. The visiting team had nine players on defense in the bottom of the first inning. In the top of the second inning, the home team realizes that its opponent has only eight players listed in the starting lineup. Bringing this to the attention of the home plate umpire, the home team suggests that for the remainder of the game an out should be called every time the missing spot comes to bat. The visiting team, now aware of its omission, adds to the lineup a player as the ninth defensive player. He was not one of the three substitutes listed on the lineup. RULING: This is legal. The team did start the team with nine players. The team is allowed to correct the omission and it is legal for a team to use a player not originally listed on the lineup card. (1-1-2, 4-4-1f)
SITUATION 20: An assistant coach has a phone app that allows him to capture the signs from the opposing team’s third-base coach. This app then predicts if the sign was a steal, bunt or hit sign. Is this sign stealing phone app legal? RULING: This is not legal. When an umpire knows that a team is using the app, the coach should be warned and discontinue the use of the app. A second violation would restrict the coach to the bench. [3-3-1f(4), 3-3-1 PENALTY]
2020 & 2021 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 & 2020-21 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.
â€œWith 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: www.nfhs.org. Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select "Baseball."
Release by Luke Modrovsky, NFHS Publications/Communications
2020 BASEBALL RULES CHANGES
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.
2020 BASEBALL EDITORIAL CHANGES
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
2020-21 Baseball Considerations
In support of the Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities, the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee offers this document for state associations to consider whether any possible rules could be altered for the 2020-21 season. The considerations outlined in this document are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list and there might be additional steps in each school, city, and state to help prevent the spread of virus. Even when taking all precautions, there will still be risk of transmitting illnesses. Everyone should stay vigilant about the health of members of their teams. Lastly, the situation with Covid-19 is rapidly changing. These considerations may quickly become outdated. Please keep up with the latest from the CDC and other health officials in your state.
Return to Competition
- Have hand sanitizer and wipes available at the field.
- Wash stations or sanitizer at each dugout.
- No one touches the score sheet except the scorer.
- Disinfect the bench/dugout prior to competition.
- Not allowing fans.
- Everyone wears masks at the ballfield.
- Stagger seating of fans.
- Check the fans’ temperature prior to admission.
- Minimize the number of spectators.
- Each team provides sanitized balls (bucket) while on defense.
- Have a bucket of “dirty” balls available so they can be sanitized after the game.
- Sanitize bases after each contest.
Considerations for Coaches:
- Wear masks on and off the field.
- No line-up card exchange.
- Eliminate handshakes post-game.
- Maintain 6’ distance between players and umpires.
- No seeds, gum or spitting.
- Evaluate pre-existing health conditions.
Considerations for Players:
- No seeds, gum or spitting.
- Players must clean and sanitize equipment after each game
- Social distancing on the bench and/or dugout.
- No sharing of water bottles.
- No sharing of batting helmets.
- No sharing of catcher’s equipment.
- No sharing of bats.
- Sanitize all equipment after each game.
- No physical contact.
- Eliminate handshakes post game.
- Eliminate handshakes with coaches/umpires pre-game.
- Evaluate pre-existing health conditions.
- Carry hand sanitizer.
- If the pitcher puts his/her hands to their mouth off the mound and touches the ball, “Time” is called, a new ball is inserted and the pitcher much sanitize their hands before throwing the next pitch.
Considerations for Umpires:
- Bring personal hand sanitizer. Wash hands frequently
- Don’t share equipment.
- No touching of baseballs.
- No line-up card exchange.
- The umpire-in-chief should wear a face mask behind the plate.
- Clean equipment after each game.
- Follow social distancing guidelines. Consider six feet minimum distance when talking to others (players, coaches, other umpires) at plate meeting.
- Do not shake hands and follow pre and post-game ceremony guidelines established by state associations.
- Evaluate pre-existing health conditions.
Considerations for Parents
(A family’s role in maintaining safety guidelines for themselves and others):
- Make sure your child and immediate household members are free from illness before participating in practice and competition (if there is doubt stay home),
- Provide personal items for your child and clearly label them.
- Disinfect your students’ personal equipment after each game or practice.
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
SECTION 5 PLAYER 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 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.
The “Introduction to Pitch Smart” online course produced by USA Baseball has been added to the available courses through the NFHS Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn.com.
“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.
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
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.)