Baseball Points of Emphasis – 2017 By NFHS on November 22, 2016The 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.
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.
Guidelines for Effective Communication with Coaches
One of the most often heard concerns expressed by coaches is that officials will not communicate with them. Because effective communication is a critical component of successful officiating as well as any other of interactive endeavor, we cannot simply dismiss this concern. As officials we need to constantly work at being better communicators. To achieve effective communication we need to be able to define what it is and use certain tools and techniques that enable us to attain it.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication involves being a good listener, understanding the issue, responding appropriately, sending the right message and being correctly understood and knowing the difference between effectively communicating and over communicating.
How do we effectively communicate with coaches?
Acknowledgement: Acknowledgement can be accomplished as simply as making eye contact or a nod of the head. You must acknowledge them, initially do not ignore them. Initially ignoring or dismissing a coach makes effective communication difficult at best.
Be Approachable: Do not send the message of being unapproachable by appearing to be aloof. Portray confidence, not arrogance. Avoid assuming a defensive posture or body language. Be open to communication. In certain situations it might be better for the game to not go opposite after a foul call and stay table side to more effectively communicate with a coach. Let your partners know that you will be staying table side.
Answer Questions: Answer questions not statements. If a coach asks you what you saw or what a player did, answer the question. If a coach makes a statement such as, “the foul count is 7 -2”, acknowledge the statement but don’t try to answer it. If the question involves a ruling made by your partner called, never say, “It’s not my call.” Support your partner, keeping in mind you cannot answer for him or her and don’t try to.
Brevity: Keep it short. Effectively communicating with a coach does not mean a dissertation or ongoing dialogue.
Honesty: Be honest. Don’t try to justify or rationalize a mistake. If you missed a play - admit it. If you got it right, say so in an appropriate way (e.g. “Coach, I was in good position and had a really good look at the play.”). Honesty is the most effective way to diffuse a situation.
Choose Your Words Wisely: Listen first and then choose the appropriate words to communicate the message you want to send. Keep your tone unemotional and never use profanity or derogatory statements. If you don’t know what to say to convey the message you want to convey, don’t say anything, but don’t ignore the coach. Keep it professional, not personal.
Know when it is over: Once a coach has been acknowledged, appropriately responded to, it is time to move on. If coaches continue to press the issue or their point or they begin to repeat themselves, appropriately let them know that the issue has been addressed and it is time to move on.
These are just a few tools and principles we can use to help us become better in our communication with coaches. Keep in mind that effective communication is a learned skill that is improved through practice and experience.
Colorado Rules by State Association Adoption
The NFHS rulebook (p. 67) delegates authority to the state associations for certain rules. The following shall apply in Colorado.
1-2-9 Double First Base – Not allowed.
1-4-4 Commemorative Patches – Must be requested of CHSAA on a case-by-case basis. These may not exceed 4 square inches.
1-5-5 Artificial limbs and prostheses are allowed.
2-33-1 Speed-up Rules - Courtesy runners for the pitcher and catcher may be used.
3-2-1 Coaches Uniform - Reasonable accommodations consistent with the team uniform are allowed (3.2.1E). Umpires should refer questionable cases to their Area Director for resolution with CHSAA.
4-2-2 Mercy Rule – The game shall end when the visiting team is behind 10 or more runs after 4 ½ innings, or after the fifth inning, if either team is ahead by 10 runs in an equal number of innings.
4-2-4 Game Ending Procedure –
Regular Season Games: Any game which is terminated by darkness, rain or other cause before it is a regulation game will be considered a suspended game and shall continue from that point of suspension at the earliest time possible. However, any remaining play may be shortened or terminated by mutual agreement of the opposing coaches.
Post Season Games: All games will be played to their conclusion in seven innings unless the 10-run rule comes into effect or extra innings are needed. All suspended games at the district, regional and state level shall be completed from the point of suspension to the conclusion of the contest at the earliest time possible. All games will play seven innings unless otherwise terminated by the 10-run rule or the game goes into extra innings. NOTE: In all cases, the innings pitched by the pitcher(s) count toward the maximum number of innings allowed.
Sub Varsity Games: If a league elects to have a time limit on sub varsity games, that time limit shall be 2:15 (two hours, fifteen minutes). No new inning can start after 2:15 has elapsed. Leagues and umpires cannot alter the time length. This applies ONLY if a league has elected to have a sub varsity time limit; otherwise, the game is seven 7 innings unless shortened by the 10-run rule. This adoption does not affect coaches and the umpire-in-chief mutually agreeing to end a game. A game may be shortened at any point.
4-3-1 Note 1 Tie Game – Subject to league policy.
4-4-1a Forfeit – If a team is late arriving, umpires must wait at least 30 minutes before leaving the game site unless they have confirmed the team will not show. Umpires shall not declare a forfeit for late arrival or for a team not showing. That decision is subject to league policy.
4-5-1 Protests – Protests are not allowed.
6-1-6 Pitching Restriction- Umpires are not responsible for enforcing the CHSAA policy.
10-1-9 Umpire Uniform – The navy blue or powder blue pullover shirt shall be worn.
This memo provides guidelines for handling unruly spectator behavior. There have been situations where the officials have made a bad situation worse by engaging in conversation with these unruly spectators.
Officials assigned to officiate a contest are responsible for the conduct of the contest. Controlling crowds and crowd reactions are not within the officials’ province.
That responsibility falls to game administrators. If spectators begin to interfere with the conduct of a contest; cause an official to become distracted through continual and unrelenting verbal abuse; or berate players, coaches, or officials in an unacceptable or vulgar manner, officials should stop the action, report the spectator(s) to the home school administration or the nearest uniformed security officer and ask that they be restrained or removed from the facility. If the home school administration or uniformed security is unwilling or unable to comply and the official does not believe the contest can be safely continued, the official must declare the contest ended at that point. If no game administrator is present, as is often the case at subvarsity contests, officials may have to call on coaches or other school personnel to remove an unruly spectator.
Officials should never engage directly with spectators. Under no circumstance should an official ever confront, challenge, rebuke, or threaten a spectator, or make gestures of any kind toward a spectator before, during, or after a contest.
Officials should respond to threats and vulgarity from spectators by using the same good judgment they utilize when ruling on a key play. Locate the game administrator, uniformed security personnel, coach, or other school personnel and request that the unruly spectator be removed. Addressing the spectator directly is a no-win situation and often serves to make a bad situation worse.
In summary, officials should not deal directly with spectators, but may ask game management to deal with disruptive spectators. The game may be temporarily halted until the situation is resolved, but terminating a game because of problems with spectators must be an absolute last resort. Following the ejection of a spectator, please file an incident report with CHSAA.
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