For several years, High School
Baseball Head Coaches have had two options regarding the Designated Hitter (DH)
– use one (a 10-player lineup) or don’t use one (a 9-player lineup). Beginning with the 2020 season, however, they
are given a third choice – a 9-player lineup that includes a DH. Let’s examine this new option, and some of
the confusion and “headaches” it has the potential to cause for those involved
in the game (e.g. Head Coaches, Umpires, Scorers, Announcers).
new Rule (NFHS 3-1-4b) introduces a concept that college baseball has used for
several years – the Player/DH (P/DH).
However, unlike the college rule, the new NFHS Rule specifies that ANY
DEFENSIVE PLAYER (not just the pitcher), can be assigned this dual role.
At the start of the game,
when the Head Coach presents his team’s lineup card to the Plate Umpire, the
P/DH must be clearly listed as such in one of the nine batting order positions. Failure to list a P/DH precludes that team
from taking advantage of the new P/DH Rule for that game. As a preventative measure – before the lineup
card is “accepted” – if the Plate Umpire sees a 9-player lineup listed, he
should confirm with that Head Coach that “No DH will be used for this game,
right?”. This should forestall a
misunderstanding (and a potential problem later in the game) that one of the
nine players listed “should have been listed as the P/DH”. On a side note, the re-entry rule has not
changed – any of the players listed on the lineup card presented to the umpires
at the start of the game may be withdrawn and re-enter once (NFHS Rule 3-1-3).
As mentioned before, the
player listed as P/DH is assigned TWO DISTINCT ROLES – a defensive player
role (playing any of the nine defensive positions) and an offensive
player role (batting as the DH).
It is very important to keep these two roles separate since each has its
own specific rule requirements.
Substitutions can be made for the defensive role at any
time (3-1-4b). However, no substitutions
can be made for the offensive role at any time during the game
(i.e. the player originally listed as P/DH is the ONLY player that can be the
DH in that game). If any player other
than the originally-assigned DH (offensive role) hits or runs in
that batting order position, the role of the DH is terminated for the remainder
of the game (3-1-4b(2)). To clarify, a
Head Coach may NOT substitute another player for the original P/DH and have
that substitute be a P/DH. In this case,
the lineup reverts to a 9-player lineup (the DH is terminated for the remainder
of the game).
Let’s look at some Case
Plays that demonstrate the use of this new rule option.
Play #1: Jones is listed in the 4th spot in the batting order as
In the 2nd inning, Jones reaches base and the Head Coach wants to use a courtesy runner
for Jones. This is not legal, since
Jones is currently playing offense as the Designated Hitter, not pitcher (which is solely a defensive position).
the 4th inning Jones is replaced on the mound by Smith (as pitcher –
a defensive role). The Umpire
should ask the Head Coach if:
(1) Jones will remain as the DH (offensive
role in the 4th batting order spot) with Smith fulfilling
the pitcher’s spot (defensive
(2) the role of the DH being
terminated for the remainder of the game (Smith would pitch AND bat
for himself – a “traditional”
For this play case,
option (1) is chosen by the Head Coach, so Jones would continue to bat as the
DH (Smith would pitch but not bat). In
the 5th inning Jones again reaches base and the Head Coach wants to
use a courtesy runner for Jones. This is
still NOT legal, since Jones is still playing offense as a DH.
CONSIDERATIONS: If (1) above applies, Jones is not considered
to have left the game – he stays in the game as DH in a “traditional” 10-player
lineup (new NFHS Rule 3-1-4a). If (2) above
applies, Jones has left the game and may re-enter once. If he re-enters it must be in the same spot
in the batting order – the 4th spot (Jones may play any of the nine
defensive positions). In this case,
Smith must leave the game and may not further participate in any playing role
for that game (e.g. may not be a courtesy runner), although he could serve as
Play #2: Russell is listed in the 3rd spot in the batting order
as 2/DH (catcher).
In the 2nd inning, Russell reaches base and the Head Coach wants to use a courtesy runner
for Russell. This is not legal, since Russell
is currently playing offense as the Designated Hitter, not catcher (which is solely a defensive position).
In the 4th inning, Russell again reaches base. The
Head Coach substitutes Correa as a pinch runner for Russell. At this point, the Umpire should clarify that
Correa is a PINCH RUNNER (a substitute – legal) rather than a COURTESY RUNNER
(not legal, as stated above). If the
Head Coach indicates that Correa is a pinch runner (a substitute, NOT a
courtesy runner), then the role of DH is terminated for the game (NFHS Rule
3-1-4b(2)) and the lineup reverts to nine players. Correa (and/or any substitute for Correa)
will be required to play both offense and defense.
CONSIDERATIONS: Since he was a starter, Russell may re-enter
the game once. If he re-enters, it must
be into the 3rd spot in the batting order (his original spot) and he
would play both offense and defense (any defensive position), which is
consistent with 9-player lineup rules.
Correa would not be allowed to participate further in that game in any
Play #3: Schweitzer is listed in the 8th spot in the batting
order as 8/DH (center fielder).
the 3rd inning, Kim pinch hits for Schweitzer (Schweitzer has not
yet batted). This is legal, but the role
of DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (NFHS Rule 3-1-4b(2)),
resulting in a 9-player lineup. Kim may
play any of the nine defensive positions in addition to batting in the 8th spot. Schweitzer may re-enter the game
once, but only in the 8th spot in the batting order.
Play #4. Kuzillo is listed in the 1st spot in the batting order
as 3/DH (first baseman).
the 3rd inning, Kuzillo is replaced defensively at first base by
Ahmad. The Head Coach notifies the
Umpire that Kuzillo will remain in the game as the DH. The lineup now reflects a “traditional”
10-player lineup; the new NFHS Rule 3-1-4a (2019’s Rule 3-1-4) would apply for
the remainder of the game, except that Kuzillo is the only player that can bat
as DH. Kuzillo is NOT considered to have
left the game for re-entry rule purposes.
If any player is substituted for Kuzillo offensively, the role of DH is
terminated for the remainder of the game (3-1-4b(2)).
the 6th inning, Kuzillo returns to play first base (defensive
role). This is legal, and the
9-player lineup is re-instituted.
However, the DH is terminated for the remainder of the game (3-1-4b(1)). This “defensive re-entry” provision only
applies to an originally-assigned P/DH, and may only be applied once (3-1-4b).
summary, a High School team can now manage its lineup during the game in three
distinct ways. Umpires and Head Coaches
should be fully aware of which option is being used at all times during the
game to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
The three options are:
1. Start with a 9-player lineup (no DH), must
remain a 9-player lineup (no DH) for the entire game;
2. Start with a 10-player lineup (“old style”
DH), remain a 10-player lineup for the entire game OR revert to 9-player lineup
(terminate the DH);
3. Start with a 9-player lineup with P/DH,
change to a 10-player lineup (separate DH and defensive player) for the
remainder of the game, OR change to 9-player lineup (terminate DH).
attention to detail will be the key for Umpires, Head Coaches and scorekeepers
to implement this Rules change smoothly and keep the game from being delayed