By: Nate Calvin
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The NFHS has approved rule changes for the 2024 high school baseball and softball seasons at their June rules committee meetings in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The use of a one-way communication device between a coach in the dugout and a team’s catcher for the purposes of calling pitches will be permitted in high school baseball.
The recommendation was among five rule provisions that were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
The new rules prohibit coaches from communicating with any other player besides the catcher on defense and with any player while batting. The coach must also be in the dugout when using the communication device.
“This change is consistent with the growth of the game and is indicative of a measured and responsible approach to enable technology into our level of competition,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS Director of Sports and Educational Services and liaison to the Baseball Rules Committee.
“The committee has made these changes to maintain the balance between offense and defense; increase the pace of play; and will responsibly manage technology so there is no advantaged gained by schools that have more available resources than some of their contemporaries. Creating a level playing field is paramount to education-based athletics.”
Game management by umpires was addressed with a change to Rule 10-2-3h. The edit removes spectators’ behavior from the umpire-in-chief’s jurisdiction when deciding to forfeit a contest.
Only infractions by players, coaches or team/bench personnel are under the umpire’s jurisdiction. The committee agreed that poor behavior by spectators should be handled by game administration.
“This change is a complementary rule to support schools’ game management role in addressing unacceptable behavior and will allow the umpire to focus on the action and players on the field,” Hopkins said.
Rule 1-6-1 was added and designates a wristband with defensive shifts, pitching choices or game directions as non-electronic equipment and must be a single, solid color and worn on the forearm.
Pitchers’ cards must not be white, gray or a distracting color and worn on their non-pitching arm.
On the softball side of things, beginning next year, pitchers will be allowed to disengage both feet from the playing surface if the pivot foot is not replanted prior to the delivery of the pitch. Previously, the pivot foot was required to remain in contact with the ground.
This modification to Rule 6-1-2c of the NFHS Softball Rules Book headlined a set of seven rules changes recommended by the NFHS Softball Rules Committee with all changes being subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
“When examining the survey responses, the NFHS Softball Rules Committee recognized that a majority of the membership were in favor of this change,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the NFHS Softball Rules Committee.
“An additional topic the committee discussed was whether a pitcher gains an advantage by having their pivot foot airborne vs. having it remain in contact with the ground.”
“Our rules have traditionally allowed for flexibility to accommodate the differing skill levels of high school athletes. This change allows for exploration of different styles of pitching during student-athletes’ developmental stages.”
In another change, Rule 1-8-6 now permits electronic information to be transmitted to the dugout from anywhere outside of the live ball area. This reflects current technology and still requires that electronic devices are used in the dugout but no longer stipulates where the video is recorded or how it is transmitted.
Beginning January 1, 2027, softball uniforms may display only the player’s name, school name or nickname, school mascot and/or school logo as part of Rule 3-2-3.
An additional uniform change for the 2024 season was approved in Rule 3-2-5, which more clearly defines what can be worn on the head to be consistent with other NFHS sports.
Changes to Rule 3-2-7 clarify where wristbands with a playbook / play card attached can be worn. The equipment is only permitted to be worn on a player’s wrist or arm, and pitchers must wear it on their non-pitching arm, prohibiting wristbands from being worn on the belt.
The NFHS Softball Rules Committee further clarified the list of approved and non-approved substances to be used as drying agents for the pitcher in Rule 6-2-2.
The rule specifies that dirt is not considered a foreign substance and does not have to be wiped from the hand prior to contacting the ball.
Acceptable use of drying agents under the supervision and control of the umpire includes powdered rosin or any comparable drying agent listed on USA Softball’s certified equipment website.
Nate can be reached at email@example.com